Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 vaccine development push, said Sunday that President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to ask Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office is a “good idea.”
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether Biden’s request would be “too little too late,” Slaoui said it was “never too late.”
“This pandemic is ravaging the country,” said Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed. “We all need to take our precaution, have our mask, wash our hands, keep our distance, remain aware that this virus is a killer.
“We have a vaccine ― there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “But we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June, so we need to be very cautious and vigilant.”
Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to wearing masks as one of his first acts as president but stopped short of announcing plans to impose a nationwide mask mandate.
Biden’s push for Americans to don face coverings amid the coronavirus pandemic marks a stark contrast to Trump’s approach to masks. Trump refused to wear a mask in public for the first several months of the pandemic and has mocked Biden and others for wearing them.
The Biden team is beginning the transition process, and the president-elect accused the Trump administration of not having a detailed plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the hundreds of millions of people across the country.
Slaoui appeared to push back on that claim Sunday, saying the Trump administration has created “plans” and “videos” on the issue.
“We haven’t had a chance yet to sit down with [Biden’s] transition team and explain in detail everything,” Slaoui said. He added: “I think we have a meeting planned later this week. … I’m confident that together we will do the best we can to make sure vaccines are delivered safely and effectively to all Americans.”
Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, on Sunday took a less diplomatic approach to Biden’s accusation, calling the president-elect’s criticism “just nonsense.”
“We have comprehensive plans from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], working with 64 public health jurisdictions across the country, as our governors have laid out very detailed plans that we’ve worked with them on,” Azar told “Fox News Sunday.”
An advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider a vaccine developed by Pfizer before the agency decides whether to grant emergency use authorization. The group will review a second vaccine from Moderna the following week.
Slaoui said he expected the FDA panel will recommend approval. If vaccines are distributed as planned, there should be a “significant decrease” in mortality rates among the elderly population by the end of January, he added.
He said he expected the vaccines to produce long-lasting effects that could protect against the virus for “many years.”
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