Operation Warp Speed, first announced in May, is the Trump administration’s plan to coordinate with federal and private entities to quickly develop and distribute safe COVID-19 vaccines to all Americans.
“As you know, I’m very supportive of this upcoming administration and, really, of course, the operation and its mission,” Slaoui told CNBC on Tuesday. “And I will be doing everything I can to help them succeed. As part of that process, which I understand, they have asked me to resign from my role as … chief scientific adviser.”
He added that he “will support the leadership that” the Biden administration “will put in place” and that he and the incoming administration “have found a contractual arrangement” allowing him to step down from his position starting on Jan. 21.
“As I had said, actually, early in December, prior to any approval of vaccines, that once two vaccines would be approved and two medicines would be approved … it would probably be time for me to move on and go back to my private life and private business,” Slaoui said
The doctor continued to say that he prolonged his tenure “in order to support the new team as they come in.”
Slaoui said he submitted his resignation to the Trump administration on Tuesday and thanked them for “the opportunity to help our country and our people, as well as the people of the world,” he said.
The administration hired Slaoui as a contractor rather than a private employee. Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized him for his financial ties to GlaxoSmithKline and Moderna, according to NPR.
A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson told NPR that the doctor had resigned from his board seat at Moderna and divested his shares in the company but would not give up his stock in GlaxoSmithKline because it is his retirement savings.
The spokesperson added that Slaoui is “invaluable to the Board of Directors’ decisions, but he does not commit the government to any financial obligations. Operation Warp Speed’s investment decisions are recommended to, and approved by, the Operation Warp Speed Board of Directors (BoD) on a weekly basis.”
In an emailed statement to NPR, Slaoui said he “accepted this role out of a commitment to public health and to helping our nation and the world control this deadly pandemic.”
“Throughout my career, I have always held myself to the highest ethical standards, and that has not changed upon my assumption of this role. HHS career ethics officers have determined my contractor status, divestitures and resignations have put me in compliance with the department’s robust ethical standards,” he said.