t is disappointing that with less than a full week in office, the Biden administration seems intent on misrepresenting Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration program to develop and distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics — a program with success unparalleled in the history of public health.
In reporting on COVID vaccination efforts, CNN quoted anonymous Biden administration officials claiming they were left no vaccine distribution plan. One official CNN quoted said: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch.”
This statement is demonstrably false. Fortunately, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and someone I worked with closely, has publicly contradicted this.
As of Sunday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 41.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed around the U.S. and 20.5 million doses have been administered. The vast majority of this happened before the inauguration of President Biden on Wednesday. It would have been impossible for this to have happened if the Trump administration had no vaccine distribution plan.
Throughout the fall of 2020, Biden supporters exhorted us not to politicize the vaccine development process — yet this is precisely what those officials are now doing. This does nothing to enhance vaccine confidence. In fact, it undermines it.
Moreover, their claim is insulting to the 64 U.S. public health jurisdictions, the Department of Defense, and the outstanding private sector participants such as UPS, FedEx, CVS, Walgreens, McKesson, and Pfizer. All of these organizations have excelled in their roles in delivering vaccines to millions of Americans.
The Biden team knows better. In my role as chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration I personally led the first HHS transition meeting with the incoming Biden administration. Not surprisingly, Operation Warp Speed was at the top of the list of topics the Biden team wanted to be briefed on.
I agreed to this briefing request within 24 hours of the General Services Administration’s ascertainment that transition planning could begin and committed to the smoothest transition in the history of HHS.
The Biden transition team was provided the most comprehensive briefing legally permissible at the time. Top operational leadership of Operation Warp Speed detailed the exact topic the Biden team is now discrediting: vaccine distribution planning.
The American people deserve the facts.
In the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration, states and jurisdictions reported having vaccinated around 1 million Americans per day. This was achieved scarcely one month after the Moderna coronavirus vaccine received its emergency use authorization and five weeks after Pfizer received the same authorization for its vaccine.
The U.S. has vaccinated more citizens than any other nation in the world by a long shot, despite the fact that the United Kingdom and others had a head start of several weeks on getting vaccines approved for emergency use.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that even France was stuck at around 400,000 total vaccinations several weeks into its program.
The Biden administration set a goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in its first 100 days. I believe the Biden team will achieve this — and much more.
It should be noted that when the Trump administration left office we were positioned to have approximately 250 million vaccine doses available by the end of President Biden’s first 100 days — even without the benefit of additional vaccines still in development with the help of Operation Warp Speed.
Working together, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and the most experienced private sector health care distribution companies in the country have delivered almost every vaccine order on time to the right place under extreme cold-storage and transportation requirements.
When the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the Pfizer label to allow the use of six doses per vial of the vaccine instead of five — but required special syringes — Operation Warp Speed scoured the world and is now delivering these to vaccination sites.
After that initial Operation Warp Speed transition meeting with the Biden team, the Department of Health and Human Services proceeded to hold over 300 additional transition meetings. Concerns about distribution and vaccine administration plans were never once raised to me by Biden representatives.
In hindsight, some things could have been improved, such as managing certain expectations with governors or better articulating differences between estimated and actual vaccine doses. That notwithstanding, we handed the Biden administration much more than just a plan.
We delivered two extraordinarily safe and effective vaccines, with more in the pipeline; a pace of vaccinations surpassing aspirations of the Biden team; incredible delivery logistics; multiple authorized COVID-19 treatments; a testing capability that is the envy of the world; and a nimbleness to mobilize and adapt not experienced since World War II.
Impulses to centralize all activity with the federal government, while tempting, would inhibit what has been a truly exceptional all-of-America endeavor exceeding anything like it in the world, and should be rejected.
The new White House COVID -19 coordinator recently said that “what we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” and Biden’s chief of staff said the new administration is “inheriting a huge mess.”
Perhaps members of the Biden team are simply trying to lower expectations for themselves. The truth is that they are neither starting “from scratch” nor are they inheriting “a mess.” However, hubris and a belief that Washington alone knows best could create one.
I hope the Biden administration will build on — not disparage — the successes we left them. And when they identify areas for improvement, they should improve. That, as opposed to distortions and finger pointing, will speed our victory over COVID-19 and be a win for all Americans.