Durbin Speaks With General Perna, COO Of Operation Warp Speed, About COVID-19 Vaccine Development

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke by phone with General Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Officer for Operation Warp Speed, about the research and approval process for COVID-19 vaccine candidates.  On the call, Durbin pressed General Perna about maintaining the integrity of any vaccine candidate’s safety and efficacy, and to not cut corners or permit political interference in the effort to quickly develop a vaccine. 

Durbin’s call came on the same day as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma after pressure from President Trump and an announcement on Sunday that the FDA had decided to issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma.

“When it comes to producing a vaccine that will protect us from COVID-19, we must assure the American people that the research and approval process is driven by scientific integrity, not political motivations or anti-science behavior,” said Durbin. “I appreciate General Perna’s commitment to making science-based decisions, but continue to be deeply concerned by President Trump’s politicization and anti-science pronouncements.  His actions will not help build confidence for the American people or halt the spread of this virus.”

During a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing last month, Durbin questioned the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, about Operation Warp Speed and how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will assure the American people that any COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective.

Through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the Department of Defense (DOD), the federal government has invested nearly $10 billion in funding for vaccine research and mass production to prepare for the future distribution of an approved vaccine.