It is very difficult to ask the country to put politics aside during a presidential election season, but it is crucial that we do so now regarding the expected approval of vaccines for Covid-19.
Pharmaceutical researchers are laboring for thousands of hours and investing billions of dollars to develop treatments and vaccines desperately needed to save lives and unlock economies around the planet.
Yet the political knives already are out, with Sen. and Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris repeatedly expressing distrust for the vaccine, saying, “I think that we have learned … that there’s very little that we can trust that can comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.” She went on to also question the objectivity of the FDA.
That is reckless and potentially deadly. Just as Americans avoided going to the hospital this spring, even when they were having strokes and heart attacks, for fear of contracting the virus, people who avoid a vaccine for political reasons could also be putting themselves at risk.
Leading authorities issued two separate statements this week to reassure the American people that no treatment or vaccine will be released until it is deemed safe and effective—nine pharmaceutical company executives and eight senior career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration.
- Senior FDA career executives co-signed an op-ed in USA Today about following the science to protect public health in pandemic. They are concerned that “The integrity and independence of the agency have been called into question.” The eight FDA officials have more than 100 years of experience and assured the American people they are committed to making decisions guided by science. They said their approach to approval has been and will “remain the gold standard that all can rely on.”
- The chief executives of nine pharmaceutical companies released a pledge on Tuesday saying they won’t submit their coronavirus vaccines for regulatory approval unless large clinical trials prove they are safe and effective.
They “want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.” The statement said the companies will “always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.”
On Wednesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar led a bipartisan call with the chief executives of 50 states, territories, the District of Columbia, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss local, state, and federal COVID-19 response and recovery. HHS is working with the Task Force to coordinate efforts to distribute the vaccines when they are approved as part of the massive all-of-government response to the pandemic.
More than 100 vaccines are in clinical trials around the world as a result of a near-wartime effort by the companies to respond to urgent need for vaccines and treatments. Yet, according to a September 6 CBS News/YouGov poll, 65% of Americans said they would be skeptical of a coronavirus vaccine if it was made available this year, fearing possible safety shortcuts.
It’s vital to put politics aside so scare tactics do not compromise the urgent interests of public health and the imperative for economic recovery.
A note about us: Galen Institute scholars were recognized in a recent Business Insider article by reporter Kimberly Leonard as among the top 24 leaders advising the Trump administration on health policy.
Galen Senior Fellows Brian Blase, Doug Badger, and I were in good company on this list, with Sens. Cassidy, Cotton, Graham, and Paul, Sec. Azar, Administrator Verma, top White House advisers, and other leaders inside and outside the administration.
The Galen team is a policy powerhouse, and I’m very proud of our work in fighting for patient-centered health policies to renew and refresh our health sector from the bottom up after decades Washington’s failed top-down solutions. Kudos to Brian and Doug and all of the others on the list in your tireless work for patients and freedom.