Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Suggests Vaccine Approval Plans Are Driven by Politics

President Trump said the White House “may or may not” approve new F.D.A. guidelines that would toughen the process for approving a coronavirus vaccine.

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‘It Won’t Be Politics,’ F.D.A. Chief Says of Vaccine Approval Process

Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told lawmakers he was confident that the development of a coronavirus vaccine would be safe from political interference.

“We have not made a commitment to the timeline per se because we haven’t seen the data, and we don’t know the complexity of the data or the amount of data that will come our way. What I can tell you, sir, is we do feel the urgency of the moment. We do take very much — very seriously our responsibility to protect American lives. We will not delay, but we will not cut corners in our process.” “Dr. Hahn, you said that you have every confidence in the scientists and staff at F.D.A. And I appreciate that and I do too, by the way — is there some kind of deep state that you have seen in the F.D.A. that is any way trying to do anything other than quickly get a vaccine, get therapeutics to the American public?” “Senator, I will answer your question this way. I have 100 percent confidence in the outstanding scientists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists at F.D.A. who have remarkably stood up during this pandemic to help expedite getting medical products to the American people. I have complete confidence in their decisions. And I have complete confidence in the actions that have been taken to date.” “And that confidence is based on following the science not any political pressure, and that’s what we’re expecting with a vaccine approval.” “Yes, sir. And I’ve said that several times today, and I appreciate the opportunity to say it again, our career scientists for any medical products, and particularly vaccines, will follow the science and data and our rigorous standards. And it won’t be politics that make any part of that decision, sir.”

Trump suggests that the F.D.A.’s new vaccine approval plans may be driven by politics.

President Trump said on Wednesday that the White House “may or may not” approve new Food and Drug Administration guidelines that would toughen the process for approving a coronavirus vaccine, and suggested the plan “sounds like a political move.”

The pronouncement once again undercut government scientists who had spent the day trying to bolster public faith in the promised vaccine. Just hours earlier, four senior physicians leading the federal coronavirus response strongly endorsed the tighter safety procedures, which would involve getting outside expert approval before a vaccine could be declared safe and effective by the F.D.A.

Last week, Mr. Trump said that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “made a mistake” when he said that most Americans would not complete the vaccination process until next summer and that masks were at least as important as a vaccine to control the virus’s spread.

The F.D.A. had planned to issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the vetting process, even as the president has insisted a vaccine will be ready as early as next month. Mr. Trump, though, cast doubt on the F.D.A. plan.

“That has to be approved by the White House,” he said, adding, “We may or may not approve it.” Raising questions about why vaccine makers would want to delay the process, he said, “We are looking at that, but I think that was a political move more than anything else.”

He pointedly said he had “tremendous trust in these massive companies” that are testing the vaccines, adding, “I don’t know that a government as big as” the federal government could do as well.

At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the doctors — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the F.D.A.; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director; and Admiral Brett P. Giroir, the coronavirus testing czar — defended their scientific integrity amid mounting evidence that Mr. Trump and his administration have interfered with their agencies’ decision-making and growing public doubts about a vaccine.

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C.D.C. Director Projects 700 Million Covid-19 Doses by April

In his Senate testimony, Dr. Robert R. Redfield said that some Americans will not be able to access a coronavirus vaccine until July 2021.

Ultimately, it’s going to be the vaccines that are going to get us back to the way of life — as we get an effective vaccine. What I was trying to comment, as Senator Kaine alluded to, if the vaccine only induces an immune response in half the people, then it’s exceptional that half the people may not get protection from the vaccine. And what really I was trying to say maybe was just to re-emphasize how important this mask is. And we should have, if projected, about 700 million doses by April, late March, and that should be enough to vaccinate 350 million people because you require two doses. When I was alluding to late second quarter, early third quarter, I was alluding to how long I felt it would take to get those 700 million doses into the American public and complete the vaccine process. And you, know, I can defer to Dr. Fauci for his opinion, but I think that’s going to take us to April, May, June, you know possibly July, to get the entire American public completely vaccinated. But we will have the 700 million doses based on projection by late March, early April.

All four officials pledged to take any vaccine approved by the F.D.A. and said they would encourage their families to do the same.

Polls show a troubling drop in the number of Americans who would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine. A survey published last week by the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans would either probably or definitely take a vaccine, down from 72 percent in May.

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