White House cited drug companies’ objections in overruling FDA’s vaccine standards

“In a normal procedure, the industry wouldn’t be talking at all to the White House about this,” said John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “The White House again is blurring and muddying the waters on all of this.”

Trump has repeatedly telegraphed his eagerness to deliver a vaccine before Nov. 3, and one drug maker – Pfizer – has said it could still meet that timeline. During last week’s presidential debate, Trump went as far as to assert he’d been personally assured a coronavirus vaccine could be ready within weeks.

“I’ve spoken to Pfizer, I’ve spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to – Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and others,” he said, dismissing his own health officials’ projections that a vaccine likely won’t be available until the end of the year. “They can go faster than that by a lot.”

Trump’s claims prompted Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to publish a staff memo decrying the politicization of the vaccine race, though he also criticized those “who argue for delay” and stuck to his pre-November target – writing that “we are approaching our goal and despite not having any political considerations with our pre-announced date, we find ourselves in the crucible of the U.S. Presidential election.”

The appearance of political interference in the vaccine authorization process has long worried FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and other agency officials. They felt that setting more stringent standards and releasing them to the public would reassure Americans that science, not politics, was driving the process. Public trust in a vaccine is crucial to ensuring that enough people take the shots to create a broader herd immunity against Covid-19.

But in initial conversations about the new guidelines, current and former administration officials told POLITICO the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – which oversees all federal rulemaking – highlighted industry objections as among the key problems with the new standards.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later conveyed similar concerns to Hahn, two officials said.

Soon afterward, Trump during a Sept. 23 press briefing dismissed the FDA’s proposed new guidelines as “a political move more than anything else” and threatened to reject them, overriding the FDA’s career scientists in the process.

The agency has since submitted additional justifications to the White House for revising its standards and making them public. But White House officials over the past week continued to raise doubts about the need for more stringent guidelines, a senior administration official said, including questioning why the FDA would alter its criteria so late in the process and why a coronavirus vaccine should face tougher standards than other vaccines.

The FDA has countered that it previously signaled it would hold Covid-19 vaccines to a higher bar given the stakes of the pandemic and the need to rebuild public confidence that any emergency authorization will be grounded in science.

Yet there is little belief those arguments are swaying the White House. Trump’s fixation

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House of Representatives condemns coronavirus-related discrimination against Asians over objections from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to condemn all forms of anti-Asian sentiment related to the coronavirus over objections from Champaign County Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who dismissed the measure as another effort by Democrats to attack President Donald Trump.

“Everyone knows racism is wrong, but that’s not what this legislation is about,” said Jordan, who serves as top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said on the House floor.

Democrats who unanimously supported the measure argued it’s needed to fight racially motivated harassment and violence against Asians that stems from their being associated with the virus because of its origins in China. They cited prominent figures, including Trump, “resorting to anti-Asian rhetoric in speaking about the challenge of COVID-19,” as House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland described it.

In addition to condemning anti-Asian sentiment, the resolution calls on federal law enforcement to investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, to collect data on the rise of hate crimes incidents due to COVID-19, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

The measure passed the House of Representatives in a 243-164 vote. All of Ohio’s Democrats backed the measure, as did Republicans Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River and Steve Stivers of Columbus.

In a speech on the House of Representatives floor to support the resolution, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York cited a report from the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council that said there have been almost 2,600 cases of anti-Asian discrimination related to the coronavirus since March 19, including “the stabbings of an Asian-American father and his two young children, ages 2 and 6, in Texas.”

“Public health entities including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recognized that labeling a virus by geographic or ethnic terms unfairly stigmatizes certain communities and ultimately harms public health,” Nadler continued, noting that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar condemned the use of the phrase ‘Chinese virus’ in testimony before the Ways and Means Committee, stating that ‘ethnicity is not what causes the novel coronavirus.’”

Jordan accused the resolution’s proponents of participating in a “cancel culture” mob, noting that media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and CBS have referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese coronavirus,” “China’s coronavirus” and the “Wuhan virus.”

“In the new woke world, you can’t state the truth,” said Jordan, noting that the virus started in China, which lied to the world about the virus and its severity. He said those who are “politically correct” are stifling truthful statements about China’s role. He called the resolution and “where the left wants to take the country” dangerous for free speech rights.

“That’s how the mob operates today,” he said. “They’ll attack you if you don’t say it the way they want you to say it and this is dangerous. You can’t say China virus today. Tomorrow who knows what it will be?”

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Senate Committee approves three Ohio federal

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