Trump’s Covid vaccine czar hopes work won’t be disrupted by the Biden transition: “Our focus is on saving American lives.”
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who oversees the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccination program, told CNBC on Monday that he hoped his work to accelerate development would not be interrupted by a transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
“We will not be distracted by the circumstances or the context,” Slaoui told Closing Bell. “We’re going to move on as quickly as possible, always looking to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. And of course we’d hope there won’t be any disruption due to the transition.”
The comments came in response to a question on comments Biden had made the previous Monday. He said “more people could die” if the Trump administration does not properly coordinate with Biden’s staff on its plans to distribute a vaccine in the United States.
“How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What’s the game plan? It’s a huge, huge, huge endeavor,” Biden told reporters after speaking on the economy.
Numerous media organizations, including NBC News, voted for Biden more than a week ago. However, President Donald Trump has refused to allow the President’s race and his administration has not yet initiated the formal transfer of power while the election campaign pursues various litigation related to election results in battlefield states.
“If we have to wait until January 20th to begin this planning, we will be over a month and a half behind,” said Biden, referring to the inauguration day. “And so it is important that it is done, that there is coordination now.”
Slaoui, who had spent decades at UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, was appointed in May to oversee the Trump administration’s multi-agency vaccination program known as Operation Warp Speed. It has given billions of dollars to drug makers to accelerate research and development and to make and distribute vaccines if they get regulatory approval. This complex mission has not changed in the past few weeks, Slaoui said.
“From day one, our goal has been to go fast. And absolutely every day and every hour counts, and that’s why we are where we are,” he said. “Our focus is on saving American lives and the lives of people in general, and that is what we will continue to focus on.”
The U.S. government has invested over $ 2 billion in biotech company Moderna, which on Monday announced preliminary data showing its vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing Covid-19. The company hopes to apply for an emergency permit from the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.
Slaoui, a former board member of Moderna, described the results of the interim analysis as a “great achievement”, partly due to the federal government’s support for vaccine development. While regulatory approvals are still required before the vaccine can be distributed, Slaoui said the news should give hope to a nation affected by the pandemic.
“I think we can really see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We won’t be spending four or five years under these conditions,” said Slaoui. “I think vaccines will be available from a lot of different sources, including those from the surgery and the companies we worked with. So in the end there is hope and it is not that far off for us.”
– CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.