Biden Urges Vaccine Process Free from ‘Political Pressure’

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned Monday about the potential politicization of coronavirus vaccines by the Trump administration as development work and clinical trials speed up.

In a statement given to Bloomberg, Biden called it “great news” that some vaccines are showing promise in early rounds of testing, but said the actions of President Donald Trump and his team must be closely watched.

While “we all hope the next phases of clinical trials will yield positive results to support an approval based on the scientific evidence,” he urged the administration to commit to transparency and accountability as it works with drug companies.

“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,” Biden said.

For Americans to have confidence in the safety of a vaccine, he said, “as we enter the height of election season, President Trump should assure us all that the White House will respect the independent authority of the Food and Drug Administration to decide, free from political pressure, if the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Biden urged Trump to commit to three principles that he said would also guide his own thinking on vaccines: to let scientists and public health experts decide on safety and efficacy, to make any FDA-approved clinical data public for independent review, and for there to be “full transparency” on recommendations coming from career staff.

On the third point, Biden said, career staff in the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research should be authorized to write a public report. If the FDA commissioner reverses the findings, he must explain publicly, Biden said.

And, before a license for a vaccine is finalized, “senior career scientists and public health experts should be allowed to make public, uncensored statements and appear before Congress unconstrained to speak the truth.”

Trump has feuded with scientific agencies when their findings don’t match his administration’s agenda for reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Institutes of Health and the biotech company Moderna began final-stage testing on Monday with a clinical trial that will test a potential vaccine against a placebo. The full enrollment is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said. Scientists might know whether it works as early as October, though results are likelier in November, he said. That time frame does create the potential for the administration to rush out good news in the final days before Election Day, November 3.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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