Defense secretary doubles down on aggressive timeline to have coronavirus vaccine ready by the end of the year

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper doubled down on Friday by saying the Pentagon will meet an aggressive timeline to have a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, a deadline doubted by leading health officials.

“You know, our medical experts, our researchers have been working on this vaccine now, and therapeutics and diagnostics for a few months,” Esper explained on NBC’s “TODAY.” “We’ve been ahead of the curve and in the fight from day one, and this is the next phase of this battle, and we will deliver on time the vaccines,” he added, saying he was “completely confident” that the Pentagon will deliver.

Esper downplayed characterizations made by health officials that a vaccine within the year would be “aspirational.”

“Well, you know, when Eisenhower launched the U.S. military against Nazi Germany, he didn’t say, ‘We might win World War II, we’ll try.’ When John F. Kennedy aspired to put a man on the moon, he didn’t say, ‘We’ll give it a good shot.’ He said, ‘We will do it,'” the Pentagon chief said.

“The Defense Department, once again, is committed to get this done. We’re going to live up to the expectations, and we’re going to deliver on this virus,” he said, adding that the Pentagon is preparing for a potential second wave of the coronavirus.

Last week, President Donald Trump unveiled a federal task force in charge of a $10 billion effort that will help produce and widely distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020. 

“We will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine, at scale, to treat the American people and our partners abroad,” Esper said alongside Trump.

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