While falsely claiming electoral victory, Donald Trump has also been misleadingly taking credit for the the successful development of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, which announced very promising early results this week, as he baselessly accused Democrats and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of stalling the vaccine and toying with American lives in order to deny him a pre-election “WIN.”
Hours later, Trump, without evidence, accused Pfizer of not having “the courage” to release the results before the presidential election, as well as the FDA, who apparently held things up for “political purposes.”
Trump went on to wrongly claim that the FDA and Democrats “didn’t want” him to have a “Vaccine WIN” prior to the election, and that if president-elect Joe Biden were president “you wouldn’t have the Vaccine for another four years.”
While Trump and his supporters are right to point out Pfizer’s involvement with the government through his administration’s Operation Warp Speed — an effort to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible — it is incorrect to claim credit for the vaccine’s development as the scheme did not fund it, something Pfizer’s head of vaccine development forcefully stated in an interview with the New York Times.
While the $1.95 billion deal is substantial, it is only to secure an initial 100 million doses should the development be successful, leaving Pfizer to shoulder the risks of development.
Pfizer and BioNTech released early results for their Covid-19 vaccine Monday, showing it to be 90% effective at preventing the disease. The figure is high, much higher than the 50% the Food and Drug Administration had said it was willing to accept, and cemented the vaccine’s frontrunner status in the global race to develop a safe and effective vaccine. The company hopes, and is still on track, to file for emergency FDA approval in mid-November, which could make this the first Covid-19 vaccine approved outside of Russia and China. Even if approved, there are still plenty of logistical hurdles that could delay the vaccine’s rollout. Technically, it is a part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s attempt to deliver a vaccine as fast as possible, though only in the sense that it has agreed to buy an initial batch of doses. The Operation’s lack of transparency, something made worse through the use of nongovernmental intermediaries to dispense contracts, has been criticized, as has its role in stoking fears that a vaccine may be rushed through development for political purposes.
What To Watch For
Though Trump has claimed a “WIN” on the vaccine, it hasn’t actually been approved yet. The company hopes, and is still on track, to file for emergency FDA approval in mid-November, if the data is promising, which could make this the first Covid-19 vaccine approved outside of Russia and China. Even if approved, there are still plenty of logistical hurdles that could delay the vaccine’s rollout, though the company has been ramping up production for months in anticipation of regulatory approval.
The World Health Organization is investigating mink farming around the world over concerns that the animals might pass dangerous new Covid-19 strains on to humans, some of which could threaten the effectiveness of vaccines currently in development. Denmark ordered the cull of its entire mink herd for this reason, with at least 214 people infected with mink-related Covid-19 since June.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, told CNN that its promising Covid-19 vaccine news, coming about a week after the U.S. presidential election, had nothing to do with politics, only learning of it himself the day before its release. Bourla said he hadn’t yet seen the data himself.
A Pfizer spokesperson told Forbes that while it is proud to be one of various manufacturers participating in Operation Warp Speed and had reached an advanced purchase agreement with the U.S. government “the company did not accept BARDA funding for the research and development process. All the investment for R&D was made by Pfizer at risk.”