David Kessler, top health officer for Covid vaccines, is leaving the Biden administration

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David Kessler, a key official in the Biden administration’s Covid vaccine and treatment efforts, is stepping down from his position as chief science officer, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday.

Since January 2021, Kessler has played a leading role in the development and rollout of Covid vaccines. He took over the reins of the Trump-era initiative called Operation Warp Speed ​​to accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments.

Kessler, 71, is the latest Covid response officer to step down after President Joe Biden’s two-year term. In December, Anthony Fauci stepped down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as chief medical adviser to Biden.

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On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra praised Kessler for his contributions to the agency’s Covid response, saying he “helped save lives.”

“Dr. Kessler has worked tirelessly for decades to address our nation’s most challenging public health issues, and his work during the COVID-19 pandemic was no different,” Becerra said. Kessler’s contributions to our COVID-19 response have saved lives. I am grateful for the wisdom he has shared with us and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

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NBC News has contacted Kessler for comment.

After the 2020 election, Biden’s transition team asked Kessler to co-chair an advisory board to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which included former US surgeon general Vivek Murthy, who is now back in his old position.

The Biden administration and health officials have had to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines throughout their rollout. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 78.8% of American adults have completed their primary series of Covid vaccines.

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Kessler’s previous government service included Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997. During that time, he oversaw the agency’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis and was later known for his efforts to regulate the tobacco industry.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com