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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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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 Dec 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy

Alex Azar. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool via Getty

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a resignation letter delivered to President Trump this week that the "actions and rhetoric" after the election and especially during last week's siege on the Capitol "threaten to tarnish" the outgoing administration's legacy, Axios confirmed Friday.

Between the lines: Azar is leaving the same day President-elect Joe Biden takes office, so his resignation effectively changes nothing. But he joins a list of other top Trump aides and officials who have condemned the president after last week's deadly riot.

Jan 16, 2021 - Health

CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic

Robert Redfield. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Outgoing CDC director Robert Redfield told NPR on Friday that he was proud of the agency's response to the coronavirus pandemic and that he disagreed with his incoming successor's conclusion that the "gold standard for the nation's public health — has been tarnished."

Why it matters: The CDC has faced sharp criticism throughout its nearly year-long response to the coronavirus pandemic over several issues, including some of its messaging and guidance, which has been described as inconsistent and confusing.