Get COVID Vaccine Even If You Caught Coronavirus, Says Warp Speed Chief Moncef Slaoui

The chief adviser of the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program has said people who have already been infected with the novel coronavirus should still get the shot.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui made the comments during a live interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday. The adviser said the question of whether or not people who have been infected already should get the vaccine is "really important."

"What we know is that it is safe to be immunized after having been exposed to the virus. That has happened in clinical trials—people that participated in the trials had experienced or actually had a viral infection at the time they started being vaccinated. So it's safe," Slaoui told CNN.

"On the other hand we know that infection doesn't induce a very strong immune response and it wanes over time. So I think as a clear precaution it is appropriate to be vaccinated because it's safe, it will induce a much higher immune response and will ensure, in case natural infection doesn't induce long-lasting protection, it will allow it to have better protection. I think people should be vaccinated, indeed."

Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership created by the U.S. government aimed at facilitating the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Warp Speed was responsible for delivering the first 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine across the country. And chief operating officer of the program, Army Gen. Gustave Perna expects 20 million doses of the vaccine to be shipped by the end of the month.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a second shot—the Moderna vaccine—for emergency use, which is now set to be distributed across the country.

"Boxes are being packed and loaded today," the general said in a statement on Saturday. "Trucks will begin rolling out tomorrow from FedEx and UPS delivering vaccines and kits to the American people across the United States."

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 95 percent effective against COVID-19, although the latter can be shipped and stored at standard freezer temperatures, which could help the distribution effort.

"This allows jurisdictions the flexibility to support hard to reach small and more rural areas," Perna said.

"This week in total, between Pfizer and Moderna, we have allocated 7.9 million doses of vaccine and we are ready for that distribution," the general said on Saturday. "We will ship simultaneously to all 64 jurisdictions and five federal entities. Jurisdictions have already ordered the vaccine and we know it is going to 3,700-plus locations. With more requests coming in every day based on allocations."

While The New York Times reported that more than 128,000 people received the Pfizer/BioNTech shot last week, the beginning of the largest mass vaccination campaign in American history has not been without its setbacks.

On Saturday, Perna issued a public apology after governors in at least 14 states complained that they had received far fewer doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for the coming week than had been promised.

Moncef Slaoui at the White House
Moncef Slaoui listens as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images