UCSF professor of pedriatics, epidemiology, and biostatistics, and former FDA head Dr. David Kessler will be President-elect Joe Biden's chief science officer of COVID response in charge of vaccine science.
Kessler has been serving as a top pandemic advisor to Biden through the transition, as the Associated Press reports, and he will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui as the chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed.
Kessler's involvement in the new administration was first reported in early November, when he along with two other UCSF colleagues, Dr. Eric Goosby, and Dr. Robert M. Rodriguez, were named to Biden's pandemic advisory board. Kessler was asked at the time to lead that board.
To date, Kessler has reportedly briefed Biden 50 or 60 times on the vaccine rollout, as the New York Times reports, and he warned Biden back in December that Operation Warp Speed was not well prepared for the actual logistics of getting vaccines into arms.
Previously, Kessler served as FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997, under the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He also previously served as dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.
Kessler's assignment to the vaccine effort comes at a tense time as COVID infections are raging and the Trump administration has fallen far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020 — two weeks into the new year and the number is closer to 11 million.
Also, as the Washington Post reports today, Trump administration appears to have lied about the vaccine reserve it had set to release to states this week. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar previously suggested that the federal government had been holding a huge amount of vaccine in reserve for second doses, to guard against supply-chain issues, but it turns out that reserve was already released in recent weeks. Many states had been counting on a boost in vaccine distribution from this reserve in order to begin vaccinating seniors — and that expanded vaccination effort may now get delayed.
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