The political influence on the development of a vaccine against the virus

The political influence on the development of a vaccine against the virus
Trump in a biotechnology lab. Scientists worry that its pressures could affect the safety of the vaccine (photo: The New York Times).

The White House set a deadline for developing an effective vaccine against COVID-19 in October 2020, in a bid to stem the pandemic ahead of the November presidential election. The particularly ambitious effort even received the code name “Operation Warp Speed“.

The vaccine race is now testing the country’s health and research system. Under pressure from the White House and its need for optimistic news, government investigators fear that political interference in the coming months will outweigh scientific credibility. The more a vaccine is tested, the safer and more effective it will be.

Despite the concerted efforts of the Trump administration and many pharmaceutical companies, the October target no longer seems unrealistic, with the government hoping to have millions of doses of the vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.

Experts inside and outside the government fear that the White House will pressure the FDA to provide even a limited emergency vaccine marketing authorization, perhaps for the sole use of health professionals and other workers. “Front line“, before the November 3 elections.

President Trump himself has repeatedly stated that the United States will build a vaccine “record-breaking time.” The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kouchner, an informal leader of Trump’s re-election campaign, often attends meetings of a committee overseeing the vaccine effort.

Vaccine approval by the FDA is usually very time consuming, with service officials scrutinizing clinical trial data. Vaccine approval is always more difficult than drugs, as vaccines are given to millions of healthy people, which means that even rare vaccine side effects can affect a much larger number of people than those of a single drug.

The government appears to be moving with unprecedented determination on vaccine development, a determination it has not shown in any other phase of the pandemic. Contracts were signed through summary procedures, mobile units immediately arrived at experimental dose points, and when a company ran out of needles, the Pentagon sent aircraft to supply it.

With the government taking on a large share of the cost, two candidate vaccines are already in the final stages of testing: this one by Moderna, in collaboration with the Dr Fauci Institute, and one by Pfizer.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Although this would offer hope to the public, even Joe Biden and Democrat opponents know that the former vice president would continue to push for a vaccine if he wins in November.