What Biden’s COVID task force can do before inauguration
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This morning, President-Elect Joe Biden announced three co-chairs of his new COVID-19 task force: Dr. Vivek Murthy, a surgeon general under President Barack Obama; Dr. David Kessler, head of the Food and Drug Administration under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith from the Yale School of Medicine.
All members of the task force will be doctors and health experts. But what kind of effect might this task force have during this transition time?
Dr. Kelly Moore is associate director for the Immunization Action Coalition, a group of physicians and health experts that educates the public about vaccines. She spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Dr. Kelly Moore: The transition team can do a lot to amplify and reinforce the messages of scientists and public health experts. That’s one of the most important roles they can play, is to let people know that public health experts have good advice on things they can do to protect themselves and their families now, and to use the power of their example, to be good role models about practicing what public health is advising: wearing masks, keeping their distance, not getting in crowds and making tough choices about family gatherings over the holidays.
Distribution for an eventual vaccine
David Brancaccio: Now, another part of this is that the world hopes we will get a vaccine or vaccines in the new year at some point. But distributing those vaccines is an enormous undertaking, and the Biden team won’t have a direct say in that until again inauguration.
Moore: The Biden team’s role right now, which is critical, is to start talking to state leaders and other experts about exactly what they need to equip them to roll out the vaccines effectively. It’s very possible they could already be starting to roll out a vaccine before Inauguration Day, but they will still need more resources to do that well throughout next year. And the Biden team can be prepared to get them what they need the moment they take office.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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