Did Pfizer Sit on Vaccine News Until After the Election?

Drug company Pfizer announced Monday that they have completed an analysis of its COVID-19 vaccine trial, and it looks like we have a winner on our hands. According to Pfizer, the vaccine has proven to be more than 90% effective in keeping trial volunteers safe from the virus, meaning we could only be a few shorts months away from putting this pandemic behind us for good. The news, coming as it does after the single worst week of surging U.S. infections nationally, can only be heralded as a breath of fresh air and a ray of hope.

But is there not something vaguely suspicious about the timing?

“This is a historical moment,” Pfizer researcher Kathrin Jansen told The New York Times. “This was a devastating situation, a pandemic, and we have embarked on a path and a goal that nobody ever has achieved — to come up with a vaccine within a year.”

We certainly can’t argue with any of that, but we just can’t help but wonder if this announcement couldn’t have been made…oh, say…a week ago? Did Pfizer really go straight to the media after completing their analysis? Or did they sit on this revelation until after the election, knowing that the development of an effective vaccine could be just the thing to put President Trump over the top in Tuesday’s vote?

Now, there is a third possibility. Pfizer may have indeed waited to make this announcement – not to avoid helping Trump but to avoid a wave of suspicion and scrutiny that would inevitably accompany a “day before the election” announcement. That we could halfway understand – especially when Democrats like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have already been out there casting doubts on the validity of any vaccine the Trump administration had anything to do with. Still, there’s something distasteful about the idea that this company may have kept this announcement under cover until after the election, no matter what their professed reasoning might be.

Let’s be clear: We have no information that this is the case. Maybe Pfizer made the announcement just as soon as they felt confident in doing so.

But then, there’s this passage from the Times story to consider: “Dr. Jansen said that because the trial is continuing, an independent board reviewing the data has not told her or other company executives other details, such as how many of the people developed mild versus more severe forms of Covid-19 — crucial information that the F.D.A. has said it will need to evaluate any coronavirus vaccine.”

The trial is continuing and Pfizer does not have enough information to go to the FDA for approval yet? Well, that tells us that this announcement is, if not premature, definitely somewhat flimsy in its necessity. It also tells us that Pfizer may have had more flexibility in the timing than they are likely comfortable in admitting.


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