Pfizer and Moderna, two pharmaceutical companies that have developed promising COVID-19 vaccines, will not participate in a “vaccine summit” Tuesday at the White House that touted the participation of private sector executives.
Pfizer said in a statement that it had informed the White House that it would not attend, but offered no other details, Bloomberg reported.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has previously vowed to keep Pfizer’s vaccine “out of politics.”
Pfizer has pointedly noted that it accepted no funding from President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed to hurry the development of a coronavirus vaccine. But Warp Speed did promise Pfizer $1.95 billion for the eventual delivery of 100 million doses to the federal government if the vaccine is approved for use.
Bourla defended the decision to decline federal research and development funding in order to “liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy” and “keep Pfizer out of politics.”
After watching the presidential debate in September, Bourla told his staff in an internal memo obtained by Politico that he was “disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts.” He vowed to “never succumb to political pressure.”
A spokesperson for Moderna, which is also awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval for the use of its COVID-19 vaccine, said in a statement that Operation Warp Speed contacted the company “to be part of a meeting at the White House concerning COVID-19 vaccine plans” and that Moderna “indicated its willingness to participate,” Stat reported. The company learned later that “based on the meeting’s agenda, its participation would not be required,” the statement noted.
An FDA representative insisted on Monday that the drugmakers had actually been excluded from the meeting because agency officials were concerned about the impropriety of executives mingling at the White House with FDA members who are charged with approving their vaccines, Bloomberg reported.
But it was unclear if the White House decision to exclude Pfizer and Moderna was made before or after Pfizer turned down the invitation. Company executives’ names were included in an invitation to the summit obtained a week ago by Stat.
White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern said last Tuesday that the president “looks forward to convening leaders from the federal government, state governments, private sector, military, and scientific community.”
The summit is scheduled two days before an FDA advisory committee is set to publicly examine data from Pfizer regarding its vaccine. A similar hearing for Moderna’s vaccine is set for Dec. 17.
The event is regarded by some industry officials as a public relations ploy by Trump to again claim credit for the rapid development of the crucial vaccines — and to pressure the FDA to approve them, Stat noted.
Trump boasted late last month that he was the one who “came up with” the vaccines.
“I came up with vaccines that people didn’t think we’d have for five years,” Trump said in a Fox News interview. He also boasted on Twitter, using a racist term for the coronavirus, that the private drug companies developed the vaccines “on my watch!”
The White House summit is expected to focus on vaccine distribution. Trump plans to sign an order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to get the vaccines to Americans before helping other countries, Bloomberg reported.
But there will still likely be a scramble for vaccines in this country. Trump reportedly declined an offer from Pfizer to buy more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine at the end of the summer, according to several press reports.
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