The Biden administration needs to adopt the spirit and principles of Operation Warp Speed. This Trump-led effort anticipated what would be needed months in advance, starting by expanding America’s industrial capacity to produce vaccines, then by procuring the equipment and raw materials necessary to manufacture them long in advance of FDA authorization. It placed advanced orders not only for the vaccines but also for temperature-controlled storage containers, vials that could withstand minus 80-degree Celsius temperatures, a billion syringes and needles, and then developed distribution plans to get millions of doses of the vaccine to over 50,000 destinations across the country as soon as it was approved using an advanced information technology system to track every dose.
The principles guiding Operation Warp Speed were simple but compelling: Never let the federal government perform tasks the private sector can perform better; engage and utilize experts from the private sector to complement talented career government officials; distribute accountability and decision rights as close to where the action is as possible; assume financial risks the private sector is unwilling to take; and, if one does not get it right the first time, learn and adapt quickly. On this last point, the first three to four weeks of vaccine administration in December 2020 and early January 2021 admittedly did not go as we had planned. We did not fully anticipate that 30% of health care workers would refuse the vaccine. That is why HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, on Jan. 12, 2021, opened up vaccinations to a much broader swath of Americans at many more vaccination sites than originally recommended. Eight days later, we were vaccinating over 1.6 million Americans per day — a pace scarcely maintained by the Biden team.