[guest post by Dana]
During a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Florida, President Trump suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine was being intentionally delayed for political reasons (2nd video, unable to separate the two):
"They're trying to do a little bit of a political hit. 'Let's delay it just a little bit.' Did you notice that?" — Trump darkly suggests unidentified forces are conspiring to delay the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine pic.twitter.com/QZiHZIEGaL
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 24, 2020
“We will have a vaccine so soon, you won’t even believe it, although they are trying to do a little bit of a political hit. ‘Let’s delay the vaccine just a little bit.’ Did you notice that?”
As you recall, Trump promised that there would be a vaccine before the end of the year.
So, what might have prompted Trump’s accusation of an intentional delay of the vaccine? How about safety reasons to help ensure that the vaccine is safe and allay the fears Americans have about taking a fast-tracked vaccine:
On Wednesday afternoon, Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the $10 billion public-private partnership to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine, confirmed a proposed FDA measure that could slow down its pace, requiring pharmaceutical companies to provide two months of safety results before candidate vaccines can be authorized for emergency use by the public.
Earlier Wednesday, the commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Stephen Hahn, made a commitment to America that the “FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine that we would not feel comfortable giving to our families.”
“FDA will not authorize or approve any Covid-19 vaccine before it has met the agency’s rigorous expectations for safety and effectiveness. Decisions to authorize or approve any such vaccine or therapeutic will be made by the dedicated career staff at FDA, through our thorough review processes, and science will guide our decisions,” Hahn specifically promised the Senate Health Committee.
“FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that,” he added.
According to a recent YouGov poll, Americans are indeed cautious about taking a Covid vaccine. Only one-third are planning on taking the vaccine when it becomes available. It then makes sense that the FDA take extra steps to, not only ensure the efficacy of the vaccine but to also reassure Americans of its safety:
32 percent of Americans say they would not get a coronavirus vaccine, if and when one becomes available. Another 32 percent of Americans haven’t made their decision, saying they are unsure if they would get vaccinated. In contrast, only two in five (36%) Americans say they would get a coronavirus vaccine.
Trump reacted to news of the proposed FDA measure exactly how you might guess he would react:
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the White House may not approve tougher FDA guidelines for authorizing the emergency use of any coronavirus vaccines.
“That has to be approved by the White House,” Trump said. “We may or may not approve it.”
Trump also suggested that the FDA’s decision to revise the standards, first issued in June, “was a political move more than anything else.”
According to former FDA heads, it’s possible that “Trump could pressure scientists into authorizing or approving a Covid-19 vaccine.”
While Covid has been politicized by both sides of the aisle, Trump has repeatedly insisted that a vaccine will be available before the end of the year, preferably before the election. But by labeling cautionary moves as little more than political is to ignore the very real concerns about safety that American have:
Trump’s repeated promises that a vaccine is imminent contradict top government health officials who say that a shot won’t be ready until late 2020 at the earliest, and that it will take months longer to get it to all Americans. The president’s hard charge for a vaccine has prompted fears that his administration will rubber-stamp a shot based on political calculations rather than scientific data.
Even the White House scientific community is pushing back on Trump:
On Wednesday, top health officials in the Trump administration, led by chief US infectious disease scientist Anthony Fauci and the heads of the CDC and FDA, took the unusual step of pledging to the public that coronavirus vaccines will be vetted without political interference and promising to get the shots themselves.
And on Thursday, the heads of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine took the rare step of denouncing the politicization of science, particularly regarding vaccines. “Any efforts to discredit the best science and scientists threaten the health and welfare of us all,” they said in their statement.
In yet another major sign of the scientific community’s discomfort with Trump’s push for a speedy vaccine, an HHS advisory panel voted unanimously this week to recommend COVID-19 vaccines be approved for the public through the FDA’s “gold standard” licensing process, rather than the emergency avenues now being contemplated.
“Great caution should be exercised,” the panel’s statement read. Any expedited decisions from the FDA should only come with the recommendation of outside expert panels at both that agency and the CDC, the statement added. Those panels typically advise the heads of HHS agencies, though their votes on vaccines are not legally binding.
While politics has always been a part of scientific development, Trump has taken it to a whole new level:
“Political interference in scientific issues is not new,” science policy expert Albert Teich of George Washington University told BuzzFeed News. “But the willingness of the Trump administration to twist science to serve what the president regards as his interests, and the impact on matters of life and death to the nation and its citizens, is unprecedented.”
For his part, Trump is giving developers the benefit of the doubt, rather than considering the concerns of the American people:
“I have tremendous trust in these massive companies that are so brilliantly organized in terms of what they’ve been doing with the tests,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why [a vaccine] should be delayed further because if they delay it a week or two weeks or three weeks, you know, that’s a lot of lives you’re talking about.”