A likely contagious President Donald Trump returned to the White House Monday evening, whipped off his mask and filmed a video, heavy on bluster and short on facts, that proclaimed: “The vaccines are coming momentarily.”
Trump, who tested positive for coronavirus last week and is now receiving medical care at the White House, has remained laser-focused on vaccine development even as he has been dismissive of mask-wearing and social distancing — protections health experts say are critical to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Even before his diagnosis, the President had taken to calling drug companies to check on their vaccine trials, asking how much longer they’ll take and ginning up the pressure around his desire for a vaccine before Election Day.
In his conversations with major drug-makers working on coronavirus vaccines, Trump has been explicit in telling the companies’ CEOs that he’d like to see a vaccine move quicker than some of his health advisers say is reasonable, according to a person familiar with the conversations. He has asked whether they believe they can speed up their timelines and has suggested he is concerned that the FDA’s regulatory process could slow down progress.
In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump slammed new rules from the agency that would make it nearly impossible for a vaccine to be approved ahead of the election, calling them a “political hit job.”
“New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job!” he wrote in the tweet, which he aimed at FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
Trump’s repeated calls — especially to Pfizer, whose progress the President sounds most hopeful about recently — are likely to continue through a presidential election that may turn on how voters perceive his handling of the public health crisis.
Meantime, experts worry what Trump’s undivided attention means for the fate of the vaccine. With so much obvious political pressure coming to bear, people may fear that the vaccines aren’t safe for widespread use. Beyond that, they may lose trust in federal regulators and, possibly, in research science.
The political climate surrounding a potential coronavirus vaccine already has scientists cringing.
“There just seems to be this huge pressure from an administration that has been very effective at getting everything wrong,” said Dr. Esther Choo, an emergency medicine physician and professor at Oregon Health & Science University. “So, it’s like, how can this go well?”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews dismissed those concerns.
“This President understands that this vaccine cannot get bogged down in government bureaucracy,” Matthews said. “The Trump administration is focused on delivering a safe, effective vaccine to