President-elect Joe Biden unveiled Monday members of his COVID-19 advisory board and it includes Rick Bright, a former Trump administration whistleblower who resigned amid allegations his early warnings over the pandemic were ignored.
The task force, a group of public health experts – almost all doctors – will offer guidance to Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their coronavirus staff as they prepare to take over the presidency. The board’s composition could be an indicator of the Biden administration’s intent to follow a more science-based coronavirus approach.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a statement on his transition website. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”
Biden’s approach to tackling COVID-19:It will be dramatically different
Bright was demoted from his role as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after criticizing the Trump administration’s pandemic response. He resigned and then filed a lengthy whistleblower complaint claiming he tried to raise internal concerns about the administration’s handling of the outbreak, including President Donald Trump’s championing of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, as a COVID-19 treatment despite the fact that its efficacy had not been determined.
The task force is Biden’s first major transition announcement. It comes as Vice President Mike Pence will lead a separate White House coronavirus task force meeting Monday.
Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 230,000 Americans and the Trump administration has not unveiled any kind of national lockdown or test-and-trace strategy, leaving it up to individual states to figure out how to keep the virus at bay.
Biden’s 13-member task force is chaired by Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general; David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor at Yale University. Among the other members are Luciana Borio, a physician and public health expert and previously director for medical and biodefense preparedness on Trump’s National Security Council.
Hopes for an effective coronavirus vaccine were raised Monday after a vaccine developed by Pfizer and partner BioNTech proved better than expected at protecting people from the virus in a study. The companies claimed that the vaccine proved to be more than 90% effective in the first 94 subjects who were infected by the new coronavirus and developed at least one symptom. The results are not complete.