FULL EPISODE: Dr. Moncef Slaoui talks Operation Warp Speed; Rep. Debbie Dingell talks MI vote controversy

FULL EPISODE: Dr. Moncef Slaoui talks Operation Warp Speed; Rep. Debbie Dingell talks MI vote controversy
Overtime: Dr. Moncef Slaoui explains what inspired him to pursue vaccine research

Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser for Operation Warp Speed (OWS), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, November 22, 2020.

Dr. Slaoui told Van Susteren that issues with the presidential transition were not hampering the mission of OWS, a public-private partnership tasked with developing, testing, and distributing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by early 2021. “It’s like a train running. We have our plans; there are no major decisions that are needed to allow the train to continue.” he said. “And whichever administration is fine with us. Our focus is on the American people and helping saving them with this vaccine.”

On the safety of the new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Dr. Slaoui said: “I believe that this vaccine has been developed absolutely without cutting any corner that has to do with the safety or the efficacy of the vaccine….We should take these vaccines. They are safe.”

Rep. Dingell said should would “not breathe deeply” until Michigan state electors were picked.

When asked whether the Michigan Board of Canvassers certifying election results was a done deal, Dingell answered: “I’m not a 100% sure what will happen when the canvassers do vote on Monday. I hope they will certify the vote, but nothing that has been said says they will certify the vote on Monday yet.”

On the likelihood of a new COVID relief bill by the end of the year, Dingell said: “We are working hard. I think the Senate needs to hear this message a lot harder and a lot stronger. I think we have to have one before we go home this year.”

11/22/20 Dr. Moncef Slaoui talks Operation Warp Speed; Rep. Debbie Dingell talks MI vote controversy

Interview highlights are below.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui Highlights

On the presidential transition controversy and its impact on vaccine production

Greta Van Susteren

Does that sort of uncertainty about who’s going to be sworn in on January 20th, does that inhibit any way this production and this delivery, or is this vaccine sort of immune from the political process?

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

Well, from day one, we made this operation immune from all political influences and interferences, frankly, from either side. Our only and unique focus is to accelerate and enable the development of these vaccines and make them available as soon as possible, safe and effective. And frankly, it’s like a train running. We have our plans; there are no major decisions that are needed to allow the train to continue. We are performing 100%, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And whichever administration is fine with us. Our focus is on the American people and helping saving them with this vaccine.

On producing enough vaccine for all Americans

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

We will have about 22 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in December, and about 13 to 15 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in December. It’s impossible to set up new manufacturing sites for these vaccines and have them impact with vaccine doses in a shorter period than six or nine months. So what we are doing is simply making sure all the raw materials, all equipment, everything they need to produce about 30 million doses every month for each one of them, so between the two of them, we are able to immunize 30 million people every month on an ongoing basis. And it will happen in January, in February, in March, and April.

On skepticism about the safety of the vaccine

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

I believe that this vaccine has been developed absolutely without cutting any corner that has to do with the safety or the efficacy of the vaccine. The efficacy of the vaccine is close to 100%. In fact, for severe disease and in the very old people, it looked like it is 100%, so not taking this vaccine is literally exposing oneself and the people you love to infection, to disease, and potentially to death.

I think, for me, the equation is very clear. We should take these vaccines. They are safe. The world will look at the data in full transparency. The experts will have a chance independently to explain to the population how effective and how safe these vaccines are. And then people will be making up their mind. I would really have a plea for everyone to please don’t close your ears. Just allow yourself to hear the independent assessment of the performance and the safety of these vaccines. And then you make up your mind.

On who will get the vaccine first

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

Ultimately, it’s the state, the governor, the health agencies in each state that will, having the guidance from the CDC in mind, decide, “I want to send the vaccine doses, the first ones, to immunize my teachers, or to immunize elderly people in nursing homes, or immunize my healthcare workers.” That, frankly, is going to be their decision, taking into account the guidance they will get at the federal level.

On FDA emergency approval/safety

Greta Van Susteren

I realize the urgency of this pandemic, but that’s an extraordinary short period of time to get this to the consumer from the time the FDA gets it after phase 3, to the time it’s actually given to the consumer.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

Well, the urgency is unfortunately 1,000 to 1,500 people dying every day. We must move as quickly as humanly possible. There is a learning here that there are things that we have managed to do so much faster than usual, that we will absolutely take the time afterwards to learn the things that we need to learn from and do them for normal product development to speed it up. Absolutely. Now, why? The agency is absolutely focusing all of its resources on reviewing these vaccines day and night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On whether vaccines will be shipped overseas

Greta Van Susteren

A lot of people wonder whether some of these vaccines will be shipped overseas very early and we’ll have a shorter supply. Is there any sort of plan or will it stay domestically here in the United States until Americans are vaccinated?

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Adviser, Operation Warp Speed

So there is no plan to ship vaccine doses prior to completing immunization of the U.S. population. In fact, there are, for some of these vaccines, doses that are being shipped from Europe to the U.S. for immunization very early on in this process.

Rep. Debbie Dingell Highlights

On Michigan electoral votes

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

We have our Board of Canvassers meeting on Monday. We need to certify those votes and then we need to choose our electoral college. I will not breathe deeply until those electors are picked and the votes are fixed. I think we need to be vigilant until such time.

Greta Van Susteren

Don’t you, for the most part though, think it’s a done deal in Michigan? That’s the way I look at this.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

I like your positive attitude, but unfortunately, people have been telling me that for a month and the thing that I’m the most worried about is how this is also an effort to undermine people’s confidence in the vote, the integrity of the process. I still think you’re going to see statements that are going to be made to do just exactly that. And I’m not a 100% sure what will happen when the canvassers do vote on Monday. I hope they will certify the vote, but nothing that has been said says they will certify the vote on Monday yet.

On COVID numbers in Michigan

Greta Van Susteren

Let me turn to COVID. Michigan numbers are staggering as every state. Your numbers every day are growing up by milestone. They’re breaking records as many states are. What’s your thought about how we got into this second wave, this greater problem? Is it people just sort of ignored the precaution?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

I think it’s a combination of things. The numbers here in Michigan are staggering. We are in the top five in the country from both numbers, and I think what should be terrifying all of us, is that hospitals are becoming full and 22% of the hospitals in Michigan are now understaffed.

I don’t understand why masks are so political. The scientists, they’re not partisan people, they’re doctors, they’re scientists just presenting the facts. Masks save lives.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

I’m glad that the president recovered from COVID quickly, but he could have helped even when he got it in wearing his mask. We don’t have a national strategy. We don’t have a national plan. We don’t have even access to testing and we have problems. And by the way, one state doesn’t know where the boundary to the next state is when COVID’s looking for us, which it is, every single day, every place in this country.

On the COVID vaccines

Greta Van Susteren

Dr. Slaoui, who is in charge of Operation Warp Speed, has told me that he does not see that this sort of messy transition period that we’re in between in the presidential election, that he does not see that this messy transition period is going to impact the manufacture and distribution to the American people. Do you have any reason to believe that it will?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

I don’t. Well, I hope not. I think our job is to make sure that it doesn’t.

We’re going to have to figure out a distribution center. Our focus needs to be there. That is something else about it we’re going to have to focus on. The numbers looked a little better this week, but two weeks ago in the polling, 50% of people were afraid, didn’t have confidence in the vaccine. I think I saw this week that we were down to 42% that didn’t have confidence. For this to work, people have to take the vaccine and be confident that they’re going to be okay.

On the spending bill

Greta Van Susteren

Are we going to have a spending bill? Are we going to have a budget for this country?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

So, Greta, I actually believe that it is the intent of ... I’m going to answer this carefully. House leadership, Republican and Democrat, Senate leadership, Republican and Democrat, I think Republican on the Senate side, that it would be irresponsible in the middle of a pandemic to shut down the government. I even think there are people that are trying to avoid being a continuing resolution, but that really do want the appropriations done for the rest of the year.

On a COVID relief package

Greta Van Susteren

So many Americans are worried about needing a relief package. The unemployment benefits are going to run out soon. The moratorium on evictions is going to end soon. This date we’ve all known is coming up.

Will there be a relief package and how long are Americans going to have to wait?

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)

Come to my district. I’m going to introduce you to people that those dates have no relevance to because they’re already desperate. Their unemployment has run out, they’re not getting enough money to live on, they’re worried about their rent and their home or mortgage payments.

And they want both sides to get to the table. We are working hard. I think the Senate needs to hear this message a lot harder and a lot stronger. I think we have to have one before we go home this year.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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