Operation Warp Speed under House investigation

A House subcommittee is investigating Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine and therapeutic development initiative, for potential conflicts of interest. 

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent letters to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser Moncef Slaoui, PhD, and David Harris, president and CEO of Advanced Decision Vectors, a firm contracted to hire consultants for Operation Warp Speed, seeking information on the initiative’s process of selecting vaccine candidates. 

Mr. Clyburn said in the letters that he is concerned that the selection of candidate vaccines for Operation Warp Speed lacked transparency and excluded “many vaccine experts.”

“I am also concerned that Dr. Slaoui’s financial interests in companies receiving federal funding—which he has referred to as ‘my retirement’—raise serious ethical issues and could undermine public confidence in this process,” he wrote. 

Dr. Slaoui held $10 million in GlaxoSmithKline securities as of May, and on July 31, the government signed the largest vaccine deal to date, valued at $2.1 billion, for the drugmaker to supply the government with 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. 

Dr. Slaoui also held significant holdings in Moderna, which has received a total of $955 million from Operation Warp Speed, according to Mr. Clyburn. 

“It remains unclear whether Dr. Slaoui or other consultants working for Operation Warp Speed have undisclosed conflicts of interest because the administration has structured their contracts to avoid the ethics rules and requirements to disclose outside positions, stock holdings, and other potential conflicts that are applicable to federal employees,” Mr. Clyburn said. 

His letter also expresses concern that the initiative’s process for selecting vaccine candidates has been unclear, as the administration hasn’t released a list of the candidates it’s reviewed, its reasons for selecting or rejecting candidates or the identity of the individuals who are responsible for selection decisions. 

“Addressing potential conflicts of interest is critical to assure the public that decisions pertaining to the manufacturing and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine are made with a sound scientific basis, not for political reasons or for the financial benefit of any individual,” Mr. Clyburn said. 

Find Mr. Clyburn’s full letter here.

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