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Topline

As the U.S. braces simultaneously for a presidential power handoff and distribution of coronavirus vaccines that are expected to be approved soon, the head of the White House’s program to accelerate development of a vaccine, Operation Warp Speed, said Sunday morning that while he’s happy to work with President-elect Joe Biden, he’s been instructed not to share vaccine information with anyone outside the Trump administration. 

Key Facts

“I have been informed that I should not be saying anything confidential to anyone that’s not part of the [Trump] administration,” Moncef Slaoui told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that he’ll “act according to what the requirements are” on potentially briefing Biden next week. 

Slaoui, the scientific head of Operation Warp Speed who previously spent nearly three decades making vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, said that the country’s vaccine operation has remained “isolated” from the “political context” of the current administration, meaning “it frankly won’t make a difference” what administration it’s working with. 

However, Biden complained last week that with Trump refusing to concede the election—leading to a delay in starting the official presidential transition—he’s being denied access to information critical to the handling of the pandemic, including the plan for distributing Covid-19 vaccines once they become available. 

“I hope there is no disruption in any way,” said Slaoui.

Crucial Quote 

“All the information that I make public of course I’ll make public to the new administration,” Slaoui said, adding that he’s “highly supportive” of Operation Warp Speed and “if it means I work with the new administration, I’ll be happy to.” 

Chief Critic 

Public health experts have warned that the delay in the presidential transition risks impairing the country’s response to a worsening pandemic. “With the pandemic worsening nationwide and only two months until the transition of power, every day the transition is delayed is a day the country cannot afford,” read a letter sent by a group of nearly 200 experts last week. “Ensuring a rapid and smooth transition will save American lives.” 

Key Background 

Distribution of the vaccine appears imminent with Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday submitting an emergency use authorization request for their coronavirus vaccine candidate to the Food and Drug Administration. The companies say their final analysis of data from clinical trials found that the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing coronavirus infections. Moderna has also touted early data from trials of its vaccine candidate showing a similar rate of efficacy. Slaoui said Sunday that doses of both vaccines will begin to be made available to states within 24 hours of approval. 

Further Reading 

“Public Health Experts: Delay In Presidential Transition ‘Places American Lives At Risk’” (Forbes)

“To Guarantee Safety Of Covid-19 Vaccines, Prioritize Long-Term Studies” (Forbes)

“Former FDA Commissioner Says Pandemic Could ‘Effectively End In 2021’ If Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Live Up To Early Data” (Forbes)

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