Anxieties over the process that could lead to the approval of a coronavirus vaccine are escalating as President Donald Trump, desperate to stamp an end date on the deadly pandemic nightmare, ratchets up pressure on top regulatory officials to deliver him a medical and political panacea ahead of the November election.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris registered her concerns during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” airing Sunday, saying she would cast a skeptical eye on a vaccine made available in the less than nine weeks to go before Election Day – a goal scientists have roundly said would be next-to-impossible to meet.
Harris also suggested that public health officials were likely to face pushback, potentially at the expense of their jobs, from the White House if they expressed reservations over a would-be vaccine or the standard for greenlighting it.
“If past is prologue, they will not, they’ll be muzzled, they’ll be suppressed, they will be sidelined,” Harris said. “Because he’s looking at an election coming up, in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend he has been a leader on this issue, when he is not.”
The widespread distribution of a dodgy vaccine, with a shove from a President whose reelection campaign has been laid low by the pandemic and its crushing effect on the economy, would heap calamity on top of catastrophe. But it has emerged as a very real concern – enough so that, according to the Wall Street Journal, at least three of the companies working to develop a coronavirus vaccine are now drafting a pledge to assure the public they would not seek approval for their vaccines before they are proven safe and effective.
News of the companies’ joint messaging plans came as Trump once again peddled unrealistic dates – and hopes – during a White House news conference.
“We remain on track to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year and maybe even before November 1st,” Trump said Friday. “We think we can probably have it sometime during the month of October.”
On Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed that “no one is pressuring the FDA to do anything.” But a CNN investigation found something close to the opposite – that Trump is pushing for any scrap of good news, or the impression of it, and then pressing those around him to dress it up as a historic breakthrough.