Connect with us

Politics

Politics Briefing: 'Scary' rise in COVID-19 cases – The Globe and Mail

Published

 on


Hello,

The approvals of two COVID-19 vaccines last month were a bright spot in a difficult time. They showed there could be light at the end of the tunnel for the nearly year-long public-health emergency we find ourselves in.

But the truth is that the fight against the virus is going badly and it looks like, at least in the short term, things will only get worse.

Story continues below advertisement

Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases is “scary.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the current lockdown could be extended further. Alberta, which has among the highest per-capita cases, and B.C., which is a bit better, are both extending restrictions. Premiers jointly say the federal government needs to do better at providing a reliable supply of vaccines.

Among the most worrying news is that conditions at long-term care homes, which were the sites of horror last spring, are still very vulnerable to outbreaks.

With new variants of the virus possibly hastening its spread, the message from public-health officials to Canadians continues: keep our distances, wear masks and not let the virus find new hosts.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Canada says the arrest this week of Hong Kong political leaders by pro-Beijing authorities is an “assault on representative democracy.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau similarly condemned the actions of U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday and said he incited the mob to violence.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Trudeau also said in a radio interview this morning that there could well be an election this year.

Statistics Canada’s monthly jobs report shows employment is trending down again, after months of recovery from the early pandemic-fuelled crash.

A dozen foreign-owned airlines have received money through Canada’s wage subsidy, despite also receiving bailouts in their home countries.

Another analysis shows some recipients of the wage subsidy are deep-pocketed companies that could possibly survive without the funds.

Some Canadians vacationing in sunny spots have already been denied flights home due to new rules that they have to show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding.

And Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are gearing up for a possible second impeachment of Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, says he will not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration in two weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the lies that fuelled the violence in Washington: “American political polarization, and its mistrust, helped Mr. Trump promote his unreality. But it could never have succeeded without disinformation propagated by others. Not just political differences, but the embrace of lies and conspiracy theories, which he took up with the birthers, fed against opponents, and fuelled in office. He pushed the notion of a Deep State inside government conspiring against him and winked at messianic QAnon crackpottery. The believers came to the Capitol.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the U.S. President: “[Trump] is, indeed, unbound by constraints of any kind: neither of laws, nor civility, nor even a rational sense of his own interest, but slave only to his desire to consume and destroy whatever frustrates his appetites or wounds his vanity. He has the mental age of an 11-year-old and the emotional age of a five-year-old, and for the past four years he has been President of the United States.”

Omar El Akkad (The Globe and Mail) on the trajectory of America: “But what is more likely than outright war is simply that the occasional frenzy of political violence, the occasional storming of a legislature or attempt to kidnap a governor, will join mass shootings and preventable virus deaths as something this country just learns to shrug off.”

James Hohmann (Washington Post) on the Trump cabinet secretaries resigning this week: “Resigning now feels a little like eating all but the last bite of a piece of cake at a restaurant and then asking for a refund.”

Aaron Wherry (CBC) on politics of providing COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable prisoners: “The simple politics of the issue are still obvious. Most Canadians are eager to receive the vaccine, current supplies are limited and those who commit crimes tend to be viewed as unsympathetic. But the idea that we’re all in this together can’t coexist with the notion that some people are more or less worthy of protection than others.”

Rita Trichur (The Globe and Mail) on Air Canada promoting leisure travel in the pandemic: “Those marvelling over Air Canada’s inability to do the right thing during this spiralling crisis are forgetting that our flag carrier, which was built with public money, has long had a malfunctioning moral compass.”

Story continues below advertisement

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Politics

As Trump Seeks to Remain a Political Force, New Targets Emerge – The New York Times

Published

 on


As Donald Trump surveys the political landscape, there is a sudden Senate opening in Ohio, an ally’s bid for Arkansas governor, and some scores to settle elsewhere.

Former President Donald J. Trump, determined to remain a force in G.O.P. politics, is gaining new opportunities with a crucial Senate seat unexpectedly coming open in Ohio, an ally announcing for governor of Arkansas and rising pressure on Republicans in Congress who did not stand with him during this month’s impeachment vote.

The surprise announcement on Monday by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio that he would not seek a third term sparked a political land rush, with top strategists in the state receiving a flood of phone calls from potential candidates testing their viability. One consultant said he had received calls from five would-be candidates by midday.

That opening, along with another statewide contest next year in which Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to face at least one Trump-aligned primary challenger, is likely to make Ohio a central battleground for control of the Republican Party, and an inviting one for Mr. Trump, who held on to Ohio in the election while losing three other Northern battleground states.

Mr. Portman’s announcement came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s former White House press secretary, began her campaign for Arkansas governor. The Republican primary there already includes the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, but private polling indicates that Ms. Sanders is beginning well ahead, and Mr. Trump endorsed her candidacy on Monday night.

Mr. Trump has only been out of the presidential office five days and has little in the way of political infrastructure. He has told aides he would like to take a break for several months.

But the former president has remained the party’s strongest fund-raiser, with tens of millions in PAC money at his disposal, and he retains an enduring base of Republican support across the country. Perhaps most important, he harbors a deep-seated desire to punish those he believes have crossed him and reward those who remain loyal.

So far he has focused primarily on Georgia, where he believes the Republican governor and secretary of state betrayed him by certifying his loss there. Both are up for re-election in 2022. And he took something of a test run over the weekend by getting involved in the leadership fight in Arizona’s Republican Party, after Kelli Ward, the firebrand chairwoman, asked for his help in gaining re-election, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Already there is a movement at the state and local levels to challenge incumbent members of Congress seen as breaking with the former president, starting with the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him this month.

The overwhelming consensus among Ohio Republicans is that a Trump-aligned candidate would be best positioned to win a competitive Senate primary, and no potential candidate has a better claim to Mr. Trump’s voters in the state than Representative Jim Jordan, who was Mr. Trump’s chief defender during his first impeachment trial and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the former president’s final days in office.

“Jim is well positioned if in fact he’s ready to take that leap; I’m not sure there’s anybody that would beat him,” said Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state and longtime Portman ally who last month served as an Electoral College voter for Mr. Trump. Referring to Mr. Trump’s legion of supporters, Mr. Blackwell added: “In Ohio, it’s going to be who has the track record to show that their agenda respects the newly realigned party base.”

Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Mr. Trump is now ensconced at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where aides are building something that can serve as an office. He’s been golfing several times, and was spotted by people at his club in Florida playing with the brother of the former tennis star Anna Kournikova on Sunday.

His advisers have had discussions about whether to get him back on some form of social media platform, although they insist that he does not need to be on Twitter or Facebook to raise money, and that his email solicitations continue to work well. On Monday he formally opened the Office of the Former President, to manage his “correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities.”

As President Biden’s inauguration approached, Mr. Trump began telling some allies that he was considering forming a third party if Republicans moved to convict him in the Senate trial. But by Saturday, after his own advisers said it was a mistake, Mr. Trump started sending out word that he was moving on from his threat.

“He understands that the best thing for his movement and conservatism is to move forward together, that third parties will lead to dominance by Democrats,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is a close ally of Mr. Trump.

Advisers to the president say he has just over $70 million in his PAC, Save America, with few restrictions on what he can do with it. For now, most of his staff is on a government payroll afforded to former presidents for a period of time after they leave office.

Officials are working to mend Mr. Trump’s relationship with Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the House minority leader, whom Mr. Trump called a vulgarity for his House floor speech denouncing the former president’s rally address before the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. A senior Republican said that aides to the two men were trying to arrange a meeting or a call in the coming days. And Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., spoke with Mr. McCarthy recently and the two are on good terms, a person briefed on the call said.

Mr. Trump would like to seek retribution against House members who voted against him, and he has been particularly angry with Representatives Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Fred Upton of Michigan, advisers said. He will also at some point focus on the governor’s race in Arizona, where Doug Ducey cannot seek re-election; Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election bid in Texas; and the Senate race in North Carolina, as places where he can show strength, the advisers said. (One adviser disputed that Mr. Trump would have an interest in the Texas race.)

In Ohio, Mr. Gonzalez faces a potential primary challenge from Christina Hagan, a former state legislator whom he defeated in a 2018 primary. Ms. Hagan lost in the general election last year to Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat, in a neighboring district. She said in an interview Monday that she would decide which, if any, race to enter in 2022 after Ohio redraws its congressional districts; the state is likely to lose one seat and Republicans control all levers of redistricting.

“A lot of people elected what they thought was conservative leadership and now are witnessing somebody cutting against their values,” Ms. Hagan said, alluding to Mr. Gonzalez’s vote to impeach.

Mr. Gonzalez’s office did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Mr. Trump’s deepest hostility is reserved for Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, advisers said, and they expect he will expend the most energy trying to damage Mr. Kemp’s re-election bid. The governor’s original sin was in choosing Kelly Loeffler over Mr. Trump’s favored candidate, Doug Collins, to fill a vacant Senate seat in 2019, but it evolved into something more consuming as Mr. Trump repeated his debunked claims of widespread fraud in the state and held Mr. Kemp responsible for not doing enough to challenge the election results.

Mr. Collins, a hard-line Trump backer, hasn’t decided whether to challenge Mr. Kemp or seek the Republican nomination against Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democrat who defeated Ms. Loeffler in a special election and will face voters again in 2022, or if he will choose not to run for anything, a Collins aide said Monday.

Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Next on Mr. Trump’s personal hit list is Representative Liz Cheney, the Republican from Wyoming, people close to him said. Ms. Cheney was the only member of the House G.O.P. leadership to vote to impeach. It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will target her seat, or simply her leadership post in the House, but advisers said they anticipated that he would take opportunities to damage her.

Sarah Longwell, the executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, an anti-Trump group, said she and her colleagues planned to raise and spend $50 million to defend the 10 pro-impeachment House Republicans in primary contests and attack those who voted to object to the Electoral College results after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. She said the group would aim to defeat Mr. Jordan in an Ohio Senate primary if he runs against an establishment-minded Republican.

Mr. Jordan’s spokesman did not respond to messages on Monday.

The 2022 map will be the first real test of Mr. Trump’s durability in the party. While Ms. Sanders is running for governor in Arkansas, rumors that his daughter Ivanka would run for Senate in Florida are unlikely to develop further. And though his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was said to be considering a Senate run in North Carolina, people close to the family say it is less clear what she will do now that Mr. Trump lost.

Mr. Trump’s advisers are more focused on the looming impeachment trial. He is working closely with Mr. Graham, who has argued to his colleagues that Mr. Trump’s Senate trial sets a bad precedent.

Mr. Graham helped him retain a South Carolina-based lawyer, Butch Bowers, who is also working to fill out a legal team with colleagues from the state, Mr. Graham and others said. Mr. Bowers is expected to work with a Trump adviser, Jason Miller, on some kind of response operation.

Unlike his first impeachment trial, when the Republican National Committee engaged in a constant defense of the president, including paying for his lawyers, this time it is expected to focus only on rapid response, including calling the Senate trial unconstitutional and a procedural overreach, two people familiar with the committee’s plans said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Boston Consulting CEO on the ties between business and politics – Marketplace

Published

 on


Between certifying the presidential election results and the Capitol insurrection, businesses have been increasingly speaking out about the state of American politics. Many companies, including Marriott and JPMorgan Chase, paused their political donations to Republicans after the events of Jan. 6. Shortly before that, many business leaders signed a letter urging Congress to accept the Electoral College results.

Rich Lesser, the CEO of Boston Consulting Group, was among the signatories of that letter. “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with the man who runs one of the nation’s premier management-consulting firms about how business leaders are thinking about their current role in politics. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: I was gonna start with how the relationship between businesses and American politics have changed in the last four years. But I think what I’m going to do is I’m going to ask you how they’ve changed in the last four weeks.

Rich Lesser: Well, we’re still on a journey to find that out. But I believe what we’re going to see is that there’s actually an agenda that overlaps between what business wants to do on many fronts and what the new administration has said that they want to try to achieve. But how we do it will, of course, be a substantial conversation in the months and years ahead. And then there are areas, particularly the area of tax and regulation, that could be somewhat contentious. And again, we’ll see how it plays out. But I think there’s certainly an openness to try to find common ground and move things forward from the business world looking at the new administration.

Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group.

Ryssdal: I wonder though, Mr. Lesser, if there’s a wariness, given business’ experience with the Trump administration, which is, we should be clear, sometimes you were in, sometimes you were out, sometimes you were targeted by the president, and sometimes you were his best friend.

Lesser: I think the expectation is, the behaviors across the two administrations are likely to be quite different. And the things that made it feel risky with the last administration won’t be the same challenges of this one. It’s not saying there won’t be challenges this time, they’ll just be different ones.

Ryssdal: You are, obviously, the guy running a big consulting firm. So your job is to talk to other businesses, other CEOs. You’re on the board of directors at the Business Roundtable, which is, by definition, putting you in contact with other CEOs and business leaders. What kind of conversations are y’all having right now about the last number of months and weeks in this economy?

Lesser: Well, I think the last couple months, the single biggest conversation has been about the election and the risks to American democracy, and what’s the appropriate role of business to, on the one hand, not try to be interfering ourselves in elections, and on the other hand, to make it clear that we stand behind democracy and free and fair elections? And of course, anytime you change administrations, and certainly when it changes parties, then, you know, how to, how are things likely to evolve? What’s the right ways to contribute? And then I guess maybe at the top of the list, I probably should have started there, how do we get beyond this pandemic, which is an ongoing conversation. That’s top of the list in many situations.

Ryssdal: We should say here that a number of years ago, you served, in fact, on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Any regrets?

Lesser: Mostly not. I mean, it’s always a learning experience. I think it was for everyone. But I think about the issues. I served on it because we were told, and it was true, that we would have a chance to speak about things we cared about. And the four things that I spoke about, in my brief tenure on that, were not having a Muslim ban, having a strong trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, not blowing that up, supporting paid family leave and staying in the Paris climate accord. I look back years later, and I’d say I believe in all of those issues. And now most of them have happened, some on the last, in the last administration, some in this one. I think when you have a chance to contribute directly to leadership, you should do that. At some point, it was clear it wasn’t having the effect. And there was all sorts of other things that we were potentially being associated with, and it was time to withdraw, which the business community did. But I think you have to try with a new administration to advocate for things you think are important.

Ryssdal: I should tell you, Mr. Lesser, we called a bunch of CEOs who were on the president’s various councils and panels, and you were the guy who volunteered to come on and take questions on the radio. And I wonder what you make of that.

Lesser: I think business leaders are all struggling with how prominent to be at a time of such division. And I really have a lot of empathy for that. And at the same time, I think we have to speak clearly on the one hand, to support a range of views. And on the other hand, to speak in favor of our democracy and how we come together after such a difficult time. And I realize that it’s challenging to know what the boundary lines are, and to say it exactly right and not risk angering some, but I think it’s the right thing to try to speak to that.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Proud of vaccine success, Warp Speed's ex-science head talks politics, presidents, and future pandemics – Science Magazine

Published

 on



<!–

–>

Moncef Slaoui last spring spoke at a White House ceremony that announced his appointment as scientific head of Operation Warp Speed.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

When President Joe Biden took office last week, his administration swiftly announced it would be renaming Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s crash program to develop COVID-19 vaccines. The decision puzzled immunologist Moncef Slaoui, scientific head of Warp Speed, but he attributes it to a word he says with disdain: politics. 

Slaoui recently resigned from his post, but has agreed to help the Biden transition team into February. In a lengthy chat with Science from his home in Pennsylvania last week, he reflected on his time with Operation Warp Speed, discussing challenging interactions with former President Donald Trump and how to be better prepared for a future pandemic. Never a Trump supporter—he’s a Democrat—Slaoui had reluctantly taken the Warp Speed job because, as the former head of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), he thought he could help solve one of the world’s most urgent problems.

But long before COVID-19 surfaced, Slaoui had become frustrated that the vaccine industry had such a haphazard, ad hoc response to emerging infectious diseases. About 6 years ago at GSK, he began working with the company to create a nonprofit division they called a Biopreparedness Organization (BPO) that would exist solely to make vaccines to prevent pandemics. In 2016, after recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika had made headlines, he explained why the project was sorely needed. “Unfortunately, one of these days, one of these agents is going to be global and very lethal. It’s going to be catastrophic,” he said on a TV show. “So we have to have a longer term commitment and solution that governments and a long-term institution should drive and fund.”

The company ended up buying a defunct drug manufacturing plant in Rockville, Maryland, but it wanted financial help to launch the BPO. The U.S. government, which has sunk more than $11 billion into Warp Speed vaccine R&D, wasn’t interested. GSK helped form the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in 2017, a nonprofit that would fund vaccine development, but it, too, ultimately didn’t want to bankroll the BPO, and the idea died. The plant is now called GSK’s Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research.

During his undergraduate years at the Free University of Brussels, Slaoui was a militant in a secret organization that wanted to spark a revolution in Morocco, his native country. “What I realized at the very end as I got in trouble with the regime was that, at least as far as I’m concerned, I want to participate in changing the world.”

Deeply proud of what he and the Warp Speed team accomplished, Slaoui is chagrined that Biden has called the vaccine rollout a “dismal failure.” He shares the dismay that there have been significant problems administering the vaccine doses Warp Speed has sent to the states—the troubles make him “sad” and “reflective” about what else he could have done. But he says most of the troubles stem from overwhelmed local public health systems, issues outside of Warp Speed’s purview. “Hundreds of people worked 20-hour days for the last 8 months,” he says. “I cannot wait to actually celebrate with all the people that worked together, someplace where we have a great dinner and we just take time to say, ‘great job, everyone.’”

Earlier today, Slaoui received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, from Moderna, on whose board he once sat. “I feel a joy I am sure every person that has been vaccinated has felt—a form of liberation,” Slaoui told Science immediately afterward. The interview below  has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: We met 4 years ago to talk about your vision for a pandemic preparedness vaccine manufacturing plant. It didn’t get off the ground. Would it have made a difference?

A: Absolutely. The whole concept—after we went through the flu pandemic, the Ebola outbreak, the Zika outbreak—was to say, “Listen, the problem is always the same, which is there are no manufacturing facilities sitting there idle, waiting to be used. Even if we had one, we would have trouble because we would have to stop manufacturing other vaccines, which are essential for saving people’s life.” So we thought, “Why don’t we take a dedicated facility and have them work on discovering vaccines against known potential outbreak agents, one after the other?” They would become incredibly skilled and trained at going fast, discovering vaccines. The company was prepared to make available the facility and ask just for the cost of running it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fly. [For the COVID-19 vaccines,] the biggest challenge we’ve had to work on the hardest has been manufacturing.

Q: So you think you would have been better prepared if the BPO was up and running?

A: Yes. I have already started discussing this with my successor with the new administration, David Kessler [Biden’s chief science officer for COVID-19 response]. This pandemic is costing $23 billion a day to the U.S. economy, every single day. Investing $300 million to $500 million a year into such a facility is peanuts and would save countless lives.

Q: There must be some “I told you so.”

A: It’s never my philosophy to say, “I told you so.” I think it’s a negative, it’s not helpful. For me, it’s more, OK, we learned more. Let’s set ourselves an ambitious objective and try to now make this happen, capitalizing on everything we’ve learned. Clearly, we can develop vaccines within 8, 9 months against an unknown pathogen. That’s just amazing.

Moncef Slaoui receives his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Moncef Slaoui

Q: What did you think of Donald Trump?

A: I completely disagree with the values that he projects, as a person, in terms of respect, in terms of capacity to listen, accepting diversity. Many of the policy decisions that ended up politicizing this pandemic were wrong, particularly around wearing the mask. But at the same time, I do think that Warp Speed was absolutely visionary to put together science, government, the military, and the private sector and just give us full empowerment. It was the right thing to do.

My preference is even after the fact, not to politicize this. I worked so hard to stay out of any politics, because I was convinced it would derail it. Even now I think it could derail it when I see the headlines. It just kind of makes me sad.

Q: What headlines are you referring to?

A: That there’s absolutely no plan for the vaccines. I saw that today on CNN. How can you have discovered two vaccines, developed them all the way to approval, manufacture, and distribute with 99.9% precision 14 million doses to 14,000 sites and it’s labeled as there is no plan? We had to do everything from scratch. The biggest lesson for politicians in public health is: Never politicize. Just let people do the work, and if there are things that are wrong, let’s fix them versus make a whole story out of that because it freaks out people.

Q: Trump had a concern about a deep state, the worry that people in the government were working against him. Did he ever confront you and say, “You’re a Democrat, you didn’t vote for me, are you working behind my back?” Did he ever get in your face?

A: Absolutely not. He never told me, “Why can’t you make it happen sooner?” He asked me, “Can it happen sooner?” And I should say also, frankly, that Jared Kushner, with whom I had a lot of interactions, was absolutely straight, no interference, very rational, and very balanced.

Q: Trump made an assertion that Pfizer delayed announcing its efficacy data until after the 3 November 2020 presidential election to hurt him. What was your reaction when you heard him say that?

A: He asked me. And I said, “No, this is not how it works.” There is a data safety monitoring board and they’re independent. These companies have processes, they have tens of thousands of people in them. They can’t do this. It would be the end of the company if they did that, and I’ve been on the board of a big pharma company and an executive in a big pharma company. I know how it works. The CEO will be fired in a second. I have frankly big respect for [Pfizer CEO] Albert Bourla for just having said it’s going to be this day and then it was that day and that’s what it is.

Q: Where were you when you learned the Pfizer data?

A: Albert Bourla emailed and then called me. I was in my hotel place in Washington, D.C., which is very close to the White House. I was expecting high efficacy, but it was an unbelievable joy. It may have been 5 a.m., and I remember telling myself, “I’m not going to scream.” When I think about this now, it gets emotional. I just realized, “Oh my God, we’re going to control this pandemic.”

Q: One of the problems you had from the very beginning was allegations of your own conflicts of interest and you were very upset by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D–MA) attack on you and all the media accounts. What do you think of the way you were criticized? [Slaoui was on Moderna’s board, which received substantial Warp Speed support, and also retained GSK stock, though offered to donate to research any increase in value it had turning his tenure.]

A: I was proactive and decided to resign from the Moderna board and agreed I would sell my shares to make sure there is no conflict whatsoever. I don’t complain about that, but if you look at the share price at the time I sold and the share price now, I left an enormous amount of money on the table.

Q: How much approximately would you have made had you not taken this job?

A: Maybe between 8 [million] and 12 million. But honestly, I’m not calculating, that’s not what I stand for, believe it or not. I’ve dedicated all my professional life to make sure I help and support global health by being inside a big company and driving its policies. I was shocked by people saying, “You’re corrupt, you’re doing this for the money,” by making an assertion that because you’re a pharmaceutical executive, you have to be a person with no values and no principles. That crossed a line. Even now I’ll ask, Elizabeth Warren, which vaccine did you take as a senator? The Pfizer vaccine maybe or the Moderna vaccine? Aren’t you happy you had the vaccine? Did I make a penny? Was I helpful?

Q: Warp Speed has been heavily criticized for not getting vaccines into more arms. What do you think about that? [To date, 41 million doses have been distributed to states and about half have been administered.]

A: There has been a huge misunderstanding. Between May [2020] and now, we’ve moved five vaccines into phase III trials, two have been authorized, two are completing phase III—and one of those could be approved imminently. One other vaccine is in phase IIb. By all standards, this is absolutely exceptional.

Moncef Slaoui (left) and Gen. Gustave Perna, co-leaders of Operation Warp Speed, hold a vial of COVID-19 vaccine on the day they both get vaccinated.

Moncef Slaoui

Our mission in its second piece, with my co-leader Gen. [Gustave] Perna, was to distribute the vaccines, take them from point A to the point of immunization. That’s how we designed it and worked it out with all the jurisdictions in the country. We went to the departments of health of various states, we explained that we’re going to ship vaccine on a weekly basis as they are produced and quality controlled. We will proportionately give doses to each jurisdiction based on the population so that it’s fair.

Indeed, the immunization definitely is not working appropriately. And as long as that is not working appropriately, we’re failing. Overall, we’re failing, because the objective is to immunize.

Q: The Trump administration from the beginning of the pandemic response said, “We’ll help, but this is up to the states and local jurisdictions.” The Biden administration comes in and says, “No, the federal government can coordinate this.”

A: Frankly I’ve been caught in the middle of that. But if I am [a state or local official] who is deciding how many doses I need, I should at least say, “Hey guys, I don’t have the resources to immunize.” We have never been told that.

Q: But the Trump administration told us there would be 300 million doses by January. We were not told in a transparent fashion how many doses are coming week by week—there’s no dashboard that everyone can see. So there’s confusion about how many doses really are available.

A: What’s really important is to truly understand how we can solve the problem. I have always said, “Listen, if there is a problem, please come and help us with a specific proposal and let’s pull up our sleeves together and work it out.” I did vaccines for a long time. Manufacturing is very difficult and very complex.

Q: In addition to what the companies are producing, would you have the government build another manufacturing plant?

A: Yes. My proposal would be for the government to have a license to these technologies for pandemic agents exclusively, not for commercial use.

Q: The Trump administration has been criticized for not being helpful to the Biden administration during the transition. Was it bumpier than you had hoped it would be?

A: I had interactions with David Kessler during the summer. I spoke to him regularly. Once the election happened, it was absolute silence—it was against the law for us, as federal employees or contractors, to talk to nonfederal people. I was surprised that nothing happened. We had no contact, no meeting, no nothing. And then somewhere in the second half of December [2020], we had a first meeting with Jeff Zients [coordinator of Biden’s pandemic response] and David Kessler and others, where we just introduced each other and discussed what was involved.

Q: Do you think that Trump’s failure to concede made it more difficult to transition the information to the next team?

A: For sure. It was at least very, very unfortunate, to use a polite word.

Q: When will you leave?

A: I am very supportive of the new administration. I don’t want to turn my back and leave. They proposed that we could have a notice period of 30 days after I resign, and that gives us time to cover the transition. So I did that on that on 12 January, and my last day will be 12 February.

I’ve since had many very good discussions with David Kessler over the phone that last more than an hour each to share everything I know. I’m totally committed to help 100%.

I’m surprised we got an email yesterday saying, “As of tomorrow, you cannot use the name Operation Warp Speed any more.” I asked myself, why? What’s the added value? This is probably why I’m not a politician. It just escapes rationality and understanding. Because in a way, everybody that works under Operation Warp Speed feels like, “What did we do wrong?”

I’m not married to that name. I don’t care. Honestly, I feel so fortunate and happy to have served and hey, that’s all that counts. I would redo it in the blink of an eye. But next pandemic virus, please, do not come during an election year.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending