Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he believes federal regulators will allow a coronavirus vaccine to be distributed this fall only if it’s based on science and “hard data,” a sharp veer from President Donald Trump’s own rosy predictions about the vaccine and his administration’s efforts to speed up development before the election.
Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, made the assessment to NBC News on Thursday, days after the CDC issued a letter telling states to prepare for “large-scale” distribution of a vaccine by Nov. 1 — just two days before the Election Day.
Fauci has previously warned against rushing a vaccine and has said that he anticipates one could be developed by the end of the year. Earlier on Thursday, the infectious diseases expert told CNN’s Jim Sciutto that it was “conceivable” but “not likely” that a vaccine would be ready by October, suggesting that November or December were his predictions but that they were “all guesstimates.”
The CDC’s announcement of a sped up timeline comes amid growing concerns that President Trump’s efforts to pressure the Federal Drug Administration to hurriedly push approval of a vaccine in time for Election Day may yield a COVID-19 shot that has not been properly vetted for safe use. TPM reported exclusively on Thursday night that some major states have already determined they won’t distribute the vaccine if state public health officials think the development has been rushed by Trump or hasn’t undergone proper vetting by the federal government.
When NBC News asked if Fauci worried the process had become too political, he said that while there may be perception of external influence he said he doesn’t see it “practically playing out.”
FDA regulators and experts at the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board are “very, very committed to making sure that science prevails and not politics,” Fauci said.