Pfizer CEO Says Vaccine Process Won’t Be Swayed by Politics

Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said that the company’s pursuit of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus wouldn’t be affected by political pressure, as concerns increase that the rush to find a shot is being influenced by the U.S. presidential election.

In a letter posted on the drugmaker’swebsite on Thursday, Bourla said, “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.”

Bourla has said Pfizer could have conclusive data on the effectiveness of its vaccine, which it is developing with German partner BioNTech SE, ready to submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of October. He said in the letter Thursday that he hopes to have one hundred million doses delivered by the end of the year.

President Donald Trump has seized on that timeline to suggest that a vaccine could be widely available to Americans by Election Day on Nov. 3. The president’s political opponents and some public-health experts have questioned that pace. Last week, a group of scientists sent a letter to Pfizerurging the company to wait until at least late November before seeking emergency-use authorization from the FDA.

In his letter, Bourla appeared to push back on both camps.

“We are moving at the speed of science,” he wrote. “We would never succumb to political pressure. 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.”

Pfizer shares were down 1.4% at $36.19 at 3:43 p.m. in New York.

The way Pfizer and BioNtech have designed their trial may allow them to find whether their shot works before other vaccine front-runners, such as Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc. Pfizer and BioNTech plan an initial look at their data after 32 coronavirus infections have accumulated in their 44,000-person Phase III trial.

Trump has suggested he has a direct through-line to Pfizer executives, urging them to bring to market a shot as quickly as possible.

“I’ll tell you what. I spoke to a gentleman today from Pfizer. I speak to all of these guys, these are great people, and they’re coming up with things that are phenomenal,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Last month, Pfizer joined other vaccine makers in a pledge to submit applications with the FDA when the inoculations have demonstrated safety and efficacy in large, late-stage clinical trials. The letter followed concerns that Trump was pushing the regulator to cut corners to get a vaccine to market before the election.

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