Health secretary says COVID-19 response is "completely transparent," as Biden team criticizes lack of communication

HHS Secretary Azar on surge in COVID cases
HHS Secretary Azar on surge in COVID cases 03:42

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar disputed accusations from President-elect Biden and others that a delay in sharing information on the response to the coronavirus pandemic will cost lives. Azar said the Trump administration's actions, including its efforts to distribute a vaccine, are "completely transparent."

"What the American people need to know is the same career people at CDC, FDA, Defense Department, HHS that are running this response and Operation Warp Speed on January 19 are going to be the same people on January 21 and every aspect of what we do is completely transparent," Azar said on "CBS This Morning" Friday. "There's no secret data or knowledge."

Mr. Biden said Thursday, however, that President Trump's refusal to concede is a "debilitating" danger, as coronavirus cases increase in record numbers. He said the lack of access to key information could damage recovery efforts and cost lives.

Azar said Mr. Biden is "absolutely incorrect" that lives will be lost due to the transition delay. 

But, Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of Mr. Biden's coronavirus advisory board, who also appeared on "CBS This Morning" Friday, said more information is needed to prepare properly for the unprecedented vaccine distribution.

"There are basic amounts of information that you just can't land in your lap to understand," he said. "Here's a case in point: There was a plan for 300 million doses to be available at the end of the year. What they're reporting now is 20 to 30 million doses available. Why? Where are the bottlenecks? What are the shortages? How are they addressing them and what are the gaps that then the next administration needs to fill?

"That alone means delays that could cost lives, and getting ahead of it could save millions of people, tens of millions of people a chance to get the vaccine sooner."

Gawande also said there are questions about how the federal government is addressing potential shortages in supplies and hospital staff.

Conversations between the Biden transition team and current agency officials will start as soon as the General Services Administration, the agency that oversees the presidential transition, affirms that Mr. Biden won the election, Gawande said. Four House committee chairs demanded in a letter Thursday that the head of the GSA brief them on why she has not yet done that.