Operation Warp Speed leader may be out soon…

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, stands in the White House. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui may step down from the government’s coronavirus vaccine and treatment accelerator “by the end this year or early next year,” he told POLITICO in an interview on Wednesday.

Slaoui since May has been atop an operation that has invested more than $10 billion into six vaccine candidates and multiple therapeutics, which has been widely viewed as one of the few success stories from the Trump administration’s response to Covid-19.

Slaoui said the decision about his departure is unrelated to the presidential transition.

“I do not want my departure from the role to have anything to do with the new administration. I have more affinity for the new administration than the current one,” said Slaoui, who’s a registered Democrat. “This doesn’t have to be black and white. I can continue to be available as needed.”

Slaoui said he’s always known his work at Warp Speed would be a temporary mission, and he’s closing in on his initial goal — authorization of two coronavirus vaccines and two drugs.

Three coronavirus treatments, including two antibody drugs, have received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer and Moderna appear to be on track for authorization of their vaccines before the end of the year after recent data showed their candidates are more than 90 percent effective.

“The way I look at it is: Am I adding value or no?” Slaoui said. He said there’s less need for him to remain at Warp Speed as more vaccines get approved and manufacturing ramps up.

Slaoui said he hasn’t had contact with the incoming administration yet, though Trump administration health officials held their first in a series of meetings with the Biden transition on Operation Warp Speed on Wednesday.

“As soon as we’re contacted we will share information, but we’re standing by,” he said.

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