In an interview with WMAL radio show Wednesday morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appeared to confirm that the Trump administration learned of Pfizer’s successful COVID-19 vaccine trial from press coverage not from company officials directly. “I…learned of this from media reports on Monday morning,” Azar told “Mornings on the Mall” program on November 11. “There certainly was a gap in communications, let’s say.”
Azar, whose agency is a lead government partner in Operation Warp Speed, the president’s ambitious program to manufacture and distribute 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by early next year, found out about Pfizer’s results after Joe Biden was notified. “Last night, my public health advisors were informed of this excellent news,” Team Biden said in a statement Monday morning. “I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.” The press-ordained president-elect who is promising to unite Americans, however, did not credit the current president or his administration for their efforts.
President Trump is expressing (justified) outrage that Pfizer slow-walked news about their Phase 3 trial until after Election Day. “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,” Trump tweeted November 9. “Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!”
Pfizer, after discussion with the FDA sometime in October, “elected to drop the 32-case interim analysis and conduct the first interim analysis at a minimum of 62 cases,” the company disclosed this week. (It’s worth noting that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a frequent cable news guest and op-ed columnist who uses his platform to stoke unnecessary fear about COVID-19, is the former head of the FDA and a Pfizer board member.)
A separate news article reported that Pfizer’s lab placed test samples in “storage” and resumed testing last Wednesday—the day after Election Day. “It also means that if Pfizer had held to the original plan, the data would likely have been available in October,” an industry journal confirmed after Pfizer’s official announcement.
The pharmaceutical company, whose employees donated four times as much to Joe Biden than to Donald Trump, also attempted to distance itself from Operation Warp Speed in early press reports. A spokeswoman had to clarify comments made by Pfizer’s head of vaccine development to the New York Times that the company “was never a part of Warp Speed.”
On the same day Pfizer announced its successful vaccine trial, CEO Albert Bourla sold 60 percent of his personal stock at $41.94 per share for a total of $5.6 million; the company’s stock hit a one-year high of $41.99 per share shortly after the news broke Monday.