US President Donald Trump sought to take full credit for Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech's announcement that their COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, and accused Pfizer of withholding the announcement until after the election.
Trump asserted that the news of the vaccine's potential efficacy was delayed until after voters hit the polls, in order to undermine his campaign. His allegations follow a flurry of claims of widespread voter fraud.
In a slew of accusatory tweets, Trump also said that Pfizer, which partnered with BioNTech, "didn't have the courage" to announce the development prior to the election.
"As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn't have the courage to do it before. Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!”
"The @US_FDA and the Democrats didn't want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election, so instead it came out five days later – As I've said all along!," he also tweeted on Tuesday.
However, Pfizer itself only learned of the results on Sunday, and the US Food and Drug Administration was not involved in Pfizer's decision to announce its early results.
Every vaccine study, such as the one conducted on Pfizer's vaccine, is also overseen by an independent "data and safety monitoring board," consisting of scientists and statisticians who have no ties to the vaccine makers.
'Nothing to do with politics'
John Burkardt, the senior vice president of drug safety research and development at Pfizer, defended the timing of the announcement and said on Monday that it was not related in any way to the presidential election. Meanwhile, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNN that the timing had nothing to do with politics.
Pfizer executives also hit back at suggestions that the breakthrough was a result of a public-private partnership to develop a vaccine.
The manufacturer also did not accept government cash to develop, test or expand manufacturing capacity under the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative to more swiftly find a vaccine and treatments for the virus.
"Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing costs have been entirely self-funded,” Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said Monday. "We decided to self-fund our efforts so we could move as fast as possible.”
"President Trump told us for some time we would be getting a Vaccine by the end of the year and people laughed at him, and here we are with Pfizer getting FDA approval by the end of this month. He was right.” @MariaBartiromo," Trump additionally tweeted on Tuesday.
However, Trump's suggestion, quoting Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, that he was the only one to say a vaccine could be available by the end of the year is incorrect. Health experts have said a vaccine could potenitally be available by the end of the year, although te outcome was and is not certain.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disese expert, had previously said that he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine would be ready by late 2020 or early 2021.
Republicans praise Trump
Several leading Republicans also chimed in to echo Trump's accusations and praise him for Pfizer's announcement.
"Democrats continue to pretend like President Trump hasn't been the one who delivered us this vaccine. The least they can do is celebrate that the FACT that his administration has given us a way to beat COVID-19, but no, just hate from the left," tweeted Texas Congressman-elect Ronny Jackson.
"HUGE NEWS: Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump, @pfizer announced its Coronavirus Vaccine trial is EFFECTIVE, preventing infection in 90% of its volunteers," Vice President Mike Pence tweeted.
The vaccine, developed by German biotech company BioNTech and Pfizer, could be on track for approval by European and regulators by the end of this year. In mid-November, the manufacturers plan to apply for emergency-use approval in the US.
Read more: Global markets get coronavirus vaccine boost
The announcement that Phase III trials of the vaccine suggested it was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, marked the first release of successful data from a large-scale trial of vaccines.
Both manufacturers said they could supply up to 50 million doses of the vaccine globally this year and up to 1.3 billion next year if it receives approval.
lc/rt (AP, AFP)