Trump Urges FDA to ‘Move Quickly’ as Fourth Vaccine Trial Starts

President Donald Trump called on the Food and Drug Administration to “move quickly” on coronavirus vaccines, following Johnson & Johnson’s announcement its candidate has reached a final-stage trial.

Trump announced in a separate tweet that he would hold a news conference at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the White House, saying that, “economy, Job gains and Vaccine development are all doing GREAT!”

Johnson & Johnson announced it has begun dosing as many as 60,000 volunteers in a study of its Covid-19 vaccine, the first major U.S. trial of a shot that may work after just one dose. The vaccine candidate joins three others in late-stage trials in the U.S., amid the administration’s Operation Warp Speed push to develop and distribute an inoculation by year’s end.

If the company can enroll enough participants, the trial could yield results as soon as the end of 2020, which could allow the company to seek emergency authorization early next year if the vaccine proves effective, Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said Tuesday.

But Trump’s repeated promises that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready within weeks, a timetable far more ambitious than that of any drug maker or public-health official, have raised concerns the government could cut corners and authorize a shot to deliver the president a political victory ahead of the November election.

“I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said last week.

Trump and the FDA have said that electoral politics won’t determine whether a vaccine receives authorization or approval.

“This is going to be by the book, based on science, data and the law,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday on CNBC.

In an apparent shot at Democrats, Azar said he is “very concerned about those who, for political purposes, are willing to jump in bed with the anti-vaxxers and undermine confidence.”

The FDA is poised to release tougher standards for issuing emergency use authorizations that could make it very difficult for the agency to sign off on a vaccine before Election Day on Nov. 3, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Drug makers seeking the authorization would need to follow participants in a late-stage trial for an average of two months, the paper reported. The proposed guidance is reportedly being reviewed by the White House, but parts have been shared with vaccine manufacturers.

A group of nine pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies publicly pledged last week they would only seek approval for Covid-19 vaccines shown to be safe and effective, an effort to assuage fears that the process of developing the inoculation might be influenced by the political calendar.

Top executives from Johnson & Johnson signed the pledge.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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