The head of vaccine research at Pfizer has distanced the development of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine from the White House’s Operation Warp Speed.
Launched earlier this year, Operation Warp Speed was created with the goal of supporting the production and delivery of 300 million doses of vaccine, with the first doses of these vaccines expected to be available in January 2021.
Pfizer Inc. announced on Monday that its vaccine, which is being developed in collaboration with BioNTech, is “more than 90 percent effective,” according to data from previous studies that must undergo rigorous testing before regulatory approval can be granted.
Trump welcomed Pfizer’s announcement with the branding “SEARCH GREAT NEWS!”, as did Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
GREAT NEWS: Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump, @pfizer announced that its coronavirus vaccine trial is EFFECTIVE and prevents infection in 90% of its volunteers.
– Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) November 9, 2020
While government officials welcomed the progress of the program, Kathrin Jansen, the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, tried to distance herself from them.
She told the New York Times: “We have never taken money from the U.S. government or anyone else.
Jansen also told the New York Times that Pfizer was “never part” of Operation Warp Speed.
However, in a press release issued by Pfizer in July, it was announced that, in agreement with Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government would receive 100 million doses of the vaccine – subject to FDA approval – for $1.95 billion, with the option to purchase up to 500 million more.
The goal was to distribute these doses free of charge.
“The addition of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech to Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio increases the chances that we will have a safe, effective vaccine by the end of this year,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar at the time of the announcement.
A Pfizer spokesperson told Washington Newsday that although Pfizer’s vaccine is tied to Operation Warp speed under the agreement, the company has never drawn on government funding for its research and development.
“Pfizer has never taken advantage of federal research and development funding,” Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C., based company, told Washington Newsday.
After the update on the effectiveness of the vaccine, Pence twittered: “Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump, @pfizer announced that its coronavirus vaccine trial is EFFECTIVE and prevents infection in 90% of its volunteers”.
His tweet did not mention Operation Warp Speed.
Trump had tweeted: “SHARE MARKET REVENUES, VACCINE SOON TO COME. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. such great news!”
He then shared a Reuters report on Pfizer and BioNTECH, saying their vaccine was “more than 90% effective.
Joe Biden was not only greeted by Trump and Pence, but also commented positively on the Pfizer update.
“I congratulate the brilliant men and women who have contributed to this breakthrough and give us so much hope,” said Biden in a statement posted on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition Twitter account.
Statement from President-Elect Biden on Pfizer’s vaccine progress: pic.twitter.com/eOiLZnqO8N
– Biden-Harris Presidential Transition (@Transition46) November 9, 2020
However, she dampened the excitement about the news somewhat, insisting that the end of the fight against COVID-19 was still “months away”.
“That’s why the CDC chief warned this fall that a mask remains a more effective weapon against this virus than the vaccine for the foreseeable future,” Biden added in his statement.
“Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact”.
The scientific community has also urged caution in interpreting the announcement, as no data has been provided to verify or verify the company’s claims.
Washington Newsday has contacted the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for comments.
Update 11/09/2020: This page