President Donald Trump is exploring ways to release an experimental coronavirus vaccine before the 2020 presidential election in November, even if the vaccine doesn’t meet normal U.S. safety standards established by the FDA, according to a new report from the Financial Times. And while the news is not exactly a surprise, it’s still somewhat shocking to learn, given the fact that so much is riding on a smooth rollout of any covid-19 vaccine to slow down the pandemic.
The Financial Times report cites three people familiar with the Trump regime’s plans, which would require help from the FDA, an agency that has started using bombastic pro-Trump rhetoric on Twitter. But a spokesperson at the health agency denies the vaccine, which is being developed overseas, might be rushed out ahead of the election.
There are at least 135 vaccines currently being developed around the world, but Trump is reportedly most interested in a vaccine being tested by UK drug company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, according to the Financial Times. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is being tested in 10,000 people at the moment, but FDA’s normal protocol requires that a vaccine be tested in at least 30,000 people before it’s released widely to the U.S. public.
AstraZeneca has plans to eventually conduct a trial with 30,000 volunteers, but that’s unlikely to happen until after the November 3 presidential election. Moderna and Pfizer are also working on vaccines that are currently in Phase III trials.
Trump has long promised that a vaccine would become available by the end of 2020, but this is the first time that news has leaked about an effort within the White House to make sure a vaccine would come out before the election, a rather transparent effort to gain more votes. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been considered the worst among high-income countries, with over 5.7 million cases and more than 176,000 deaths—the most devastating outbreak in the world by far.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has reportedly been a part of the vaccine discussions, denies any knowledge of the FDA’s plans for prematurely releasing AstraZeneca’s vaccine. And Michael Caputo, a spokesperson for HHS, which is the umbrella health agency that includes FDA, flatly denied there were any political considerations for when a vaccine might become available.
“Talk of an October surprise is a lurid resistance fantasy. Irresponsible talk of an unsafe or ineffective vaccine being approved for public use is designed to undermine the president’s coronavirus response,” Caputo told the Financial Times, insisting that the goal has always been to have a vaccine available by the first quarter of 2021.
Trump has taken to calling the FDA part of the “deep state,” an idea that government bureaucrats may be working against his regime’s own policies to thwart his election. A new report from Axios even claims that Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro ripped into FDA officials last week for not being loyal to the president.
“You are all Deep State and you need to get on Trump Time,” Navarro reportedly said, using a cultish term for adherence to President Trump’s demands.
There’s already a long line of countries that would love to get their hands on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with several nations signing deals with the UK-based company should their vaccine prove safe. Australia, China, South Korea, Brazil, and Denmark are just some of the countries that have already signed on to produce the vaccine for their own populations if it works. All told, the deals represent the production of roughly 2 billion doses, provided everything works out.
The news comes as Trump announced a new “breakthrough” treatment for fighting covid-19 at a press conference on Sunday, convalescent plasma, a treatment that has actually been in use for some time already. The FDA issued a press release about the treatment that health journalists flagged on Twitter as being very unusual, raising questions about the impartiality of the agency.
There are also reports that should be concerning for anyone who believes the Trump regime has their best interests at heart during the pandemic. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has been in charge of securing much-needed medical supplies for the U.S. during the pandemic, and has fucked up nearly every step of the way, especially in his attempts to acquire help from overseas.
Kushner has awarded contracts to companies for ventilators that didn’t make ventilators, he secretly bought 3.5 million covid tests from China back in March that turned out to be junk, and he’s repeatedly referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as “our stockpile” rather than a stockpile available to the American people. Wording on the HHS website was changed following Kushner’s comments about “our stockpile” to fit with his bizarre narrative.
There’s even a new story out by the Daily Beast claiming that Kushner imported ventilators from Russia under the cover of the U.S. State Department. The ventilators were rejected by state officials in New York and New Jersey for being defective, though it’s not clear state officials even knew where the ventilators originated.
Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and the person who’s overseeing vaccine safety at the health agency, told Reuters recently that he would resign if the Trump regime tried to push a vaccine through without the proper protocols being followed.
“You have to decide where your red line is, and that’s my red line,” he said. “I would feel obligated [to resign] because in doing so, I would indicate to the American public that there’s something wrong,” Marks told Reuters.
Caputo says he expects a promising vaccine to be identified by January 2021, which is roughly when the next presidential term would start, whether it’s a second term for Trump or a new term for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Trump spent months insisting the virus would simply “go away” like “magic” and has downplayed both the lethality of the pandemic and the potential long-term health problems, especially in children who may contract the disease. But there’s a stark partisan divide when it comes to how Americans see Trump’s handling of the crisis. Almost 7 in 10 say that they’re embarrassed at how poorly the U.S. has handled the pandemic, though 86% of Republicans say that Trump has handled the pandemic well.
With over 176,000 Americans dead, and most other wealthy countries now starting to live their lives normally, it’s tough to imagine how anyone could think Trump did well. But perhaps it’s because Republicans here in the year 2020 simply don’t value human life very much. A clear majority, 57% of Republicans said the American death toll of 176,000 people, was “acceptable.”