With the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine seemingly within days, President Donald Trump has reflected on what he perceives to be a lack of credit he is getting for this breakthrough.
The outgoing president recently denounced to several advisers and associates how vaccine makers may be working to deny him the chance to declare victory in the pandemic, according to three people familiar with his private grunts. An adviser told the Daily Beast that this month the president asked whether the executives of Pfizer, a major vaccine maker, were “Democrats.”
“It came out of nowhere and I didn’t really know how to react,” said this source.
When Pfizer announced its vaccine breakthrough last month, Trump had a tantrum after the company said it had not been directly involved in Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership of administration for the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. The president, already sorry that no vaccine breakthrough was announced ahead of the election, told some aides and close allies to go on television and make public statements refuting Pfizer’s claims and alleging that the breakthrough was a feat that only Trump and his team could have. done, two of the sources said.
“It came out of nowhere and I didn’t really know how to react.
– Trump adviser on his suggestion that Pfizer could be run by Democrats
These moments of grief have highlighted several dynamics that have come to define the President’s management of the COVID crisis: a brewing resentment towards some of the main entities helping in the response to the pandemic and a constant need for personal affirmation.
That need came back to light on Friday when it was reported that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn that he should consider tweaking his resume if the Pfizer vaccine is not approved by the end of the day.
The warning was not the first Meadows had issued to Hahn. According to a pharmaceutical industry source, Meadows summoned the FDA chief to the White House earlier this month to demand answers on why the vaccination process was not moving faster. Meadows later denied to the Daily Beast that he had pushed for Hahn’s resignation at that meeting.
“Get a new source,” he said at the time.
This round, Hahn was the one to push back against reports that he had been kicked out, saying in a statement that the portrayal of his interview with Meadows was “false.”
The White House did not comment on this story on Friday afternoon.
But a lobbyist working on vaccine manufacturing and development said the mere idea that the White House was pressuring the FDA chief on the eve of the vaccine’s introduction was extremely problematic, as it would spawn mistrust of the safety of the vaccine.
“It’s not as bad as firing the head of the FDA,” lobbyists said. “But that only generates negative titers on vaccine efficacy.”
It was hardly surprising that Trump applied this kind of pressure, the source said. For months, the president has disagreed with Big Pharma over the trade group’s pre-election advertising campaign that attacks him for pursuing a policy that insists Medicare does not pay more for prescription drugs than the most favored nation award. Trump had attempted to strike a deal with the trade group in which he would drop this policy suit in exchange for cutting drug costs by drug companies and sending payment cards to Medicare beneficiaries. But the case exploded for fear the cards would be politicized – in fact, literally called “Trump Cards.”
The friction worsened as Trump grew increasingly angry with the rate at which a COVID vaccine was developed and approved. Last week, Trump hosted a summit to celebrate Operation Warp Speed. But the announcement came before the invitations were sent to key stakeholders. And when the day came, representatives for Pfizer and Moderna, another company that recently reported positive vaccine results, declined to show.
Trump’s anger was also directed at Hahn. For weeks, he questioned administration officials about why it was taking the FDA so long to give final vaccine approval and demanding that the White House keep up pressure on the commissioner to ” do its job, ”according to a source with direct knowledge of the president’s request.
The FDA has a rigorous and well-established review process for vaccine development that involves multiple stages of clinical trials and extensive data analysis by outside advisers. It was structured in this way precisely to instill confidence that the final assertion of a vaccine’s effectiveness is not colored by political or monetary considerations. But the process notably falls short of a president’s need for speed, praise or credit. And that, at this point, seems to cause problems.
“Without Donald Trump’s personal leadership, we wouldn’t see a Pfizer vaccine – and hopefully next week a Moderna-approved vaccine,” reports the White House. tweeted in the afternoon.
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