Politico

‘I literally don’t know’: Operation Warp Speed scientist can’t explain Trump’s vaccine order

The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain President Donald Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries.

Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the president’s order during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,” Slaoui said. “I literally don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” asked anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“Yes,” Slaoui said.

“But you’re the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed,” Stephanopoulos pressed.

“Our work is, you know, rolling,” Slaoui replied. “We have plans. We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about.”

Indeed, it remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries.

The White House is hosting a vaccine summit Tuesday, at which Trump is expected to congratulate Operation Warp Speed officials and others involved in the U.S. vaccine distribution effort.

But representatives from vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna, which have already filed for emergency authorization of their shots from the Food and Drug Administration, will not be in attendance.

Slaoui’s remarks also come amid fallout from a New York Times story published Monday, which reports that administration officials turned down an offer from Pfizer to purchase additional vaccines in July.

Now, Pfizer may be unable to supply the U.S. with sufficient vaccines before next June because of subsequent deals with other countries, the Times reported.

Sarah Owermohle contributed to this report.

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