Operation Warp Speed chief advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui acknowledged on Sunday that has had “no contact” with the incoming Biden administration regarding the transition process and vaccine distribution plans.
Since President-elect Joe Biden won the election, President Donald Trump has refused to concede and his campaign has challenged the results of the election in court.
Despite his lack of communication with the incoming Biden administration, Slaoui said he “can’t see” the transition impacting vaccine distribution.
“We are focused on making sure that the vaccines are made available as quickly as possible and distributed as efficiently as possible, regardless of the political context that surrounds us. Of course, we would hope that the transition happens quietly and smoothly,” Slaoui told ABC. “We are concerned with anything that could derail the process. As it stands now, I can’t see that happening, but hopefully it doesn’t happen.”
When asked whether he would be open to speaking with the Biden administration, Slaoui said he would “be happy” to share information already made public, but nothing confidential.
“I have been informed that I should not be saying anything that is confidential to anybody, including anybody that’s not a part of the administration, and I’ll act in accordance with what the legal requirements are,” Slaoui told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
CNBC has reached out to the White House for comment.
The General Services Administration still has not officially ascertained a president-elect two weeks after Biden won the election, which is blocking his incoming administration from getting access to key resources and information. This has “definite impacts,” Biden chief of staff Ron Klain told ABC, “and those impacts escalate every day.”
“The President-elect and the Vice President-elect are not getting intelligence briefings they’re entitled to. Our transition isn’t getting access to agency officials to help develop our plans, and there’s a lot of focus on that vaccine roll out plan that’s going to be critical in the early days of a Biden presidency – we have no access to that,” Klain said.
Slaoui added that Operation Warp Speed has been “isolated from the administration, from the political environment and the political context,” and “therefore, all decisions are made [and] the train is running, whether [it’s] one administration or the other doesn’t make a difference.”
This comes after Pfizer and BioNTech applied for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their coronavirus vaccine on Friday. The approval process is expected to take a few weeks, with an advisory committee meeting to review the vaccine tentatively scheduled for early December.
Moderna also plans to apply for an emergency use authorization, as its preliminary phase three trial data showed its vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing Covid-19, the company announced Monday.
Once an emergency use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine is approved, doses of it will be dispersed across the country within 24 hours, Slaoui told Meet the Press on Sunday.
“Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state would have told us they want the vaccine doses,” Slaoui said. “We cannot move the vaccine doses prior to the emergency use authorization.”
Each state department of health will determine where the vaccine will be held, and with the help of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each state will also decide who is vaccinated first, according to Slaoui.
It is likely that the vaccines will be given on a “priority basis,” Slaoui said, and “that’s very likely to be, maybe, [those that are] health care workers, first-line workers, individuals of very high risk, elderly.”
“I would expect, maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in the areas that the state Department of Health have told us to deliver the vaccine,” Slaoui told CNN on Sunday.