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Gottlieb’s Pfizer Announces $1.95 Billion Deal with Feds for COVID-19 Vaccine

One would be hard-pressed to find a more influential figure in the ongoing coronavirus crisis than Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former chief of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In late March, Gottlieb, now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, authored a lengthy report detailing how the country could get back to normal after the 15-day “Flatten the Curve/Stop the Spread” order. (Remember that?)

“A Road Map to Reopening” established the phased-in process most public officials are following as America struggles to recapture the daily life we abruptly abandoned more than four months ago. Much of the report fixated on the need to develop a widely-available vaccine to fight COVID-19; only then, according to Gottlieb, could the country return to some sense of “normal.”

The media, Democratic and Republican governors, and the White House have embraced Gottlieb’s report as the gold standard. Trump’s ex-FDA commissioner is a fixture on CNBC and the Sunday morning talk shows, where he often touts the need for a vaccine. “Life’s never going to be perfectly normal until we get to a vaccine,” he said March 22 on “Face the Nation.”

It looks like Gottlieb is getting his wish. On Wednesday morning, the federal government announced plans to purchase and distribute 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine; this is the first step in fulfilling the goal of “Operation Warp Speed,” a public-private partnership committed to delivering 300 million doses of a “safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.”

The initial order, paid for by the U.S. government but nonetheless advertised as “free” to Americans, will cost $1.95 billion.

In a joint statement, Pfizer and BioNTech, the two companies providing the vaccines, confirmed that two trial vaccines have received fast-track approval from the FDA; pending further testing, the companies will seek emergency regulatory approval “as early as October.” The companies plan to have 1.3 billion vaccines available by the end of 2021. Gottlieb should be thrilled.

But there is more than one reason why Gottlieb should cheer this news: He sits on the board of directors for Pfizer. Less than three months after resigning his post at the FDA in April 2019, Gottlieb was elected to Pfizer’s board. (The doctor also has joined the boards of Illumina, Tempus, and Aetion, all companies in the health care sector.)

Just hours before the Pfizer vaccine news became public, Gottlieb appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to explain that any vaccine will need to be administered on an annual basis.

“With this coronavirus, it seems more like a seasonal coronavirus,” Gottlieb said. “With respect to a vaccine, it means you’re going to need a seasonal vaccine in all likelihood this will become like the flu vaccine where you’ll get it in advance of every coronavirus season.”

Neither Gottlieb nor CNBC disclosed to viewers that Gottlieb is a Pfizer board member.

Pfizer’s stock price rose 4 percent on Wednesday.

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House Republicans Push to Oust Liz Cheney as Republican Conference Chair

In recent days, there has been an all-out revolt against Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) by Republican members of the House of Representatives, who are now openly calling for her to step down as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, as reported by Breitbart.

The conflict had been growing due to Cheney’s past statements in support of Dr. Anthony Fauci and demanding that people wear masks, in contradiction of President Donald Trump’s suggestions that masks remain voluntary rather than forced. But tensions came to a head in recent days after Cheney spearheaded an effort to have Congress override President Trump’s intentions of withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.

After Cheney introduced a measure to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that explicitly prohibited the president from withdrawing forces from the Middle East, conservative Republicans led by the House Freedom Caucus began an open revolt against Cheney.

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on Twitter that “Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda,” and that “Liz Cheney should step down or be removed” since “House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair.” He followed up with another tweet declaring that “the GOP Conference will be stronger if Liz Cheney is no longer leading it.”

Other prominent conservatives who have attacked Cheney include House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). She has also faced criticism from former Freedom Caucus Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas), over her support of Dr. Anthony Fauci – a federal bureaucrat who has clashed with President Trump in the media on numerous occasions over the coronavirus. She has also faced backlash for her declaration on Twitter that “real men wear masks,” with a picture of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a mask.

The conflict has already spread outside the House, with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declaring that Cheney “wants to stay forever” in foreign wars, and is actively “leading the fight to stop [President Trump] from leaving.” President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also joined in the fray by remarking that “we already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another,” and that “we also don’t need the endless wars she advocates for.”