In the two days since Joe Biden officially became President-Elect of the United States, President Trump has yet to concede defeat and a majority of Republican leadership has refused to acknowledge Biden’s win. But the deadly covid-19 virus has no concept of political propriety. It waits for no one, which is why Biden’s transition team is moving forward and have announced the 12 public safety experts who will make up the administration’s coronavirus advisory board.
The list includes Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist and virologist who was ousted as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April. Bright made headlines in May when he came forward as a whistleblower, claiming that the Trump administration ignored his warnings about the severity of the covid-19 pandemic and the government’s lackluster response.
The task force is chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. Among the other thirteen members are Dr. Luciana Borio, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act and an ex-Obama health adviser.
Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive a briefing from the transition coronavirus advisory board Monday afternoon, per a Sunday evening release from the transition team. Biden will then deliver remarks on his plans to combat the virus and to rebuild the American economy.
This is a stark contrast to the actions made during the Trump coronavirus task force of late, which appears to have been reduced to dismissing leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and paying Santa Claus actors in non-existent covid-19 vaccines.
And there’s news on the vaccine front too... sort of. On Monday, Pfizer announced that they’ve developed a covid-19 vaccine that is 90 percent effective. According to the New York Times, “that level of protection would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles.” But there’s a catch: This was a news release, not information gleaned from a peer-reviewed medical journal. Therefore, it is not conclusive that Pfizer’s vaccine is safe, and its effectiveness can change as trials continue.
Still, it’s nothing to sniff at. from the New York Times:
“We need to see the actual data, and we’re going to need longer-term results,” said Jesse Goodman, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Georgetown University. Still, he said, “it’s a testament to hard work and science that we’re getting results that are so good and so fast.”
Other scientists were stunned by the data so far.
“This is really a spectacular number,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University. “I wasn’t expecting it to be this high. I was preparing myself for something like 55 percent.”
If the final vaccine ends up with that level of efficacy, it “would be higher than your regular flu vaccine, and this vaccine could have a serious impact on bending the curve of this outbreak,” said Dr. Saad B. Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.
In an odd turn, Vice President Mike Pence has, in so many words, credited Operation Warp Speed—the public-private partnership to aid covid-19 vaccine development—for Pfizer’s vaccine news. However, Pfizer insists that they’ve never taken a dime from the United States government and that they were never part of Warp Speed.
And not everyone is happy about this vaccine news. Enter Donald Trump Jr, the head cheerleader of the derailed Trump Train. In a Monday morning tweet, Don Jr suggested that the timing of Pfizer’s statement was intended to hurt his father.
“The timing of this is pretty amazing,” Don Jr. wrote. “Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”