WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The nation’s crash program to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus has been given the sci-fi-style name of “Operation Warp Speed.”

Senators got an update on the all-out effort to identify, test, and quickly distribute a vaccine — or vaccines — in world-record time.

“Generally it takes five to ten years to develop a vaccine from a new infectious agent. We don’t have that time,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Collins told lawmakers that researchers are working at breakneck speed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are all optimistic that the goal that we have set to have a vaccine that works and is safe by the end of 2020 will be met,” Collins said.

Senators asked how health leaders will ensure the vaccine’s safety, and once it’s ready, get it into the hands of doctors around the country.

“CDC stands ready to support our partners with the distribution once a COVID vaccine is available,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.

While the nation awaits a vaccine, there are steps we can take to help slow the spread, according to Redfield.

“The powerful weapons of social distancing, face coverings, and hand hygiene,” he said.

As the nation reopens and COVID-19 cases surge, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy looked ahead to the possible return of sporting events.

“Has the CDC given recommendations regarding whether it is appropriate to have fans in attendance at either college sports games or professional games this fall?” he asked.

“We’ve not recommended these gatherings to be such that you would have fans in the stands,” Redfield replied.

With seven possible vaccine strains in development, lawmakers say they stand ready to help Operation Warp Speed carry out its mission.