Biden Picks Former FDA Chief David Kessler to Lead U.S. Vaccination Efforts

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Dr. David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief, to spearhead the United States‘ vaccination effort as the incoming administration readies its plans to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic from day one.

Dr. Kessler currently co-chairs the Biden transition team’s coronavirus taskforce. He will be put in charge of Operation Warp Speed, the program started under President Donald Trump to speed up vaccine development and distribution nationwide. Moncef Slaoui, who has led the program during the Trump administration, will step down in a month to “ensure a smooth transition.”

“Dr. Kessler became a trusted adviser to the Biden campaign and to President-elect Biden at the beginning of the pandemic, and has probably briefed Biden 50 or 60 times since March,” said Anita Dunn, co-chair of the transition team. “When staff gets asked, ‘What do the doctors say?,’ we know that David Kessler is one of the doctors that President-elect Biden expects us to have consulted.”

Dr. Kessler reportedly warned Biden that Operation Warp Speed––which had initially promised to have 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of December––was not prepared to handle the vaccine distribution effort. In working with the incoming administration, he will “increase the emphasis on development of treatments, and he plans to begin a major antiviral development program for treatment of Covid-19,” as The New York Times reported after speaking with transition officials.

During his time as chief of the FDA, Dr. Kessler played a pivotal role in reducing the time needed to approve or reject new drugs, including antiretroviral medications designed to treat HIV and AIDS. Kessler later joined the Yale School of Medicine, serving as its dean from 1997 to 2003.