The chief executive officers of nine pharmaceutical companies – AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, Merck and Sanofi – have pledged to uphold scientific standards as their firms work to develop coronavirus vaccines.
In a letter released Tuesday, the CEOs said they “want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.”
The unusual public statement comes amid growing concerns that President Trump may attempt to rush vaccines or treatments for the coronavirus in order to strengthen his hand in the fall election. The Trump administration has rolled out “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the development and manufacture of vaccines, and the president said over the weekend that a vaccine could be ready by October – a claim that has been questioned by federal health officials.
“It’s unprecedented in my experience that industry would do something like this,” Ira Loss of Washington Analysis, which monitors drug regulations and legislation for investors, told Stat. “But we’ve experienced unprecedented events since the beginning of Covid-19, starting with the FDA, where the commissioner has proven to be malleable, to be kind, at the foot of the president.”
Loss added that drugmakers are concerned about the public losing faith in their products. “The companies are aware that, on a good day, they have trouble selling vaccines to 25% of the country that is suspicious about safety,” he said. “So the last thing they need is to have Trump pull a stunt and push through a vaccine ahead of its time. In many ways, the industry is doing a defensive move to ensure they’re not going to have to defend any approval because the president is doing a dance.”