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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 18, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – President Donald Trump unveiled an ambitious plan on Friday to fast-track the development and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine by January 2021, tapping experts and resources in science, medicine, the military, and the private sector.
However, experts told LifeSiteNews that the plan raises serious ethical and safety questions which are of grave importance not only to pro-life citizens, but to everyone.
A new ‘Manhattan Project’
The president described the plan, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” as a new “Manhattan Project,” which will bring together “the best of American industry and innovation, the full resources of the United States government, and the excellence and precision of the United States military.”
“Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible,” he explained. “In addition, it will continue accelerating the development of diagnostics and breakthrough therapies.”
Trump said the government will speed up the process by investing in manufacturing the vaccines before they meet regulatory approvals. “This will eliminate any unnecessary delay and enable us to begin providing Americans with a proven vaccine the day our scientists say, ‘We’re ready, we got it.’”
He said his administration has already narrowed the field of possible vaccine candidates from 100 to 14. LifeSiteNews has asked the White House to identify the 14 candidates but has yet to receive a reply.
Moral and safety issues with fast-tracked vaccines
Of towering concern for many pro-life Americans regarding the vaccines under rushed development is whether or not the drugs in question have been derived from aborted fetal cells.
Unfortunately, Trump – who has been hailed as the “most pro-life president in history” – gave no indication during his presentation that his administration would explore only morally acceptable, non-abortion related vaccines.
Because the list of 14 vaccines being fast-tracked has not been made available, the public is unaware if moral issues might stand in the way of millions of pro-life individuals receiving any drug which might become the finalist in “Operation Warp Speed.”
The pro-life group Children of God for Life has published a helpful list of all the COVID-19 vaccines in development, identifying which are morally produced and which are derived from aborted fetal cell lines.
Yet even if potential vaccines derived from aborted fetal cells were to be eliminated from contention in the race to combat the virus, issues of safety and efficacy remain.
A new vaccine is deemed to be “safe” for use by the general public if it doesn’t make test subjects sick, either with the disease it is meant to ward off or through serious side effects.
Sixty years ago, the drug thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant mothers to prevent morning sickness without having first undergone adequate testing, and produced disastrous results.
Thalidomide had previously been used to treat leprosy, but the drug’s manufacturer claimed it had found that it also helped alleviate nausea and vomiting for pregnant moms.
While a near disaster was prevented in the United States thanks to a Food and Drug Administration medical watchdog’s demand for better evidence of the drug’s safety from the manufacturer, thousands of babies were born in Europe with severe birth defects – arms and legs missing with hands and feet projecting directly from the shoulders and hips – before the drug was withdrawn for use by pregnant women.
While the drug evidently did help with morning sickness, it produced tragic unintended consequences.
“Efficacy” has to do with demonstrating that a new vaccine actually does inoculate people against the disease its manufacturer hopes it will combat.
This usually begins with animal testing before moving on to human trials. Developing a vaccine at warp speed – a term borrowed from Star Trek for moving faster than the speed of light – will involve omitting crucial steps.
“Some of these vaccines which are being fast tracked by the FDA, and being pushed politically, are being fast tracked without being subject to any previous animal efficacy or safety trials,” Dr. Alan Moy, Vice President of the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, told LifeSiteNews.
“That means that if a patient gets vaccinated and subsequently gets exposed to COVID-19, he or she could become much more sick than if he or she had not been vaccinated,” continued Dr. Moy. “It’s a huge issue.”
In order to ameliorate such tragic outcomes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are reportedly in talks about how to proceed with quickly performing “challenge trials” which use human volunteers instead of animal subjects to test the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Volunteers would be given the vaccine in development and would then be exposed to the disease under study.
A polarizing debate has erupted among medical researchers about this type of vaccine trial, which is usually only conducted if there is some proven treatment already in existence.
Some politicians, anxious to find a cure as quickly as possible, are backing the idea of challenge trials.
“Our situation in this pandemic is analogous to war, in which there is a long tradition of volunteers risking their health and lives on dangerous missions for which they understand the risks and are willing to do so in order to help save the lives of others,” 35 U.S. House lawmakers wrote to the FDA last month.
Renowned vaccinologist Stanley Plotkin and bioethicist Arthur Caplan are also backing the idea, writing in the journal Vaccine that the trial process “normally takes months to years, during which [the coronavirus] will infect and possibly kill millions. Acceleration of that standard process is necessary.”
In a statement to The Hill, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum last month seemed to be opposed to the notion of proceeding at “warp speed,” warning that “human challenge studies used to develop a COVID-19 vaccine may present ethical and feasibility issues that can be avoided with the use of animal models.”
Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, told The Hill he did not see how an institutional review board that oversees research would approve a human challenge trial for the coronavirus.
“Consent can only do so much work,” he said, raising the hypothetical of whether it would be ethical to take out someone’s heart and replace it with an experimental device simply because the person consented, according to The Hill’s report.
“You can only move science so fast,” Dr. Moy told LifeSiteNews. “You can have a vaccine ready by the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work and it doesn’t mean the vaccine is going to be safe.”
Deborah Vinnedge, founder and President of Children of God for Life, echoed Dr. Moy’s concerns, noting that omitting clinical trials will leave a lot of important questions unanswered before unleashing a hastily developed vaccine on the public, with possible disastrous consequences.
There is “potential harm to millions of people if a future vaccine is not tested properly,” she said.
“Operation Warp Speed is making the necessary preparations to distribute these life-saving treatments at scale, so that millions of Americans will immediately have access to them,” Trump said Friday. “This includes ramping up production of supplies needed for distribution such as cold chain storage, glass vials, needles, syringes, and more.”
“When a vaccine is ready, the U.S. government will deploy every plane, truck, and soldier required to help distribute it to the American people as quickly as possible,” declared the president.
“We have the mightiest military in the long history of humankind. We have the best and most devoted workers ever to walk the face of the Earth. And now we’re combining all of these amazing strengths for the most aggressive vaccine project in history,” he said.
Amid wide concern over governments’ curtailing of basic freedoms in response to the pandemic, many have feared the possibility that vaccination for the virus could be made mandatory. In just one week, over 430,000 people signed a LifeSiteNews petition addressed to world leaders opposing a mandatory coronavirus vaccination.
After President Trump briefly introduced the idea of mobilizing the military to help deploy the new vaccines, some were concerned that this hinted that the drug would be forcibly administered. Earlier this week, one website asked, “what will you do when they come to your door, and tell you it’s mandatory?”
However, President Trump addressed such concerns on Friday, saying that the new vaccine is for those “who want to get it. Not everyone is going to want to get it.”
While none of the experts LifeSiteNews spoke with were concerned about forced vaccinations for the general population, Dr. Moy wondered if members of the military might be required to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
“What if a soldier is Catholic or otherwise pro-life and they don’t want to take the vaccine?” asked Moy. “What will be done to them? Will they be allowed to exercise their moral conscience? Will they be kicked out of the military?”
Dr. Moy suggested that Canadian citizens might face stronger pressure from their government to be vaccinated than U.S. citizens will face.
When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by reporters April 28 whether a coronavirus would be mandatory, he said, “As to what sort of vaccination protocols will be in place, we still have a fair bit of time to reflect on that in order to get it right.”
The danger of politicizing an infectious disease
In view of the herculean effort now being undertaken, Deborah Vinnedge worries about “the loss of medical autonomy of our own bodies and the loss of freedom,” if an untested vaccine is urged upon the population.
Most of all, Vinnedge is concerned there will be fear-mongering during a presidential election year, and that a “serious health issue” will be “turned into a political issue.”
The possibility that COVID-19 might be turned into a political football horrifies Vinnedge.
Pitting Republicans against Democrats over a health issue like this at this time would be “sinister,” she said.
The president named Dr. Mocef Slaoui, a world renowned immunologist who has helped create 14 new vaccines, as Chief Scientist heading Operation Warp Speed.
Four Star General Guss Perna, who as the current commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command is an expert in logistics, is Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer.