Military service members will be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine along with other essential personnel and those at high risk of infection, according to Department of Health and Human Services officials.
The COVID-19 vaccine is still far from ready for distribution, but its production timeline has been breaking record after record outpacing the development of past vaccines -- all the while maintaining the necessary health and safety protocols.
A field of more than 100 vaccine candidates has been narrowed to 14, some of which are currently in clinical trials. Those 14 will be narrowed further to seven candidates which will proceed further through the testing and trials process -- some portions of which will be ongoing concurrently.
"We expect to be producing large quantities of vaccines while the clinical trials are still underway," one DHHS official said. "That is, when safety and efficacy have been demonstrated, there isn't a day's delay due to manufacturing ramp-up timelines. We will still complete all of the necessary clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy."
“Operation Warp Speed,” the national effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine aims to have a vaccine ready by January -- a slight deviation from the timeline Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he aimed to achieve back in May.
Esper announced his 2020 goal during a press briefing at the White House in mid-May -- despite that timeline’s contradiction with the 12 to 18 months, public health officials believe vaccine development could take.
"I think its fair for the secretary to be confident," Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said previously of Esper’s optimistic timeline. "The secretary is showing optimism and confidence, and I think that's what the American people want to see."
As of Monday, the Department of Defense has reported a total of 14,073 COVID-19 cases across the force.
While the Department of Defense has been experiencing significant rates of COVID-19, the population has also put up a stronger fight against the virus -- fatality rates are lower among military personnel and recovery rates are higher.