Biden says coronavirus vaccine 'free from political influence' as Trump administration pressures FDA for authorization
Posted December 11, 2020 4:06 p.m. EST
CNN — President-elect Joe Biden sought to instill public confidence Friday in a coronavirus vaccine that could soon be available, insisting that its safety and effectiveness is being evaluated without political influence amid reports that President Donald Trump's administration was pressuring the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization by the end of the day Friday.
Biden stressed that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which could soon receive emergency authorization use after it got the recommendation of a panel of vaccine advisers to the FDA on Thursday, was being evaluated "free from political influence."
"I want to make it clear to the public: You should have confidence in this. There is no political influence. These are first-rate scientists, taking their time, looking at all of the elements that need to be looked at," Biden told reporters Friday at an event introducing several members of his Cabinet and White House staff.
"Scientific integrity led us to this point. We know the immense challenges and hard work ahead," Biden said.
His comments were at odds with the reality of the Trump administration's actions. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn he needed to grant an emergency use authorization for the vaccine by the end of the day Friday or resign, CNN reported just before Biden's event Friday.
The news of Meadows' call with Hahn on Friday morning is likely to raise additional questions about the extent to which the Trump administration's political interests are involved in the vaccine authorization process and could undermine public confidence in the effort.
Biden's comments reflect the reality that while a vaccine could be authorized during Trump's presidency, its wide distribution is likely to take place after Biden takes office.
Biden has said his administration would distribute 100 million vaccination shots within his first 100 days in office.
"My first 100 days won't end the Covid-19 virus. I can't promise that," Biden said at a Tuesday event focused on his plan to combat the pandemic. "But we did not get in this mess quickly, we're not going to get out of it quickly, it's going to take some time. But I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."