By Kevin Truong – Assistant Managing Editor, San Francisco Business Times
Bechara Choucair, the chief health officer for Oakland-based managed care organization Kaiser Permanente, has been named as the vaccinations coordinator for the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
In that role Choucair will be responsible for coordinating the timely, safe and equitable delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine, in particular, coordinating with federal agencies and state and local governments.
The job is a full-time White House position that will report to Jeff Zients, Biden’s incoming coronavirus coordinator, according to Politico.
Biden has praised the Trump Administration for its “Operation Warp Speed,” which accelerated the development of Covid vaccine, but has critiqued the speed and effectiveness of the administration’s distribution of the vaccine.
It’s an honor to join @JoeBiden administration as White House COVID-19 Vaccinations Coordinator during this pivotal moment in the pandemic. I’m humbled to be part of the team working to ensure an efficient, equitable, and effective roll out. https://t.co/miiiST8HCj— Bechara Choucair (@choucair) December 30, 2020
Federal officials initially set a target of 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of the year. The actual number looks to be far fewer. According to a Centers for Disease Control tracker, a little more than 2.1 million people in the country have been vaccinated as of Dec. 28.
“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said during a speech Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware.
“This is going to be the greatest operational challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation,” Biden said. “But we’re going to get it done. But it’s going to take a vast new effort that’s not yet underway.”
Choucair will play a major part in that rollout, drawing on his experience in community health and improving health equity, which is a major stated goal of the Biden Administration’s Covid-19 plan.
“In a nation with growing economic disparities, scarred by centuries of systemic racism, the third revolution in public health must address the root causes of our remaining pervasive health inequities — poverty, pollution, housing, food security and other basic needs,” Choucair wrote in a July op-ed published in The Hill.https://d252ce980bc0af0eafb054a68485ce5a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Choucair has been at Kaiser Permanente since 2016, coming in as the health system’s first chief community health officer and working on projects outside the typical purview of a health care organization. For example, helping to lead the development of a $200 million impact investing fund to combat housing instability and homelessness.
Prior to his time at Kaiser, Choucair served as Chicago’s public health commissioner from 2009 to 2014. A family physician by training, he has also held executive positions at Trinity Health, Heartland Health Centers, and Crusader Community Health.
“Dr. Bechara Choucair has expertly and passionately guided Kaiser Permanente’s community health work since 2016. And, he has led our public health efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Kaiser spokesman said.
“While this is a huge loss for Kaiser Permanente, we take great pride in having one of our very own leaders tapped to serve in such a significant role in our nation. He will be a tremendous addition to the national effort to fight the ongoing pandemic.”
San Francisco Business Times