Former Vice President Joe Biden urged the Trump administration to take steps to ensure the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus will be “free from political pressure” and asked the White House to respect science as the nation reels from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The presumptive Democratic nominee for president made the comments in a blog post Monday amid news that several potential coronavirus vaccines were entering large-scale trials.
“It’s great news that scientists are making progress in the search for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” Biden wrote in the blog entry. “We all hope the next phases of clinical trials will yield positive results to support an approval based on the scientific evidence, but the development of a new vaccine requires a dedication to science, coordination, transparency, truth, and fairness to all — and we have a President who stands for none of these things.”
The comments come as cases continue to surge in many places around the nation. More than 4.2 million people have been infected with the virus in the U.S., and more than 148,000 have died. Four states — California, Florida, New York and Texas — have all reported more than 400,000 cases each.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday he was “cautiously optimistic” amid reports several vaccine candidates had entered large-scale human trials in the ultimate hope of finding a treatment that can help prevent or minimize COVID-19 cases.
“We’re trying to figure out does it actually work,” Fauci told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, noting it would “take several months to determine if in fact [the vaccine] does work.”
“To go from not even knowing what the virus was in early January to a Phase 3 trial is really record time,” the doctor added.
The comments came amid news the pharmaceutical company Moderna had launched a 30,000-person Phase 3 trial of its vaccine candidate in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. Pfizer has also launched a similar Phase 3 trial for its vaccine candidate, and both efforts are currently enrolling participants.
Biden wrote Monday that, despite this success, President Donald Trump should refrain from weighing in on research without the science to back it up, pointing to the White House’s initial support for an anti-malaria drug that the Food and Drug Administration ultimately warned against.
“The White House should not weigh in on these matters or push the FDA to provide emergency authorizations prematurely, as they did for hydroxychloroquine,” he wrote. “The President should not ‘hype’ treatments or vaccines, overstate their results, or undermine confidence in scientific findings.”
Many leading health experts, Fauci included, have thrown cold water on the public’s hopes for a speedy vaccine that provides ultimate immunity to the coronavirus. The Phase 3 trials will likely squeeze in a process that can take years into months, but even if the vaccine candidates are successful, it will take time for them to be produced and distributed. It’s also unclear how supply chains for hundreds of millions — or potentially billions — of doses would hold up amid high demand.
The Atlantic noted this week that many of the vaccine candidates rely on new science that hasn’t been replicated at scale before, and a bevy of other concerns include some Americans’ resistance toward vaccination, which could impede the reopening of society.
Biden called for any vaccine research to be made public once it attains FDA approval and called for full transparency on medical recommendations to help assuage any fears about the vaccination should it become available.
“Before a license is final, senior career scientists and public health experts should be allowed to make public, uncensored statements and appear before Congress unconstrained to speak the truth,” he said.
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