Moroccan-American doctor to head COVID-19 vaccine program

Moroccan-American doctor to head COVID-19 vaccine program
Donald Trump has named renowned Moroccan-born American immunologist Moncef Slaoui to head a new COVID-19 vaccine program called Operation Warp Speed. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 May 2020

Moroccan-American doctor to head COVID-19 vaccine program

Moroccan-American doctor to head COVID-19 vaccine program
  • Moncef Slaoui to will head new COVID-19 vaccine program called Operation Warp Speed

CHICAGO: Donald Trump has named renowned Moroccan-born American immunologist Moncef Slaoui to head a new COVID-19 vaccine program called Operation Warp Speed, which the US president compared to the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

Slaoui, a former professor of immunology at the University of Mons, Belgium, predicted that Operation Warp Speed will make available a few hundred million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

Trump said Slaoui will serve as the operation’s chief scientist, assisted by a team that includes veteran army four-star Gen. Gus Perna as chief operating officer.

Trump described the operation as a “momentous medical initiative,” and a “massive scientific, industrial and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.”

He added: “We’re proud to announce the addition of two of the most highly respected and skilled professionals in our country — worldwide respected. Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist will be Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines — that’s a lot of our new vaccines — in 10 years, during his time in the private sector.”

Trump described Slaoui as “one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines.”

Slaoui, who has published more than 100 scientific papers on the topic, and is a member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s board of directors, joined Trump in announcing Operation Warp Speed.

“I’ve very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine,” said Slaoui, who headed the global vaccines development program at GlaxoSmithKline from 2015 to 2017. “This data made me feel even more confident that we’ll be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”

Trump said Slaoui’s and Operation Warp Speed’s primary mission will be to finish developing, and then manufacture and distribute, a proven coronavirus vaccine “as fast as possible.”

Trump added: “You really could say that nobody has seen anything like we’re doing, whether it’s ventilators or testing. Nobody has seen anything like we’re doing now, within our country, since the Second World War. Incredible.”

He said: “We’d love to see if we could do it prior to the end of the year. We think we’re going to have some very good results coming out very quickly. In addition, it will continue accelerating the development of diagnostics and breakthrough therapies.”

Slaoui called it “a great honor” to “serve our country and the world” in combating the pandemic.

“Operation Warp Speed’s objectives are very clear. The president has described them. And I believe they’re very credible. I also believe they’re extremely challenging,” he said.

“However, I’m really confident that … we’ll be able, and we’ll do the utmost, to deliver these objectives.”

Perna, who currently oversees 190,000 service members, civilians and contractors as commander of the US Army Materiel Command, will head the operation’s logistics. 

Trump said: “That means getting it out. We’ve got to get it out there.” The operation has brought together “all of the experts across the federal government,” he added. 

“This historic partnership will now bring together the full resources of the Department of Health and Human Services with the Department of Defense. And we know what that means. That means the full power and strength of the military.”

Similarly, during World War II the US-led Manhattan Project brought together the world’s leading industrial and scientific leaders to create the first atomic bombs, which were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, forcing Japan to surrender.


France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 03 December 2020

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown
  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.