As Trump administration alumni and the White House spar over who should get credit for the increasing pace of the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the former head of Operation Warp Speed argued Sunday that the Trump administration was responsible for a vast majority of the planning.
Speaking during a Sunday morning appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Moncef Slaoui, the head of the vaccine development partnership under the Trump administration, described recent claims by President Joe Biden that his administration was left without a coherent vaccine plan as a “very negative description of the reality.”
“In fact 90% of what’s happening now is the plan that we had,” Slaoui said, continuing: “We constructed specifically 100 million doses of the vaccine, but we also built into the contract options to acquire more vaccines once we knew they are effective.”
Slaoui said the Trump administration should take credit for most of the manufacturing and distribution of the vaccines, describing the new administration’s rollout philosophy as “similar” to Trump’s, but gave credit to Biden for his use of the Federal Emergency Management Act and sports arenas as mass vaccination sites.
The former Operation Warp Speed chief also acknowledged that the Trump administration had some failures in “communication” regarding the vaccine rollout, and lamented on the “politicization” of the shot.
“We failed to communicate the fact that vaccine doses availability is going to be slow over time because we went so fast,” Slaoui said. “It was impossible to have enough stock of the vaccine quickly enough. So we were unable to communicate in the month of November, December and January to manage expectations.”
Biden has repeatedly characterized the initial stages of the vaccine rollout under former President Donald Trump as a failure, recently claiming “America had no real plan to vaccinate most of the country” and that his predecessor “failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer shots [and] failed to set up vaccine centers.” Vaccine distribution has sped up significantly under the Biden administration, with the new president delivering on his promise to dole out 100 doses during his first 100 days in office in nearly half that time. Meanwhile, state and federal officials have acknowledged the new White House has been more active in bolstering the country’s vaccine supply. However, former Trump officials have been critical of Biden’s complaints about their work, arguing, as Slaoui said Sunday, that the Trump administration built the groundwork—initiating the relationships and contracts with vaccine manufacturers—that has allowed Biden to succeed. Biden has also benefited from vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech speeding up their operations as they’ve better established their infrastructure, significantly pushing forward Biden’s vaccine rollout timeline.
“Biden Got the Vaccine Rollout Humming, With Trump’s Help” (The New York Times)
“Who deserves credit? Biden leans into pandemic politics” (The Associated Press)