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Biden Taps Former FDA Head To Oversee Federal Vaccination Effort

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President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration and a member of his coronavirus advisory board, to lead the nation’s vaccination effort, the transition team announced Friday.

Kessler, who will become the chief science officer of the COVID-19 response according to a press release from Biden’s transition website, led the FDA under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He will be responsible for ensuring that Biden’s vaccination plan — which calls for 100 million vaccinations in 100 days — is successful.

A Biden transition official told the Associated Press that Kessler’s role will succeed that of Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed. Biden asked Slaoui on Wednesday to step down before he takes office on Jan. 20.

Though Operation Warp Speed was instrumental in developing two effective coronavirus vaccines in record time, the federal vaccination effort has been rocky and slower than initially expected, with most delivered doses not being used immediately.

Just over 11 million doses of the vaccine had been administered as of Friday, according to the CDC, but experts say that as many as 265 million people need to be vaccinated in order to achieve the “herd immunity” levels that will prevent the coronavirus’ spread and allow a complete return to normal life.

Kessler also steps into his role as the United States sees record coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, exacerbating the need for an efficient federal distribution plan. The nation as averaged well over 200,000 daily coronavirus cases, and on Tuesday witnessed a record 4,400 deaths, making it one of the deadliest days in American history.

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