The man who was arguably the most effective member of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been asked to resign by the incoming Biden administration.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui led the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which developed a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time – far earlier than anyone predicted. Under the current plan, Slaoui will stay on for another month to help with the Biden transition, CNBC reported.
“It’s not clear who will take scientific lead for the Biden team focused on Covid vaccines or if someone will be appointed to that role. Two vaccines are already authorized in the U.S. and three more are in late-stage clinical trials. Jeff Zients is Biden’s coordinator of the Covid-19 response, while Bechara Choucair will be Covid vaccine coordinator, focused on speeding inoculations,” the outlet reported.
A source told CNBC that Biden’s team has not asked Slaoui to say on past February 12, which is 30 days away. His contract requires he be given 30 days’ notice before termination.
Slaoui reportedly already planned to leave the White House now that two vaccines and two therapies for COVID-19 are available thanks to the program he led. He decided to stay on a little longer “in order to ensure that the operation continues to perform the way it has performed through the transition of administration,” Slaoui said last week, adding, “we’re getting close to the point where my value add is more limited.”
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Though the initial vaccine rollout has been criticized, the speed of their development, which Slaoui oversaw, exceeded expectations: Two vaccines have been authorized in the U.S. with 95% efficacy in preventing disease, from Pfizer and Moderna. Pivotal results from Johnson & Johnson on its vaccine, the first offering the potential for just one dose, are expected within weeks. It was the fastest vaccine development in history.
Slaoui was criticized when he took the job for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry; he resigned from the board of Moderna around the time his role was announced. He sold his shares in the company and said he donated their increase in value during the few days he held them while at the Operation Warp Speed helm.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was one of Slaoui’s biggest critics. He responded to her by saying he is a registered Democrat and took the role in the Trump administration “because this pandemic is bigger than any one of us.”
Warren was dead wrong about Slaoui, as were many members of the media, who “fact-checked” President Donald Trump’s assertions that a vaccine would be developed by the end of 2020. President Donald Trump in the fall began saying a vaccine was coming soon, so media outlets rushed to claim he was lying, citing “experts.” NBC News even took the step to “fact check” Trump’s prediction, one of the numerous ways so-called fact checks have been weaponized against Trump. “Fact check: Coronavirus vaccine could come this year, Trump says. Experts say he needs a ‘miracle’ to be right,” read NBC’s headline on May 15.
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