HHS chief refutes Biden’s criticism of administration’s vaccine rollout as ‘just nonsense’

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White House officials on Sunday refuted former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s contention that there was “no detailed plan” for administering coronavirus vaccines, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling it “nonsense.”

“With all respect, that’s just nonsense,” Mr. Azar said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sharing “comprehensive plans” with public health departments nationwide.

“This is being micromanaged and controlled by the United States military, as well as our incredible private sector,” Mr. Azar said.

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said that administration officials plan to brief the Biden transition team this week on the plans to deliver the vaccines and inoculate Americans against COVID-19.

“There are plans. There are videos that describe how to do it, because these are special conditions, given the cold chain — very cold, particularly with the Pfizer vaccine,” said Mr. Slaoui on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet Thursday to review the vaccines, and the Trump administration plans to begin shipping the inoculations “the minute” the agency gives its final approval, he said.

After that, the first vaccinations could be administered as soon as 36 hours later.

“If the vaccine is approved on the 10th or the 11th, the minute it’s approved, the shipments will start,” Mr. Slaoui said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It should take them about 24 hours to make it to the various immunization sites that the various jurisdictions and states have told us to ship vaccines to them. And within, I would say, 36 hours from approval, potentially the first immunization could be taking place.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>.<a href=”https://twitter.com/SecAzar?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SecAzar</a> refutes President Elect Biden’s claim that there is no detailed vaccine distribution plan saying “with all respect, that’s just nonsense.” <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FoxNewsSunday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FoxNewsSunday</a></p>— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) <a href=”https://twitter.com/FoxNewsSunday/status/1335586316122198016?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 6, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8”></script>

Mr. Biden took a jab Friday at the Trump administration’s vaccine plan, saying: “There is no detailed plan that we’ve seen anyway as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe into somebody’s arm. And it’s going to be very difficult for that to be done.”

Mr. Slaoui said he had not had a chance yet to sit down with the Biden team but that “we look forward to that happening.”

“We actually, I think, have a meeting planned later this week,” Mr. Slaoui said. “I’m confident that, together, we will do the best we can to make sure the vaccines are delivered safely and effectively to all Americans.”

He said that elderly people in nursing homes and their caregivers should be vaccinated by the end of December to the middle of January, and that most of the most highly susceptible population should be vaccinated by mid-March.

“By the middle of the month of March, we should have really covered most of the highly susceptible population, about 100 million people,” Mr. Slaoui said.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, said that there is a detailed plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, but the Biden transition team hasn't been fully briefed yet. “We actually, I think, have a meeting planned later this week,” Slaoui said. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CNNSOTU?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CNNSOTU</a> <a href=”https://t.co/K6JS7LGHg0”>pic.twitter.com/K6JS7LGHg0</a></p>— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CNNSotu/status/1335592947476271106?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 6, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8”></script>

That figure is lower than the administration’s initial goal in May, when Mr. Slaoui assumed the job of vaccine czar, but he stressed that manufacturing biological products is more difficult than making “a watch or a little phone.”

“This is not an engineering problem. These are biological problems, they are extremely complex,” Mr. Slaoui said. “We don’t control 100% of everything as it happens. There will be small glitches. That’s what happens all the time.”

Mr. Slaoui also supported Mr. Biden’s call to wear masks for 100 days, calling it a “good idea,” given that the pandemic “is ravaging the country.”

“We have a vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June, so we need to be very cautious and vigilant,” he said.

 

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