US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named the scientists who will lead his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, signaling his plans to prioritize Covid-19 from the outset.
The advisory board will be led by three co-chairs: epidemiologist and former Federal Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner David Kessler, former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and Yale public health professor Marcella Nunez-Smith, according to a statement from the Biden transition team.
In addition, the board will have ten members, ranging from immunologists and epidemiologists to biodefense experts and leading public health officials.
The announcement came before US company Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech announced Monday that a vaccine they had jointly developed had so far proven 90 percent effective in preventing infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials — news that cheered scientists, politicians and markets.
Covid-19 has left more than 237,000 people dead in the US — the worst death toll globally — and is surging across the country, which last week voted out Donald Trump in a nailbiting poll.
According to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, the number of new cases in the US has topped 100,000 every 24 hours for several days running, and is nearing 10 million in total — showing no sign of slowing despite Trump’s claim the world’s biggest economy is “rounding the corner”.
The pandemic remains “one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden was quoted as saying in the statement.
The board will help shape his approach on the surge in cases across the country as well as ensuring a safe vaccine is distributed efficiently while protecting at-risk populations.
The president-elect has promised that they will create a blueprint he will begin implementing on day one of his presidency.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have announced they will receive a joint virus briefing Monday in Wilmington, Delaware from their advisory team.
Biden will then deliver remarks on coronavirus and economic recovery.