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WASHINGTON (AP) – US President-elect Joe Biden has chosen a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner to lead the science of vaccines as part of his campaign to put 100 million injections in the first 100 days of his government.
Dr. David Kessler, who will hold the title of Chief Scientific Officer for COVID-19 Response, headed the FDA in the 1990s under chairmen of both political parties. He has been one of Biden’s top advisers on the pandemic and his appointment was announced Friday by the presidential transition office.
Kessler will work at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, assuming responsibility for the scientific side of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative launched under the administration of President Donald Trump to rapidly develop vaccines and treatments. The campaign has already produced two highly effective vaccines and more are on the way.
However, the nation’s inoculation campaign is off to a slow start and most of the vaccines that the federal government delivers to the states are not being used immediately.
A person advising Biden’s transition team said Kessler will take on the role now played by Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a prominent vaccine scientist and innovator who has served as the senior advisor to Operation Warp Speed.
Several potential vaccines are in final clinical trials, and one more company is expected to apply for emergency FDA approval for their formulation soon. The person spoke on condition of anonymity so that he could discuss the internal deliberations.
Kessler will coordinate the review and approval of the vaccine, as well as the logistics of manufacturing millions of more doses. Experts say the United States will need to vaccinate more than 250 million people to get closer to the goal of “herd immunity,” where there is such widespread resistance to the virus that it allows a return to normal life. So far fewer than 12 million doses have been applied.
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