'The train is running' on Covid vaccines despite transition delay, Warp Speed adviser says

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The delay in the presidential transition process won’t impact the work of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership to develop coronavirus vaccines, the operation’s chief adviser said Sunday.

"Frankly, the operation has been isolated from, from the administration, from the political environment and the political context," Moncef Slaoui said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." "We worked very hard to make sure that’s the case. And therefore, all decisions are made, the train is running, whether one administration or the other doesn’t, frankly, make a difference. I hope there is no disruption in any way."

President Donald Trump has protested President-elect Joe Biden’s election, breaking tradition by not conceding. And despite election results, the General Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for beginning the formal presidential transition process, has not yet certified Biden’s victory, leaving his team unable to access federal resources.

Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines department, said he’s "highly supportive of the program, and if it means I work with the new administration, I’ll be very happy to."

It’s unclear if Slaoui can begin briefing the Biden transition team. Though he said he would provide the information he made public to the new administration, he’s "been informed that I should not be saying anything that’s confidential to anybody, including, you know, anybody that’s not part of the administration, and therefore I’ll act according to what legal requirements are."

Two companies have announced they have developed effective coronavirus vaccines.

Pfizer, the first company to seek emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration, says its vaccine is 95 percent effective after Phase III trials. Moderna, which is also expected to seek FDA authorization for its Covid-19 shot, announced its vaccine was similarly effective in preliminary data.

The federal government cannot move doses of the vaccine until it’s approved for emergency use by the FDA.

"Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses," Slaoui explained. "And then it is each state that will decide specifically, based on the guidance from the [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] who they will vaccinate."

While federal agencies will issue recommendations on which segments of the population should get the vaccine first, the decision lies with states themselves.

Priority populations are "very likely to be maybe health care workers, maybe first-line workers, maybe individuals who are at very high risk, elderly, people with comorbidities," Slaoui explained.

"Frankly," he said, "I don’t see that the federal government will intervene on a state decision."

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