President Donald Trump took some time out of his day Saturday to pressure his own Food and Drug Administration, claiming, without providing any hint of evidence, that it is slowing testing of COVID-19 vaccines until after the November election. Trump said in a tweet that the “deep state, or whoever” at the FDA was making it difficult for drug companies to test possible vaccines for the coronavirus. “Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd,” Trump tweeted. “Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” The president tagged FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn in the tweet.
Trump later tweeted that “many doctors and studies” disagree with the FDA’s decision to revoke the emergency use authorization it had issued for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. The agency did that after several clinical trials showed no benefit from using the drugs.
The tweets Saturday marks the second time over the past week that Trump has called out the FDA for what he has characterized as its efforts to hurt the government’s response to the pandemic. On Wednesday, Trump said there could be a political motivation behind the FDA’s decision to put authorization for an experimental blood treatment for coronavirus patients on hold. “I hear great things about it,” Trump said during a White House press briefing about convalescent plasma therapy. “It could be a political decision because you have a lot of people over there who don’t want to rush things because they want to do it after November 3, and you’ve heard that one before.”
Needless to say, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone at the FDA is delaying any sort of treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus. And, as Politico notes, the FDA isn’t actually in charge of whether people enroll in drug trials although it is in charge of approving new treatments. But the criticism shows how Trump is applying the same kind of pressure on the FDA that he has usually reserved for other parts of the government, including intelligence agencies and the Justice Department. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said Thursday that he has not faced political pressure but vowed to resign if that ever changed. “In doing so, I would indicate to the American public that there’s something wrong,” he told Reuters.
Democrats were quick to criticize Trump for his tweets. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president’s tweet was “very scary” and a “very dangerous statement,” adding that “even for him, it went beyond the pale.” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said that Trump’s “dangerous and unhinged conspiracy theories” are making it “more difficult to respond to the pandemic.”
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