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Vice President Pence adds 5 new members to White House coronavirus task force

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, standing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force team, speaks during a press briefing in the press briefing room of the White House March 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Also pictured, from L-R, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, coronavirus response coordinator Debbie Birx, Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is adding five new members to the government’s coronavirus task force as the White House increasingly focuses on efforts to reopen the country safely and hasten the development of vaccines for COVID-19.

The new members include two doctors focused on vaccine development: Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Also joining the task force of about 20 members are Thomas Engels, director of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Pence made the changes barely a week after the White House bowed to public pressure and shelved plans to begin to shut down the task force, which has been managing the U.S. response to the coronavirus since late January.

The task force announcement comes as President Donald Trump named a former pharmaceutical executive to lead his administration’s all-out effort to produce and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

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