There are few things uglier than a bully gone batshit. What America saw during the first presidential debate was mild compared to Donald Trump’s recent telephone conversation with his Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. What set the president raging was another attempt by the FDA to put science ahead of the president’s reelection campaign.
The FDA, a big part of the department Secretary Azar is supposed to control, wanted to publish more detailed standards for approval for public distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The standards all but guarantee that there will be no vaccine approved before Election Day.
Two hours after dressing Azar down, Trump all but guaranteed there would be no approval for a new FDA vaccine standard. “That has to be approved by the White House. We may,” he said, “or may not approve it.” So far, he hasn’t, and the CDC has offered no further guidelines for manufacturers.
Poor Azar, his HHS team had approved the FDA action convinced it couldn’t possibly be controversial – 1) the new standards were scientifically sound 2) they created no problems for industry and 3) most important – they offered reassurance to an increasingly skeptical public that any vaccine that was approved would be genuinely safe and effective.
The intended reassurance of a politics-free process has gone up in smoke, leaving behind a cloud of doubt which, public health experts fear could drive Americans away from vaccination.
Which would be the worst thing for America, because, as our guest today, Peter Pitts, President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest told the Miami Herald, “Having a vaccine that nobody uses is a public health failure.”
Peter Pitts is President and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Prior to founding CMPI, Pitts was a Senior Fellow for healthcare studies at the Pacific Research Institute.
From 2002-2004 Peter was FDA’s Associate Commissioner for External Relations, serving as senior communications and policy adviser to the Commissioner. He supervised FDA’s Office of Public Affairs, Office of the Ombudsman, Office of Special Health Issues, Office of Executive Secretariat, and Advisory Committee Oversight and Management. He served on the agency’s obesity working group and counterfeit drug taskforce.
He has served as an adjunct professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Butler University.
Mr. Pitts also currently serves as a Visiting Professor at University of Paris School of Medicine.