Joe Biden advisers to meet with vaccine manufacturers

Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with vaccine manufacturers in the coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled in the United States due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. That delayed handover is especially problematic during a public health crisis, said the government’s top infectious disease expert.

“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been through multiple presidential transitions during 36 years of government service. He likened the process to runners passing the baton in a relay race. “You don’t want to stop and then give it to someone, you basically want to keep moving forward.”

The president-elect’s approach to vaccine manufacturers comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has entered perhaps its most dangerous phase.

The seven-day moving average for new daily cases stood at 145,400 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That means nearly a million new cases a week, and deaths averaged 820 a day as of Saturday, a 33% increase in just two weeks.

“We’re going to start those consultations this week,” said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer and other drug companies.

Pfizer’s announcement that preliminary data indicates that its vaccine is 90% effective sent financial markets skyrocketing last week and gave people around the world hope that the pandemic will end.

Klain said Biden’s experts also need a detailed understanding of the distribution plans that are being finalized by the Health Department and the Pentagon. In some ways, that’s the most critical issue, he said.

“We need to talk to them as quickly as possible,” Klain said.

Fauci emphasized that the arrival of vaccines does not mean that everything will immediately return to normal. The first doses will be for high-risk people and preventive measures should be maintained for a while.

Health sources in the Trump administration estimate that 20 million doses could be available by the end of this month and another 20 million by the end of the year.