Biden's Top COVID Adviser Says Trump Deserved More Credit for Vaccines

President Joe Biden's top COVID adviser thinks the Trump administration should have received more credit for the development and rollout of the vaccines.

Dr. David Kessler, who served as Biden's chief science officer since the beginning of the administration, revealed in his first interview since stepping down last month that former President Donald Trump was right to tout the success of Operation Warp Speed.

Asked by Politico whether the Trump administration deserved more credit for the speed at which the vaccines were developed, manufactured and distributed, Kessler quoted an op-ed from The New York Times' David Wallace-Wells that said: "The great success of the pandemic was Operation Warp Speed...The rush to develop, produce and deliver vaccines is the signal American achievement of the pandemic—so consequential it is a pretty persuasive rebuttal to anyone decrying the country's failure to stem the pandemic."

Operation Warp Speed was a public-private partnership launched by Trump in May 2020 to rapidly facilitate a medical research effort for multiple "proven" COVID vaccines and ramp up approval and production. When the Biden administration took office, the program was renamed the COVID-19 Countermeasures Acceleration Group (CAG).

Kessler said that whatever the program was called, "I hope everybody can agree, both sides of the aisle, that it was a singular success, one of the singular successes of the pandemic."

Trump Administration COVID Vaccine
Dr. David Kessler, former Chief Science Officer of the White House COVID Response Team, testifies at a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on April 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Inset: Former President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden's top COVID adviser, Kessler, thinks the Trump administration should have received more credit for the development and rollout of the vaccines. Amr Alfiky/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 2021, the Biden administration said it was retiring the original name to combat vaccine hesitancy because officials believed the name fueled concerns that the development of COVID vaccines was rushed, and thus unsafe.

After the announcement Dr. Moncef Slaoui—who served as the head of Operation Warp Speed under the Trump administration—said he was confused why he was ordered not to use the name anymore, telling Science that the name change "just escapes rationality and understanding."

"In a way, everybody that works under Operation Warp Speed feels like, what did we do wrong?" he said in a January 2021 interview.

A few months later, Slaoui told CBS News that the Trump administration was responsible for 90 percent of the vaccine rollout and criticized the Biden administration for offering the public a "very negative description of the reality" by suggesting that he and his team were left without a comprehensive vaccine plan.

"We constructed specifically 100 million doses of the vaccine, but we also built into the contract options to acquire more vaccines once we knew they are effective," Slaoui said.

In May 2021, Trump called Operation Warp Speed "one of the greatest miracles of the ages" and applauded his team for exceeding the expected timeline, saying "everybody was saying it would take at least 3-5 years."

"New United States COVID cases, because of the record-breaking development of the vaccine and its early purchase and distribution by the Trump Administration, has hit its lowest level in more than one year, and falling fast," Trump said in a statement.

The former president took credit for the nation's vaccine rollout again in December 2021, telling Owens, "I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines, All are very, very good."

When the Biden administration entered the White House, two vaccines had already been authorized, but officials were left with the challenge of getting shots into arms in an equitable way. Kessler also oversaw the arrival of new vaccines, shots for children and other COVID therapies like Paxlovid.

Kessler said while the Biden administration was not provided a distribution plan at the beginning of his tenure, both his predecessor and the colleagues that he worked with at the White House have proven that the federal government knows how to "accelerate the development of lifesaving treatments when there's an enormous amount at stake."

"[The first months of Biden's COVID response] didn't just happen, let me assure you," Kessler said, adding, "Enormous kudos to my predecessors."

Newsweek reached out to Trump for comment.