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Vice President Harris told me in a backstage conversation for "Axios on HBO" that the Trump administration had "no stockpile" of vaccines upon leaving office.

The big picture: "There was no national strategy or plan for vaccinations, we were leaving it to the states and local leaders to try and figure it out," Harris told me at the White House after leading a virtual COVID event with African-American mayors.

  • "In many ways, we are starting from scratch on something that's been raging for almost an entire year."

Harris said she constantly pushes her team on the question: "Can we do more? Where is there capacity to do more?"

  • "The suffering," she said, "is so immense in terms of both the public health crisis, the number of people who have died, the number of people who've contracted it, and the economic crisis."
  • "So we are in the midst of a hurricane that is still raging, which requires us — each one of us who's in a position of leadership — to ask constantly, 'Are we doing enough?'"
  • "We've got to figure out a way — that has to be our standard. Our standard has to be: 'Everything is possible, but we're going to have to work like heck to get it done.' Which means ... no patience for delay, no patience for, 'It can't be done.' You know, that's how I feel about it."

Asked what her signature issue will be, Harris said with laughter: "Making sure Joe Biden is a success."

  • I asked her the trademark question of the late New York Mayor Ed Koch: "How'm I doing? "
  • "It's three weeks in," Harris replied with a laugh. "Give me a break!"

As Harris left, I asked her if her predecessor, Vice President Mike Pence, had left her a note.

  • She said he had, but left the details as a cliffhanger.
  • I'm told that Pence left the note in the Vice President’s West Wing office. It was Midwestern friendly: He said it had been the honor of a lifetime to serve in the job — and wished Harris the best for her own success.
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Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Feb 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

The problem with vaccine patents

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Open-source the vaccines. That's the message being sent by the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition that includes Amnesty International, Oxfam, and UNAIDS.

Why it matters: Manufacturing capacity needs to be scaled up dramatically — and cutting out the need for laborious, expensive and secretive negotiations with vaccine patent holders could help.

Fauci says he feels for single people on Valentine's Day 2021

President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, expressed sympathy for single people trying to enjoy Valentine's Day during the pandemic in an interview with "Axios on HBO," saying it would be stressful and frustrating to date while social distancing and trying to stay safe.

  • Fauci said he and his wife planned a quiet Valentine's Day dinner at home alone, but he empathized: "It would be really frustrating to essentially semi-isolate yourself at a time when you're trying to explore social interactions with people. That leads to a considerable amount of stress and maybe even depression on the part of some people."
Updated 23 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers — U.S. on the lookout for Omicron casesFDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns" — Two federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Pentagon denies Oklahoma National Guard request for exemption from vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron — COVID-19 "radically altered mobility" globally, UN says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.