Oct 1, 2020 - Health

Pfizer CEO: COVID-19 vaccine development is "moving at the speed of science"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourl speaking in New York City in 2019.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourl speaking in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told employees in a letter Thursday that he is disappointed his company's coronavirus vaccine was politicized during this week’s presidential debate, adding that campaign rhetoric about the outbreak and vaccine development is “undercutting public confidence," according to AP and CNBC.

Why it matters: President Trump accused pharmaceutical companies of slowing their COVID-19 vaccine development to hurt him politically at Tuesday's debate, claiming the U.S. is "weeks away from a vaccine," per Stat News.

Context: “I’ve spoken to Pfizer, I’ve spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others," Trump said during the debate, per AP. "They can go faster than that by a lot. It’s become very political."

What they're saying: Bourla assured Pfizer employees that the company is developing its vaccine “at the speed of science,” rather than holding to a political timeline.

  • “Once more, I was disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts,” he wrote.
  • “In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay. Neither of those options are acceptable to me.”
  • “The only pressure we feel — and it weighs heavy — are the billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of government officials that are depending on us."

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said Wednesday that his company's coronavirus vaccine won't be available for widespread distribution until at least spring 2021.

The big picture: Lack of trust in a possible coronavirus vaccine has become a major problem, Axios' Sam Baker reports.

  • 79% of respondents to a new Stat/Harris Poll survey said they would worry about a vaccine's safety if it's approved quickly, and 75% said they worry about politics — rather than science — driving the process.
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