Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
Two men in suits stand by a podium.
enlarge President Donald Trump listens as Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKlines’ vaccine division, speaks about the development of vaccines against the coronavirus in the White House rose garden on May 15, 2020.

Moncef Slaoui, the former chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, is proud of his team’s work helping develop and distribute vaccines in an unprecedented time frame amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. But when it comes to immunizing the population, “we generally fail,” he says.

The immunologist and former head of vaccines for GlaxoSmithKline resigned from his role at Warp Speed ​​nearly two weeks ago at the request of the Biden administration. While the government also quickly scrapped the name “Warp Speed” — which was repeatedly criticized for giving the impression that vaccines would be developed in a rush without proper testing — Slaoui agreed to stay on until February to help with the transition. With his time in the federal position dwindling, he sat down for an interview with Science magazine to see how things were going.

Overall, Slaoui is proud of his work, his team and the monumental tasks they have accomplished, he said. “Between May [2020] and now we’ve moved five vaccines into Phase III trials, two are approved, two are in the process of completing Phase III – and one of them could be approved in the near future… This is absolutely exceptional by any standard,” he said.

“Our mission in its second piece, with my co-leader Gen. [Gustave] Perna would be handing out the vaccines, taking them from point A to point of immunization,” he continued. “That’s how we designed it and worked it out with all the jurisdictions in the country.”


Still, he acknowledged that the vaccination effort was an overall failure. The effort has been widely criticized for its slow rollout and issues with data reporting and delivery transparency. Nearly half of the 41 million doses distributed so far are still waiting to be armed. “Indeed, the immunization is definitely not working properly,” he said. “And as long as that doesn’t work properly, we will fall short. We generally fail because the goal is to immunize.”

But Slaoui warded off endgame criticism of Warp Speed’s work. When asked whether the Trump administration made a mistake in leaving it to states to sort out the administration and instead should have done more to help states coordinate vaccination — the Biden administration plans to do — Slaoui said he was “in the middle” of that problem. He called the criticism of Warp Speed ​​for not firing weapons more often a “big misunderstanding” about Warp Speed’s role.

He was also outraged by reports that officials in the Biden administration were shocked at the state’s federal vaccination efforts, suggesting they essentially inherited no planning from the previous administration, including Warp Speed.

“How could you have discovered two vaccines, developed them until they’re approved, manufactured and distributed with 99.9 percent precision, 14 million doses to 14,000 locations and it’s labeled ‘There’s no plan’?” he asked.

By akfire1

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