New Delhi: Indian-American Dr Vivek Murthy will co-chair the coronavirus task force that US President-elect Joe Biden is set to announce Monday as his first core policy step towards fighting the pandemic.
Former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, 43, will chair the Covid-19 task force with David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said.
In his victory speech in Delaware, Biden had said he would name the leaders of his Covid task force Monday.
“On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as Transition Advisors to help take the Biden-Harris Covid plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20th, 2021,” Biden said.
Murthy, whose family hails from Karnataka, received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and pursued MD and MBA from Yale University. He completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and later joined the Harvard Medical School as faculty in internal medicine.
Murthy served as the 19th surgeon general under the Barack Obama administration from 15 December 2014 to 21 April 2017. He was later asked to step down by the Trump administration, following which Democratic senator Chris Murphy said Murthy has been a “political target”.
During his term as the surgeon general, Murthy had helped produce a report on how climate change has brought about a public health crisis.
In May, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Murthy were appointed as co-chairs to the Healthcare Task Force by the Biden campaign. During the campaign period, Murthy had also emerged as Biden’s health advisor.
As a part of the Democratic National Convention, a presidential nomination convention that was held from 17-20 August, Murthy spoke in support of Biden.
“Our nation has what it absolutely takes to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic… We have the talent, resources and the technology, what we are missing is leadership. We need a leader who works with states to ensure that everyone who needs a test gets one and gets results quickly… We need a leader who inspires us… that’s why I am here tonight not because of politics but because I know Joe Biden can be that leader,” he had said.
Murthy had added he had seen how Biden “poured himself in Covid briefings” and appreciated his support for immigrants.
Talking about his own family, Murthy had said: “Six years ago, when Joe Biden met my family, many of them immigrants awed to be in the nation’s capital, I saw how he kneeled beside my grandmother’s wheelchair, took her hands in his and said thank you for choosing us, the United States of America, as the place to trust for your family.”
Stand on Covid
In a podcast interview to The Washington Post on 30 September, Murthy had expressed concerns over the “politicisation” of Covid vaccine by the Trump administration.
Asked what his advice would be to the Trump administration, he had said: “I would tell them to let science guide the way for the authorisation of the Covid-19 vaccine. I would tell them to put politics out of the issues of authorisations and guidelines. Their communication should be crystal clear that the people driving the process are scientists from the FDA. They should also ensure transparency in data and details of the vaccine to ensure the right kind of evaluation.”
Murthy, who was the youngest surgeon general in the US, has spoken in support of wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and staying indoors.
In an interview in August, he had also emphasised on the need to get tested.
Responding to Trump’s move of buying large stocks of Remdisivir, he had said: “By now we know that Remdisivir is an arrow in our quiver but it is not a game-changer. It is not a silver bullet. It is useful but it doesn’t make sense to make it the lynchpin of our combative efforts.”
Focus on mental health
In September, Murthy released his book, titled ‘Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World’. The book largely talks about loneliness and mental health problems, which have become rampant and also aggravated during the pandemic.
In an interview to NBA in April, Murthy had said the pandemic was a “silver lining” and should be used as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family.
“We can take some simple steps that can help us strengthen our connection with other people even when we are physically distanced,” he had said.