Alex Azar, Secretary for Health and Human Services, at the White House in Washington, DC on August 23, 2020.
Pete Marovich | Getty Images
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will step down on January 20, the same day President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
In his January 12 resignation letter, Azar shot a farewell shot at President Donald Trump and mentioned last week’s US Capitol riot that saw a violent crowd of Trump’s supporters break through the building, injuring dozens of police officers and causing five deaths.
Azar wrote that “post-election actions and rhetoric, particularly last week, threatened to tarnish the legacy of this government”. “The attacks on the Capitol were an attack on our democracy and the tradition of peaceful power transfers that the United States first brought into the world.”
Azar’s resignation came after U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and several other Trump administration officials resigned after the president was accused of inciting the violence by instructing protesters to go to the U.S. Capitol, where the legislature finally determined Biden’s victory. The mob descended on the Capitol shortly after the trial began on Wednesday to count the votes of the electoral college and confirm Biden’s election.
“Given the raging pandemic, the ongoing need to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to the American people, and the need to ensure a smooth transition to the Biden administration, I’ve found it is in the best interests of the people we serve Secretary until the end of the term, “said Azar in his letter to Trump.
“I ask you to continue to unequivocally condemn all forms of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the opening activities in Washington or elsewhere, and to continue to give your unreserved support to the peaceful and orderly transfer of power on January 20, 2021.”
In a tweet last week, Azar condemned the riot, saying he was “disgusted”.
“Physical violence and the desecration of this sacred symbol of our democracy must come to an end. People must immediately and peacefully disperse,” he said on Twitter.
Trump selected Azar, a former pharma executive, to head the U.S. agency in late 2017, replacing Trump’s first HHS boss, Dr. Tom Price. His department is responsible for overseeing the extensive Medicare and Medicaid programs, US public health, medical research, and food and drug safety. He was an integral part of the government’s Covid-19 response.
Prior to joining, Azar served as General Counsel for the division from 2001 to 2005 and Assistant Secretary from 2005 to 2007. From 2012 to 2017 he was President of Lilly USA, the American arm of drug giant Eli Lilly.
Azar’s resignation comes amid a one-off pandemic. The US currently has more than 23.33 million cases of coronavirus and has by far the most virus deaths, with more than 389,000 confirmed deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Federal and state officials are trying to distribute vaccines to prevent Covid-19 and end the pandemic.
Azar highlighted his efforts to lead his department during an “unprecedented pandemic”.
“Because of my leadership in pandemic flu preparedness during my previous tenure at HHS and my subsequent experience in the private sector, we have formed a historic partnership with the Department of Defense, our scientists, and the pharmaceutical industry to bring therapeutics and vaccines to Americans Record time, “wrote Azar. “Operation Warp Speed achieved in nine months what many doubted would be possible in a year and a half or more. From that date, two safe and effective vaccines will be given to millions of Americans, with more vaccines likely to be approved soon We have two safe and effective therapeutics that can help keep the vulnerable out of our hospitals, with more therapies on the way … As we mourn for every life lost, our early, aggressive, and extensive efforts have saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of American life. “
President-elect Joe Biden plans to work with FEMA and the National Guard to establish coronavirus vaccination clinics in the United States. This emerges from new details of his vaccination schedule for Covid-19 released on Friday by his transition team.
Read Azar’s full resignation letter below:
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