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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Science has won out over politics in the race for a coronavirus vaccine — for now.

Why it matters: The Food and Drug Administration's end run around the White House on vaccine guidance earlier this week may end up boosting public confidence, which is very important in light of widespread vaccine skepticism.

Driving the news: The FDA on Wednesday posted vaccine guidance that requires drugmakers to monitor clinical trial participants for a median of two months after they receive their final dose.

  • The White House had previously been blocking the guidance, as the NYT reported. But the FDA instead included the language in a briefing document released ahead of an upcoming advisory committee meeting. The guidance itself was then cleared and released shortly after.
  • President Trump publicly expressed his unhappiness with the move. "New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job! @SteveFDA," he tweeted on Wednesday evening.

"What you got yesterday was basically a 'f--- you' tweet from the president to the agency," said a senior administration official, who added that FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn had knowingly put his job at risk by working around the White House.

Backdrop: The FDA's emergency authorization of convalescent plasma over the summer, despite little evidence of the treatment's effectiveness, sparked questions of whether the agency was being guided by science, or by Trump's political interests.

  • But in this case, the agency has put to bed the politicization question after effectively bumping any vaccine authorization to after the election.

Between the lines: The fact that the drug industry took the FDA's side probably didn't hurt its effort.

  • “PhRMA supports any efforts by FDA to provide clarifying guidance and we have engaged with the agency to support bringing greater transparency to the review process for COVID-19 vaccines," PhRMA said in a statement on Tuesday. "We welcome the agency’s efforts to instill confidence in the rigorous safety of these potential vaccines."

The bottom line: Getting a coronavirus vaccine is only the first step back to normal. Even more important is getting people to take it, which may be more likely thanks to the FDA's maneuvering.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Jan 14, 2021 - Health

WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins

Health workers at a cordoned-off section of the international airport in Wuhan, China, as the World Health Organization team arrives on Thursday. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China, Thursday ahead of their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Dominic Dwyer, a Sydney virologist based who's among the scientists on the visit, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they don't expect to find a "patient zero." "But we may have a much better indication of whether the virus truly started in Wuhan," he said.

Jan 14, 2021 - Health

Coronavirus deaths climbing while country deals with political unrest

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus deaths continue to reach tragic heights while the country grapples with a vaccine rollout, an impeachment and ongoing civil unrest.