The heads of Pfizer and Moderna turned down an invitation to appear at Tuesday's White House 'Vaccine Summit,' after President Donald Trump charged them with holding back good COVID-19 vaccine news until after the November 3 election.
STAT reported Monday that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel had been invited to appear in Washington and declined.
A senior administration official explained that in the early planning stages of the Tuesday event they wanted to include the pharmaceutical heads, but decided Dr. Peter Marks, the leader of the Food and Drug Administration's biologics center, would be a better guest.
According to the official, Marks could not appear at the same event as the company CEOs while their vaccines are under review.
'We were in discussions with them in the planning process for participation, ultimately the determination was when we had Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA participating, there was a change in direction in light of the fact that we have the regulator participating in the event, it was more appropriate not to have one or more vaccine companies with pending applications before the FDA also participating in that event,' the senior administration official said.
The president is expected to take credit for the quick development of vaccines through Operation Warp Speed at the summit, as well as pressure the FDA to quickly approve an emergency use authorization for both companies' products.
The snub is predictable, as Trump has especially been at odds with Pfizer after executive Kathrin Jansen, the head of vaccine research and development, said on November 10 that this particular vaccine wasn't part of Operation Warp Speed.
Pfizer didn't take federal dollars for development of the vaccine, but signed on to sell $1.95 billion of it to the U.S. government, thus ensuring there would be a marketplace.
Bourla defended the company's decision not to take federal funds saying that Pfizer wanted to 'liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy' and 'keep Pfizer out of politics.'
But on November 9 - six days after the presidential election and two days after President-elect Joe Biden was deemed the winner - Pfizer announced the findings that the company's vaccine was 95 per cent effective against COVID-19.
Trump was incensed.
'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!' Trump tweeted that night. '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!'
The Washington Post reported on November 11 that Trump blamed the 'medical deep state' and the Food and Drug Administration for the post-election announcement.
Other major companies will send representatives to the Tuesday White House summit.
They include FedEx, UPS, CVS, Walgreens and McKesson, STAT reported.
Later on a call, the White House said Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Bill Lee of Tennessee, Greg Abbott of Texas and John Bel Edwards of Louisiana would participate in a panel.
Only Edwards is a Democrat and he leads a red state.
Dr. Anthony Fauci will be missing the White House event due to a 'scheduling conflict.'
A handout from the White House showed that there would be a focus on vaccine distribution.
Biden, in remarks last week, suggested the Operation Warp Speed plan wasn't fully developed.
'There is no detailed plan that we've seen anyway as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe into somebody's arm,' Biden said.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said Sunday he had plans to meet with Biden this week.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.