In a Monday op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Dr. Paul A. Offit, both professors at the University of Pennsylvania, argue that Donald Trump could fast-track an unproven coronavirus vaccine as part of a campaign stunt to boost his chances of reelection.
“Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched,” the op-ed reads.
“In a desperate search for a political boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.”
Emanuel and Offit note that there are currently 123 candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development. However, just 10 have moved to human trials, and many have yet to be tested on animals — a prerequisite for human testing. According to the pair, researchers expect that it will take approximately eight to 12 more months to determine which candidates are effective and safe.
Although Emanuel and Offit claim that volunteer recruitment could be rapid enough to allow for a vaccine before November, they also highlight the possibility of Trump pushing out a vaccine before its efficacy and safety are known.
“As the White House did with its relentless promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a cure, it would badger the F.D.A. to permit use of the vaccine.”
From here, Emanuel and Offit predict that big drug companies would apply their own pressure. Notably, such companies are allegedly already aiming to begin manufacturing vaccines before the research has supported their effectiveness. If Trump succeeds in fast-tracking a vaccine before November, the pair argue he would be able to declare victory in a news conference — a triumph, they claim, would be short-lived.
“Giving people a false sense of being protected will most likely lead to serious outbreaks of the disease as people reduce their compliance with physical distancing and other public health measures.”
According to CNN, Trump’s push for a vaccine — dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” — has experts worried. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, claims that the focus on quick production and vaccine testing is not an unreasonable approach. However, the way the approach is being communicated to the public, Hotez said, is causing “chaos and confusion” and fueling the anti-vaccine movement that has capitalized on the pandemic, as reported by The Guardian.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, previously predicted that approximately 100,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna would be ready by the end of the year if it’s proven effective and safe in clinical trials.