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Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health and also Dr. Anthony Fauci’s boss, praised the Trump administration in an interview with Axios posted Monday night for getting the COVID-19 vaccine developed in “breathtaking” speed.
Collins told “Axios on HBO” that the Trump White House deserves credit for its efforts to get the shots developed — and ultimately into the arms of Americans.
What did he say?
Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston asked Collins about the Trump administration’s record, “Mask-wearing aside, what did they get right?”
Collins quickly responded that the previous administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which was a surprise — both in its necessity and its ambition — to many in the NIH, was a big winner in his book.
“The Operation Warp Speed, for which I give a great deal of credit to [former HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar, was an effort that many of us were not initially convinced was going to be necessary,” Collins said.
The director pointed out that the agency actually looked at the Trump plan as something akin to the “Manhattan Project” because of its enormity and complexity.
“And it was thought about as a ‘Manhattan Project,'” Collins continued. “Those words were used sometimes to describe what needed to happen in order to get all parts of the government together in an unprecedented way to test up to six vaccines in rigorous trials — and to do this at-risk manufacturing so that if any of those trials happen to work, you would already have doses ready to go into arms. That would not be the way things are traditionally done.”
Collins said the effort “was an incredibly important step forward that the administration deserves credit for, because that did motivate a lot of actions, a lot of coordination.”
The fact that there were two vaccines ready to go by December “is just breathtaking,” he added.
“That that got done in 11 months from when we first knew about this virus is at least five years faster than it’s ever been before before,” Collins said.
Debunked claims of starting from ‘scratch’
Collins’ adulation for the Trump administration’s efforts seems to run counter to repeated claims from Biden administration personnel, including Vice President Kamala Harris, that Team Biden was having to start from “scratch” with its vaccine distribution plan.
Dr. Fauci had already debunked the claim before Harris repeated the myth last week.
Operation Warp Speed included a distribution plan that was feasible in part because of the “at-risk manufacturing” Collins mentioned, which saw vaccine manufacturers creating millions of doses even before approval so that they would be ready to be shipped at a moment’s notice.
By the time President Joe Biden was sworn in, the government was already distributing vaccines at a pace of about 1 million shots a day.