LIVE: Joe Biden Unveils Plan to Overhaul U.S. Covid Vaccine Program

Date: 2021-01-15 19:18:49

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(Jan. 15) President-elect Joe Biden is overhauling the faltering U.S. vaccination initiative he’s about to inherit, appointing new leaders of the effort and retiring its unpopular name days ahead of his inauguration.

Biden will install David Kessler, who served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s, to serve as chief science officer of the Covid-19 response. His job will include steering what President Donald Trump’s administration dubbed Operation Warp Speed and replacing Moncef Slaoui, who served as science chief for the vaccine development and distribution initiative.

The Warp Speed program is being rolled into a broader portfolio to be overseen by Kessler. Biden’s team wants to emphasize its new focus on hastening immunizations, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because there hasn’t been an official announcement.

As such, Biden’s team is retiring the Operation Warp Speed moniker, the people said. Critics have said the name sowed even greater mistrust among a public already skeptical of how quickly Covid-19 vaccines were being introduced.

Biden’s transition has been referring to the effort as Covid Response, with one official saying the change reflects that Warp Speed’s effort of getting vaccines authorized is considered complete. The Trump administration, however, tasked Warp Speed with both vaccine development and distribution.

Incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed late Friday morning that they’d ditch the name.

Biden will detail his plan to overhaul the U.S. vaccination campaign in a speech Friday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware. His comments come as the Trump administration tries to smooth out a rocky rollout, and as Biden’s health team flashes warning signals that there will be no quick fix.

“We have to meet the moment where it is, and it’s not good right now,” Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee for health secretary, told MSNBC on Friday.

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