Operation Warp Speed leader to stay on during Biden administration

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Operation Warp Speed chief scientific adviser Moncef Slaoui said he plans to continue working on the government’s vaccine accelerator during the Biden administration, reversing earlier plans to step down soon.

Slaoui said the Biden team asked him to remain on as a consultant and he accepted. However, Slaoui didn’t say how long he would stay and indicated that his role could shrink in the coming weeks.

“I have decided to extend that in order to ensure that the operation continues to perform the way it has performed through the transition of administration,” Slaoui said during an Operation Warp Speed press briefing Wednesday.

Operation Warp Speed pumped billions of dollars into vaccines and therapeutics and is considered one of the Trump administration’s few successes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Two vaccines have received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and at least two more could seek the agency’s green light in the coming months.

Slaoui had told POLITICO in November that he was planning to step down by early this year, saying he viewed the Warp Speed mission as temporary. Slaoui, a registered Democrat, at the time said his plans to leave were unrelated to the presidential transition.

“I think we’re getting close to the point where my value add is more limited, and therefore I expect my activity to decrease gradually after Jan. 21, but as long as I’m asked, I will be helping,” Slaoui said Wednesday.

The decision to keep on Slaoui comes even as President-elect Joe Biden criticizes the Trump administration for the slow pace of vaccinations. Biden also recently announced plans to bring on a new team to help manage the Covid-19 response, including the inoculation effort. Some progressive lawmakers have also been critical of Slaoui’s drug industry ties.

Gen. Gustave Perna, OWS’ chief operating officer, said the Biden transition has not told him whether he will continue in his role.

“I’ve signed up, I’m here until my part of the mission is done or I’m told otherwise,” Perna said.

The Biden team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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