Biden-Harris name key public health voices in Covid-19 advisory board

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on November 09, 2020 Published on November 09, 2020

Co-headed by Indian-American Vivek Murthy, team includes Atul Gawande, Celine Gounder


US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President to be Kamala Harris have hit the road running with the announcement of a Covid-19 advisory board, comprising scientific voices and public health experts.

Heading the board are David Kessler, Vivek Murthy, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, a note on the transition team said. Besides Murthy, the other members of Indian-origin on the 13-member Board include public health voice and author Atul Gawande and Celine Gounder.

Giving details on the Board composition, the note said Kessler had been Commissioner of the USFDA(1990-97), appointed by former President George HW Bush and reappointed by President Bill Clinton.

Murthy is former Surgeon General (2014-17). Under the Barack Obama administration, he was vocal on issues like greater gun control, mental health, e-cigarettes and the opioid crisis. As Vice Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he commanded a uniformed service of 6,600 public health officers dedicated to public health threats from Ebola and Zika to the Flint water crisis and natural disasters, the note said.

Also co-heading the Board is Marcella Nunez-Smith, an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University and the Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine.

The backdrop to the US Presidential elections was the raging coronavirus pandemic,with the US seeing the highest number of cases and deaths. The Trump-led administration had been criticised by several quarters for its handling of the pandemic. The situation was also made worse with Trump batting for drugs like hydroxychloroquine as a “magic pill” of sorts, and undermining scientific voices like infectious diseases veteran Anthony Fauci.

Marking the transition, Biden said, “Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts.” The Advisory Board, he added, “will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.” New cases are rising in at least 40 states, with more than 9.3 million total infections and more than 2,36,000 deaths, the note said.

More scientific voices

The transition note further pointed out, that Beth Cameron and Rebecca Katz would be advisors to the transition on Covid-19 and work closely with the Advisory Board.

Also on the board are Rick Bright, immunologist, virologist and former public health official, a vocal critic of the Trump administration. Other scientific voices include Luciana Borio, Ezekiel Emanuel, Julie Morita, Michael Osterholm, Loyce Pace, Robert Rodriguez, Eric Goosby.

These leading scientists and public health experts will help tailor a “robust federal response,” consulting with state and local officials to determine the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control, deliver immediate relief to working families, address racial and ethnic disparities, and reopen schools and businesses safely and effectively, the note said.

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Published on November 09, 2020
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