American Red Cross National Headquarters
3:01 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, everyone. It’s a great honor. It’s a magnificent building, and they do a magnificent job at the Red Cross. I’m delighted to be here to discuss the remarkable progress being made in the development of plasma. Plasma. So important. Therapies.
These therapies transfuse powerful antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to help treat those battling the current infection that we all know so well. Plasma is one of the more delicate ways of doing things. It’s had tremendous response so far — we’ve had. And it’s an effort to accelerate — to really accelerate new therapies and further reduce mortality.
We’ve been able to show some tremendous things. If you notice today, it was covered very well. A lot of countries where they thought they were doing well, they’re not doing well at all. They’ve had explosions — explosions, unfortunately.
We’re joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services, who’s doing a terrific job, Alex Azar. Alex — hi, Alex. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. Hi, Steve. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. And I hope your wife is okay, Jerome. I know she had a little difficulty, but I’m sure she’s going to be fine, right? Please give her my regards. Thank you, Jerome. Dr. Francis Collins, who everyone knows — Francis, thank you very much. NIH. And Dr. Anthony Fauci. Anthony, hi. And Deborah. Where’s Deborah? Deborah? Hi, Deborah. Good job.
You know, everybody is — everybody is doing a good job. Everybody is working very hard.
I want to also thank to the CO- — CEO of American Red Cross, somebody who’s done outstanding work — I’ve known about it for a long time — Gail McGovern. Thank you, Gail. Really, an outstanding job, too.
CEO of America’s Blood Centers, Kate Fry. Hi, Kate. Thank you very much. CEO of CSL Limited, Paul Perreault. Paul, thank you very much. Great job. And CEO of LabCorp, Adam Schechter. Thank you, Adam, very much.
We’ve taken bold actions to give Americans access to plasma therapies. The FDA made the treatment available to patients with life-threatening infections beginning in March. We provided $48 million to the Mayo Clinic to support their expanded access program for plasma. We’re providing up to $270 million to the Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers for the collection of up to 360,000 units of plasma.
My administration is partnering with commercial labs, insurers, and healthcare providers to encourage those who have had the virus to donate plasma. So if you’ve had the virus, if you donate, it would be a terrific thing. We really need donations of the plasma. To those that have had the virus, you’ve gotten through it, and I guess that means you have something very special there. Right, Gail? So we would appreciate that. It would help a lot of people.
We’re grateful to LabCorp for offering free antibody testing to identify people who can donate. And LabCorp has really been fantastic in a lot of ways — other ways also.
As a result of these initiatives, we’ve already treated nearly 50,000 patients with plasma. Roughly 2 million Americans have fully recovered from the virus. This afternoon, I’m asking these citizens to go to the Coronavirus.gov — it’s Coronavirus.gov — and volunteer to donate plasma as soon as you can. We have a lot of people that would heal, would get better. As soon as you can, please.
In addition, I’m once again urging all Americans to protect the elderly, socially distance, wear a mask when you cannot avoid the crowded places. And if you can, you have to avoid crowded places. It just seems like so many things are taking place in crowded places. We don’t want that. And always wash your hands — wash your hands as often as you can. Together, we’ll defeat the virus, we’ll defeat the invisible enemy.
I want to thank the American Red Cross. I’ve been a fan of the Red Cross for a long time, as you know, and we appreciate the great work that you do. Thank you very much, Gail.
And now I’d like to ask Gail to say a few words, please. Thank you.
MS. MCGOVERN: Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us today and for shining a light on the critical need for convalescent plasma. I’m honored to be seated here with these distinguished, top medical experts who are striving to help us deal with this terrible pandemic. And I am so grateful that the American Red Cross can actually play a role in the treatment of COVID-19.
We’re helping to collect units of convalescent plasma, which I’ve been told is showing promising results, and it’s treating COVID patients. We’ve shipped over 24,000 units so far, and I am in awe of our donors who are donating convalescent plasma. They struggled through this disease, they came through the back end, they have precious antibodies, and hospitals are transfusing their plasma into patients that are struggling mightily with the disease themselves.
And it’s a testament to the generosity of the American public. These donors have recovered from a debilitating disease, and they’re willing to lend an arm to help somebody they probably will never even have the opportunity to meet. And, in fact, blood donors in general are just so generous. They are helping save someone’s life, and they do it without question. And it’s just an amazing, amazing thing.
Americans always step up, whether it’s a pandemic or a hurricane. And it’s a privilege to be able to see the generosity of the American public over and over again, whether they’re volunteering, donating blood, or even providing us with financial donations.
So on behalf of the entire American Red Cross, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the people that actually recovered from COVID-19 and are giving this remarkable gift of life to help them recover as well.
And right now the demand for convalescent plasma is exceeding our collections, so we really do need people to come out and donate. In fact, over the past month, the number of orders doubled from our hospitals.
So please, please, please — I know I speak on behalf of Kate as well — consider donating plasma if you’ve had COVID, because you are going to do a wonderful thing. It’s easy, it doesn’t take a lot of time, and I can tell you that when you donate blood and you leave our blood center, you feel so great. You just feel so great about yourself because you just saved someone’s life, and not a lot of people can make that claim.
So thank you again, Mr. President. We really appreciate the shout-out for convalescent plasma.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Gail. Great job.
MS. MCGOVERN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re really doing something very special. Thank you.
SECRETARY AZAR: Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for leading the effort now to get people to donate convalescent plasma. This is going to be a major national initiative in the — in the months ahead, and I want to thank the Red Cross and I want to thank America’s blood banks for the work that they’re doing to bring our donors in and to get this plasma.
For the — for the tens of thousands of people that have already donated plasma, thank you for what you’ve done. You are literally saving lives. And we need hundreds of thousands more to please come forward.
If you’ve been infected and recovered, please go to Coronavirus.gov and — or reach out to your American Red Cross outlet or your local blood bank, and please be a donor.
We now have more than 48,000 patients that have received convalescent plasma thanks to the work of American researchers and physicians, the FDA, HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and groups like the Red Cross and our blood banks.
This effort is just one piece of what the President is leading towards bringing therapeutics to the market. So we have remdesivir, we have steroids for lung injury, and now we bring convalescent plasma to people. We’ve invested more than $1.7 billion through our Operation Warp Speed, which is the President’s initiative to get vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to the American people in record time.
And when it comes to therapeutics, warp speed means weeks, not months. Earlier this month, through Operation Warp Speed, we announced a $450 million agreement with Regeneron to support their promising monoclonal antibody cocktail.
What makes OWS so bold is that we’ve now paid to begin making doses of this Regeneron product before it receives FDA authorization or approval. And that means that if, and only if, this drug meets FDA’s gold standard for safety and effectiveness, we’ll have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of doses to distribute to American patients right away, as soon as this fall.
And that’s what today is about also: ensuring that even as the FDA reviews the data on convalescent plasma, we have plenty of supply, we have access for people. It also enables us to develop new therapies such as hyperimmune globulin, which is the distilled, purified version of our convalescent plasma.
So thanks to everyone who’s donated. And thank you, Mr. President, for this national call to action to donate. And thanks to all of our future donors. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Alex. Appreciate it.
Dr. Collins, please.
DR. COLLINS: Well, thank you, Mr. President. And good afternoon, everyone. It’s wonderful to be in this beautiful space. And thanks very much, Gail, and everybody at Red Cross for hosting us here.
We try to make it clear what a remarkable gift Americans have been giving by donating plasma if they’ve recovered from COVID-19, because that has the potential to help lots of people.
Your own human body is a wonderful, little biotechnology factory, even if you might not think about it that way. Your immune system is ready to take on whatever kind of pathogen happens to wander into your environment and potentially threaten you. And we know this is a particularly impressive virus for what it can do. And yet, most of us, thank God, once exposed to this, do figure out how to recover from it because that immune system kicks into gear and makes those antibodies that then allow the virus to lose the battle and you to win.
And now, having done so, you’re in a position to be able to donate your biotechnology product, which is your plasma, to somebody else who’s just now getting sick with this disease, and you have a chance to help them if their own factory hasn’t quite kicked in.
Americans are amazing, and the way in which people have been doing this is truly inspiring. Americans seem to believe that biblical verse, “To whom much has been given, much will be required.” To whom coronavirus has been given and they’ve recovered, apparently they have recognized that they have something else that they can do to help the next person, and that is inspiring. And we’re here to encourage more and more people to see that as something practical and important they can do at the time of this global pandemic.
You already heard, though, from — the comments made by the Secretary that this is part of a remarkable menu of therapeutics, of treatments that are being developed against coronavirus. And this particular one also opens the door to other kinds of immune-therapy.
The monoclonal antibodies that were mentioned, where money has now been devoted to scaling that up with a company called Regeneron, is basically to take the part of the convalescent plasma that we think is the most potent and figure out how to turn that into a purified product. We’re not quite there to show yet whether that works, but that is also a very promising approach.
And there are a couple of trials of monoclonal antibodies from other companies that are on the launching pad starting as soon as tomorrow.
So all of this fits together with what the Trump administration has been doing, through Operation Warp Speed, to literally bring all hands on deck from the public sector, from the private sector. Nobody worrying too much about who’s going to get the credit. Let’s just move this forward and save lives. And all of the Americans who’ve been donating their plasma are a big part of that team.
So, thanks. It’s wonderful to be part of this event this afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Francis. Appreciate it very much.
MS. FRY: Thank you, Mr. President, for having this important event today. America’s Blood Centers is the national trade association for independent community blood centers. Our members are responsible for over 60 percent of the nation’s blood supply and have been at the forefront of convalescent plasma collections in the U.S. over the past four months.
There are more than 60 independent community blood centers, as well as hospital blood banks, operating hundreds of donation facilities, taking part in the effort to collect convalescent plasma to ensure this product gets to every patient in every hospital across the country.
We’re excited to announce that, today — that as of this week, independent community blood centers have distributed more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 convalescent plasma to patients in need. Every blood center — small, medium, and large — across the country has mobilized to do their part in this effort. Of course, we are not slowing or stopping down in any kind of way; we are indeed mobilizing to do even more. And we are projecting that we will double our current number of doses by the end of August.
This unprecedented response by community blood centers demonstrates their commitment to meeting patient need wherever it is. America’s Blood Centers and its members will continue to collaborate with the administration, federal agencies, and all stakeholder partners to ensure and advance the safe collection and distribution of convalescent plasma.
Now, the single most important thing to our ability to do more in distributing convalescent plasma is having donors. And so this event is so important in terms of our ability to educate the American public and encourage them to donate.
I would say that when you make a donation appointment — and appointments are critical here at your local blood center — you’ll go through a process. The whole appointment takes about 90 minutes, and it’s a safe and easy way to help your fellow Americans.
And so we are following — all blood centers are following social distancing protocols. They’ve implemented infection disease protocols as well. So this is a very safe and easy way to help others.
So thank you again for having this event, and we look forward to being part of this effort.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Kate. Appreciate it.
Tony and Deborah, please.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for support of this very important program. When we talk about what is going on in this country and the challenge we’re facing, we often say that it is something where we are all in it together, and we all have to pull together.
An important part of the process of being in it together and pulling together is helping each other. You know, and I can think of nothing more manifesting, the helping of each other, than someone donating from their experience of being ill. And this is something that I think is part of the American spirit, and we should be proud of it, and we should show it. So it’s a very important thing. It’s an important part of the entire response to this outbreak.
I want to mention that when we do something like give convalescent plasma, it’s important to understand, as several of us have mentioned, that it is important part of the spectrum of interventions and response. We have good therapies and we’ll get better therapies for people with advanced disease. We have the dexamethasone for people on ventilators, the remdesivir with people who are hospitalized, who have lung involvement.
And now we’re talking about another important part of intervention — is the intervention early in infection to prevent people from needing to go to the hospital. And that’s really what convalescent plasma is — because the mechanism of it, it is directed against the virus. It’s taking the machinery that Francis has spoken about that the body makes to get a protein to block the virus. And that’s exactly what this is all about.
Now, it’s also important to point out that this could be a proof of concept, because when antibodies work, it tells you a few things: It’ll tell you that when you have a vaccine and you induce antibodies, it could work.
And this is the good news that’s juxtaposed to what happened a couple of days ago when we went into the phase three trial for a vaccine. Some of you may heard — may have heard me say that I was “cautiously optimistic” — a word that I use often — that we will be successful with a vaccine. One of the reasons is that, in the phase one study, the vaccine induced response that was comparable, if not better than what we see in convalescent plasma. So here’s where the work of vaccine essentially merges with the work we’re doing now with convalescent plasma.
So that’s the reason why we think it’s so important and why it’s so important for people to donate.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Tony. Thanks.
DR. BIRX: Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for lending your voice to the day’s important call to action and really making the two critical points of what we’re calling every American to do. Thank you for noting how important it is for every American to give back by wearing a mask, by socially distancing, and from avoiding crowded places where they may not be able to social distance or wear a mask — and we know what we’re talking about: parties and bars.
Thank you for also really calling to action for those who have recovered to donate lifesaving plasma to others. And I think these two pieces together — knitted together to stop the spread of the virus through masks, social distancing, and avoided crowded spaces — either indoors and outdoors — and protecting the vulnerable, and at the same time, calling for action to increase our therapeutic abilities to treat more patients.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please. Thank you.
MR. SCHECHTER: Mr. President, thank you for having us today, and thank you for this national call to action. We think it’s very important.
At LabCorp, our employees have been working seven days a week, three shifts a day, to try to perform as many tests as fast as we possibly can to see who has the virus. I’m proud to say that today we can do 180,000 tests per day, and we can turn those tests around in one day for priority patients, and two to three days for all other patients.
And I want to thank Dr. Hahn, Admiral Giroir, Secretary Azar for all their help to ensure that we have what we need to get these tests turned around even faster, and we’re going to continue to build capacity.
At the same time, we realize that there’s more that LabCorp can do. And since the beginning, we were part of a coalition called the “Fight Is In Us.” And it’s a group of companies that came together to try to encourage people that have had the disease in the past, to give plasma.
To accelerate that, we’re going to announce in the next several days that we will have free high-affinity antibody tests available for anybody through their physician, where if they’re going in for routine bloodwork, the physician could just add on an antibody test; we will run it. And the only thing that we ask is that if the patient has antibodies, that they please consider to donate plasma.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great idea. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Dr. Hahn, please.
DR. HAHN: Thank you, Mr. President. Based upon your call to action, FDA has responded to remove any unnecessary barriers to the speeding of medical products during this pandemic.
I want to thank the American Red Cross, the American Blood Centers for the collaboration that we’ve had in the development of the convalescent plasma program.
As the President and Secretary Azar mentioned in March, FDA began working with our colleagues to develop this program. The Mayo Clinic has initiated what’s called an expanded access program, which has really allowed physicians around the country to order convalescent plasma as an early treatment for patients. A number of clinical trials beyond the expanded access program are taking place.
We’re encouraged by the data; we’ve seen that this is a safe treatment. And we’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen. And as the President mentioned, we’re studying these data to determine, ultimately, the safety and efficacy of this product.
In the meantime, we know that doctors are writing these orders, that patients who are hospitalized need this, and so the call to action to donate is so important. And even if, at the end of the day, convalescent plasma doesn’t turn out to be the treatment we think it might be, remember that your donations still count with the American Blood Centers and the American Red Cross. They can truly save lives.
And just to put another point on the therapeutics development: FDA is now overseeing over 200 clinical trials of therapies that the great American biomedical research enterprises put forward, and more than 400 are in the planning stages.
So we have a tremendous pipeline of therapies for COVID-19. It’s been an unbelievable private-and-public partnership. And, Mr. President, thank you for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Stephen, could you give a few words on the speed with which we’re getting the vaccines out and approved –hopefully approved and finalized — and where we are with phase one, two, and three, et cetera?
DR. HAHN: Yes, sir. We have a number of companies that have come forward with vaccine candidates. Some of those are in Operation Warp Speed. And I want to emphasize the fact that FDA has a very bright line drawn between its actions and Operation Warp Speed. We are the independent regulator. And as the President said, we’ll ultimately be calling the balls and strikes with respect to the safety and efficacy of a vaccine.
We have six vaccine candidates that have come to FDA, and we’ve given them the “safe to proceed” into clinical trials. Two are currently in the latest phase of trials, called phase three; they started this week. Another one is planning to go into phase three in August. And then an additional three are in other phases of the clinical development.
Four additional vaccines have come to us, and we expect to allow them to go forward fairly soon. And then there are a number of 50-plus vaccines that have come in house for the pre-application process.
I think we can all agree that this has been sort of a remarkable effort from when the virus was first identified at the NIH, and the sequence was made, to the initiation of the first clinical trial — NIAID spending a lot of time getting that to that point. It really is record speed.
But also, at your direction, Mr. President, we aren’t cutting corners with respect to the development, and we will not be cutting corners with respect to the assessment of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
THE PRESIDENT: And you’re literally many, many months and even years ahead of schedule in terms of approval. So we really appreciate the FDA. And please let us — let everyone know how we feel, all of us. Thank you. Great job.
SURGEON GENERAL ADAMS: Thank you, Mr. President. I really appreciate you being here today.
The theme of this national call to action is: “We’re in this together.” And when I think about all of us being in this together, I think about an iconic American image: Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter became a part of our history because we were at war. People were scared. People felt helpless. But the American spirit is all about people coming together — coming together to defeat a common enemy. And we have a common enemy now; it’s COVID-19. But we also have tools that everyone can bring to bear to really help us overcome this enemy, and one of those is convalescent plasma.
One thing I want to add to the discussion that hasn’t been brought up yet is that the average age of donation of blood and plasma is over the age of 60. So to the young people out there: We’ve got some work to do. The seniors are showing us up. We need everyone to do their part, because we’re all in this together.
I also want to foot-stomp something that Dr. Birx mentioned and that Dr. Fauci mentioned. There’s a spectrum that we have here of treatments that are way downstream, treatments that are midstream, and then preventative measures that we can all take, because we’re all in this together.
And, Mr. President, I want to thank you for emphasizing the three W’s: Number one, wash your hands. Number two, watch your distance. Number three, wear a mask.
I was in Miami just a few weeks ago and I promised them I would tell you this. I was in Trump country and they told me to deliver you a message, Mr. President. They told me to tell you, you look badass in a face mask. (Laughter.) I promised them I would tell you that. Miami, I told the President he looks badass in a face mask. (Laughter.)
We are all in this together. Give blood. Give plasma. Save a life. We’ll get through this, America.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jerome, very much.
MR. PERREAULT: Thank you, Mr. President, for having me here today and, really, to join the partners that are here together to join our mission of combating this disease with our particular expertise and technologies.
I also want to thank you for your leadership. I think that no one has seen this in the world. It takes resolve and it takes effort, and you’ve shown that both with your leadership but also with the founding of Operation Warp Speed. So thank you for that.
I also want to thank you for your outstanding team that we’re working with — great people; really have done a fantastic job — and for proactively engaging the private sector to combat COVID-19.
I am Paul Perreault. I’m the CEO of CSL Limited. Our legacy in fighting infectious disease goes back to 1901, with Emil von Behring, who was the first Nobel Prize winner in medicine, who actually utilized plasma as a means to fighting off diphtheria. So our history is long in this space.
Since then, CSL has been committed to innovating and developing therapies for rare and serious diseases. That’s our business. We currently have several R&D programs that are fighting for COVID-19, including vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and plasma therapies. We are one of the world’s largest collectors of plasma.
I’m here today representing all the manufacturers of hyperimmunes, including the COVID-19 Plasma Alliance, which is really an unprecedented partnership of world leading plasma companies who have joined together to help develop a plasma therapy to treat COVID-19.
And I have to say that the help from the FTC was important as well because we’re typically competitors, and this is really a combination of all of these companies working together.
The plasma donated by people who have fought off COVID-19, as you’ve already heard, has precious antibodies — really important antibodies to fight off this disease. These antibodies can be isolated and then they can be converted into what we term a “hyperimmune plasma therapy” that, in theory, could be used to treat active COVID-19 infections. It builds on the concept of plasma transfusion. But the product is more like a standard medicine. This is an important approach and is well established in treating other infectious diseases like rabies or tetanus.
Working jointly with the NIH, the major plasma manufacturers have designed a clinical trial that will be enrolling individuals in the month of August. And if the data from this supports our hypothesis, we could be in a position to submit the hyperimmune therapy to Dr. Hahn for immune therapy against COVID-19, by the end of this year.
But we need plasma, and we need plasma donors. So we need them wherever they are. We need them to donate blood. We need them to donate plasma. And we also need plasma in general, because plasma is used to treat other rare diseases.
So this call to action, that we’re in this together — the fight is in us. We have to work together. And this call to action to donate plasma and help us fight against COVID-19 is really an important step in making this happen.
So we thank you for bringing us together.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MR. PERREAULT: And thank you, Gail, for hosting us.
THE PRESIDENT: And I hope you’ll be able to do it even before the end of the year and maybe substantially before that, from what I’m hearing.
Okay, thank you very much.
MR. PERREAULT: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Would anybody have any questions of these very brilliant people having to do with plasma, antibodies? Any questions?
Steve, go ahead.
Q The death toll is now 150,000. What is the current projection going forward? What should we expect in the next couple of months?
THE PRESIDENT: Well I’d let — perhaps, Tony, do you want to discuss that, please?
DR. FAUCI: You know, many of the (inaudible) — look at it, we almost will not have enough that would be utilizable, particularly not only for the administration, but also for what was just mentioned about the supply of the hyperimmune globulin. So, really, an unlimited amount. There really is as many as we possibly can get — in the hundreds of thousands.
Q Are you going to recommend that Americans wear goggles, as well as face masks, to defend against the virus? Is that going to be one of the CDC’s recommendations?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can tell you I only heard of goggles for the first time about one hour ago. Now I’m hearing about goggles. So I don’t know.
Deborah, do you want to discuss that?
DR. BIRX: So I believe Dr. Fauci talked about this yesterday. But we have, in the hospital systems and having — for exposure — have had people using face shields. And I think you’ve seen that through my tour through the United States and 14 states across the country where the President sent me to make sure that we were combating the virus well on the ground.
Tennessee has created teachers — special teacher packs to ensure that every teacher has a face mask — a face shield, gloves, and hand sanitizers. And I think we’re trying to bring these best practices back to ensure that teachers feel safe in the classroom in the same way that doctors and nurses feel safe in the hospitals to decrease their exposure.
THE PRESIDENT: I think when you look at Miami, by the way, or Florida, in particular, it looks like things are getting much better. Arizona getting much better. Heading down. Heading in the right direction. Some other areas getting much better. Could be catching on, unfortunately, in a couple of areas. We don’t know quite yet, but we’ll be able to report that soon. But some very big progress being made in some of the states that two weeks ago looked like they were going to be quite bad. And some great progress made.
All right, any other questions? Please.
Q Tom Howell, Washington Times. Are you concerned at all about the lag time it takes to get a test back? We’ve heard reports of a week or more. The gentleman from LabCorp talked about that a little bit. What’s — what’s going on there? Has there been improvement?
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re getting — mostly now, we’re ordering as many of the immediate tests, which is 5 minutes to 15 minutes — even a little bit less, in some cases, than five minutes. But we’re trying to get those tests. We have pretty close to 50 percent. I call them “short-term tests,” but we’re up to about 50 percent, which is amazing.
The other tests, while good, you have to send them, then they have to do the work, and they have to send them back. So the process takes long, just in terms of delivery. We really are liking the short-term test where you find out immediately whether or not you have a problem. And that’s what we’re striving for. But we’re already up to approximately 50 percent. Is that correct, Deborah?
DR. BIRX: I think with the new antigen tests that are available now to nursing homes, that will really help our turnaround times — to get them out, more specifically. But you have charged us to get that turnaround time down across the board, and we’re working with FDA to make pooling available.
The reason LabCorp has been able to decrease their turnaround time so remarkably is they moved to pooling several weeks ago. That’s dramatically increasing our throughput throughout the country. And so we really need to call on all the laboratories to learn from LabCorp and others that are doing pooling, like the Broad and LabCorp, to really increase our turnaround times — to decrease our turnaround time. So we know that it’s possible that we can decrease it by at least 50 percent, if all of our laboratories move to pooling.
So, sir, we’re doing as you said, and we’re going to decrease those turnaround times.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you.
And how is LabCorp doing about turnaround?
MR. SCHECHTER: Yes, so, right now, Mr. President, for priority patients — those in hospitals or those in nursing homes and hotspots — within one day, we can turn them around.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
MR. SCHECHTER: For everybody else across the country, we turn those around in two to three days on average. And we can do 180,000 of those tests per day, and we’re still increasing capacity.
And as Dr. Birx said, we’re going to be doing pooling and multiple other things. So we will continue to work hard.
THE PRESIDENT: So then for nursing homes, one day, and something more than that for everyone else. But three days looks like it’s a pretty good target.
MR. SCHECHTER: Yeah, well, on average, two to three days. So we shoot for two to three days. So if we can get it to two days on average, even better.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s really — you know — that’s very good. We’d be happy with those numbers. And numbers that we are happy with, and we use a certain test around here that goes very quickly. And it’s just been recently developed. So we’ve done an amazing job. Everybody at this table has done, really, an amazing job in coming up with testing, and testing that works.
Steve, go ahead.
Q One issue that has come up is, once you do have a vaccine, how do you properly distribute it? How do you get it out quickly to (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, when we have the vaccine, we have the military all lined up, and the military is going to be doing it in a very powerful manner. These are people that don’t usually do vaccines. They do soldiers and they do lots of other things that, frankly, are more difficult. But we have our general, and logistically, he’s all set.
Tony, do you want to say something about that?
Dr. FAUCI: That is correct. As the vaccine rolls out, we’ll be getting them distributed. And as you probably have heard, we are going to make sure that we do it in an equitable way and it’s representative of the populations who need it the most. And we have the standard way that we determine that, with the ACIP working with the CDC.
But Dr. Collins and Dr. Redfield have put together, with the National Academy of Medicine, a group that will fortify that decision-making process so that we’re making sure that we’re very fair and equitable in getting the vaccine distributed properly.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think I could have Francis say that tremendous progress has been made on the vaccine, beyond anything that we would have thought if you go back six months.
What do you think?
DR. COLLINS: It is just, frankly, quite astounding, Mr. President. I’ve been at NIH for 27 years and director for 11, and I’ve seen some amazing things happen. But the way in which the whole research community — public and private, philanthropies — everybody has come together to work on this, not worrying about who gets the credit, trying to figure out how to strip away anything that’s going to slow things down.
And I think all of us motivated by the fact that this is the most serious problem we’ve encountered in our professional lifetimes, even a day matters. And so that’s why a lot of people look kind of sleepy, because we’re all working 24/7, trying to make sure that nothing possibly slows this process down.
Yeah, the vaccines — this week is a big week, as you just heard, having two phase-three trials started in the very same day, this past Monday. And based upon very impressive phase one data, showing that people who got that in the phase one trials, developed these high levels of neutralizing antibodies that should be very predictive of protection. But you don’t know until you actually run the trial in those 30,000 people.
By the way, you heard earlier about Coronavirus.gov, which is a place you can go to to find out how you can donate plasma. There’s another thing you can do if you go to that website, which is to sign up to say you’re interested in a vaccine trial. And we need people to volunteer for that as well, because we’re going to — with these four or five trials coming along very quickly, each of which needs 30,000 volunteers — that’s a lot of people. And we need them.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Francis, we’re working very well with other countries.
DR. COLLINS: We are indeed. And science has always been international, and it certainly is right now. And we work with our colleagues in Europe and the UK and Asia in a way that I think represents the best of the best. And again, everybody recognizes we’re all in this together across the whole planet.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
3:40 P.M. EDT