HHS Secretary Claims November 1 Coronavirus Vaccine Deadline “Has Nothing to Do with Elections”

Speaking earlier this morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar claimed that the November 1 deadline imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for states to set up distribution sites for the coronavirus vaccine “has nothing to do with elections,” which take place on November 3. Azar said “career people,” namely Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and other staff made the decision.

“It has nothing to do with elections. This has to do with delivering safe, effective vaccines to the American people as quickly as possible and saving people’s lives,” Azar told CBS as allegations that the White House is pressuring regulators in a bid to sway the election continue to swirl. “Whether it’s Oct. 15, whether it’s Nov. 1, whether it’s Nov 15, it’s all about saving lives but meeting the FDA standards of safety and efficacy.”

He added: “Nobody involved in this process is ever going to compromise on making sure that a product someone puts in their body is safe and effective.”

You can watch Azar’s interview below.

The United States has accelerated the development of a coronavirus vaccine as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative and has invested billions of dollars in six possible vaccine candidates.

In an op-ed published yesterday, Azar and Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, said their strategy to speed up vaccine development is working.

The strategy behind OWS was recently described in a perspective published in The New England Journal of Medicine,” they wrote. “In brief, the strategy aims to accelerate the timeline and maximize the probability of delivering a safe and effective vaccine by carefully selecting scientifically sound and promising candidates, building a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates to mitigate risk of technical failure, providing unprecedented levels of support for clinical trials, and engaging simultaneously in industrial-scale manufacturing “at risk”— i.e., manufacturing the vaccine candidates while still conducting the clinical trials.

“Each of these elements of the strategy makes OWS a unique public-private partnership and an unprecedented alliance of scientific and industrial expertise. This partnership will substantially shorten the timeline needed to bring a vaccine to the American people and, through transparent sharing of all safety and efficacy data with the scientific community, ensure that FDA’s assessment meets the same standards as those applied for any other vaccine, without undue pressure or influence.”