Biden chooses ex FDA chief Kessler to help lead U.S. vaccine drive – NYT

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Bengaluru, Jan. 15, 2021 U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has chosen David Kessler, the ex-head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to help lead the COVID-19 vaccine push Operation Warp Speed, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing transition officials.

The news came as Biden was due to outline his plans to ramp up vaccinations amid soaring infections and an early rollout by the Trump administration that Biden has called “a dismal failure”.

Kessler, a paediatrician and lawyer who headed the FDA under Presidents George Bush senior and Bill Clinton, will replace Moncef Slaoui as Operation Warp Speed’s Chief Adviser, the report said.

Kessler has been a co-chair of Biden’s advisory board on the pandemic.

As head of the FDA, Kessler cut the time needed to approve drugs to treat AIDS and moved to try to regulate the tobacco industry.

Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The move comes at a critical point for Operation Warp Speed, which is meant to speed up the development and distribution of shots and treatments for the coronavirus.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had aimed to give vaccine doses to 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 – but only 11.1 million shots had been administered as of Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a bid to expand vaccination efforts, the Trump administration said Tuesday it was releasing millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it had been holding back for second shots.

The move was a departure from an earlier strategy to stockpile enough doses to ensure that required second doses of the vaccines are available.

Shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, whose vaccines were approved by the U.S. last month, come in the form of two doses.

Kessler will share responsibilities for the initiative with General Gustave Perna, who will continue as a chief operating officer, the New York Times reported.

Slaoui will stay on as a consultant, it added.

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