Fact Check: Trump’s Claims About US Military Role in COVID-19 Vaccination Plan – National


From the outset, US President Donald Trump misinterpreted or exaggerated the role of the military in his administration’s crash program to accelerate the development, production and eventual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
The military theme originates from the May 15 announcement of the creation of Operation Warp Speed. Speaking from the rose garden, Trump compared the effort to the Manhattan Project, the successful WWII military program to secretly design and build the world’s first atomic bombs.

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“It means the full might and strength of the military,” Trump said, referring to the project as a partnership that would combine all the resources of the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services. He added: “We have the most powerful army in the long history of mankind.”

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Indeed, the army largely contributed to the project. He provided a range of assistance in the form of planning, program management, logistical expertise and other efforts. The accelerated work on COVID-19 vaccines has also benefited from earlier investments by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in infectious disease science and technology.

Army General Gustav Perna was removed from his post as Commander of Army Materiel Command to be the COO of Operation Warp Speed, and he too initially gave the effort a military twist.

“This mission is to defeat the enemy,” Perna said during Rose Garden’s announcement with Trump. “We will defeat the enemy.”

But it was Trump, not Perna, who misinterpreted the role of the military. Trump said in his initial announcement that the military will “deploy all the planes, trucks and soldiers necessary” to distribute a vaccine when it is ready.

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A few months later, he declared even more explicitly – and still wrongly – that the army would make the delivery.

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“Our military is doing the distribution – it’s called logistics,” he said in a video posted to Twitter on October 7.

Two weeks later, during his debate with Democrat Joe Biden, now President-elect, Trump said, “We have Operation Warp Speed, which is that the military is going to distribute the vaccine.”

In fact, the military will not be distributing the vaccine, although state governors have the power to use members of their National Guard for a number of tasks supporting public safety, including helping with vaccine logistics. if deemed necessary.

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“There won’t be this vision that some people have that army trucks will be driving through the streets delivering vaccines,” Perna said on October 27.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not the military, are in charge of the distribution effort, which is based on plans developed by each state and other jurisdictions. The distribution will be executed by private companies, including McKesson Corp., a health care company with extensive experience in the distribution of influenza vaccines. McKesson will also distribute the supplies needed to administer the injections.

The military will not produce, store or administer vaccines either. The Pentagon has said for months that it will only get involved in vaccine distribution in the event that commercial distributors are unable to reach a remote area of ​​the country.

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“The federal army will not be involved in transferring doses or injecting vaccines,” said on 24 October Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff responsible for health and social services policy.

The Pentagon has clearly disputed suggestions that it intended to deliver vaccines, saying instead that any involvement would be exceptional, such as a case in which normal commercial delivery services could not reach a delivery point. So far, no such exception has been identified, the Pentagon said last week.

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President Trump pardons former national security adviser Michael Flynn

President Trump pardons former national security adviser Michael Flynn

In addition to Perna, the senior leadership of Operation Warp Speed ​​includes a retired Army Colonel, Matthew Hepburn, who is primarily responsible for vaccine development. He is a physician, biomedical engineer, and former director of medical preparedness on the White House national security staff.

The importance of military officials in Operation Warp Speed ​​has drawn attention to Capitol Hill, where some questioned whether an outsized military leadership role would marginalize public health agencies. In October, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii called for a Senate Armed Services Committee public hearing on the military’s involvement in the effort, but no such hearing has been held. occurred.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press


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