Ex-FDA leaders warn against Trump manipulation of COVID-19 vaccine

Seven former FDA commissioners penned an op-ed on Tuesday warning against political manipulation of the

  • Seven former FDA commissioners penned an op-ed on Tuesday warning against political manipulation of the administration.
  • The commissioners, including President Trump’s first appointee and former advisor, say the White House is undermining faith in science and contributing to skepticism of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the commissioners wrote. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”
  • “If the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so.”
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President Donald Trump’s first head of the Food and Drug Administration has joined six other former commissioners in warning that the White House is undermining faith in science in an apparent effort to rush out a vaccine for the coronavirus.

For decades, “the public knew we were speaking on behalf of experts whose judgments were grounded in science,” the ex-FDA leaders said in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Washington Post. “That is changing in deeply troubling ways.”

The commissioners, including former Trump campaign advisor Scott Gottlieb, cited the president’s own rejection of FDA standards for a vaccine. On Sept. 23, he declared that such standards — ensuring any vaccine meets the approval of career scientists, not just White House flacks — “sounds like a political move.” They also pointed to “acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications,” including the scientifically dubious emergency authorization for convalescent plasma treatment.

That, they argue, is undermining faith in the FDA and causing widespread skepticism of any Trump-approved coronavirus vaccine. Recent polls have indicated that a third of Americans would refuse to take any such inoculation.

“If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce covid-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer,” they wrote. “Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years.”

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