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Nate Silver: 'Liberal public health elites' pushed back approval of COVID-19 vaccines to stop Trump

“If anything, approval should have been faster.”

August 25, 2022 2:43pm

Updated: August 26, 2022 11:58am

Pollster Nate Silver said pressure on Pfizer to delay fast-track approval of its COVID-19 vaccine until after the 2020 presidential election may have been politically motivated, as it denied then-President Donald Trump an important achievement he could tout to voters.

The founder of poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight was reacting to a Politico report that the Trump administration pressured the FDA to expedite authorizations of vaccines and “unproven treatments.”

“‘Trump pushed for vaccine approvals too fast’ is the worst possible critique of the Trump administration’s COVID policy,” Silver tweeted Wednesday evening.

“That probably saved a lot of lives. If anything, approval should have been faster.”

The famous data journalist also highlighted the late 2020 push from “liberal public health elites” that persuaded Pfizer to change its original protocols, which he noted “had the convenient side-effect of delaying any vaccine announcement until after the election.”

The opposition was spearheaded by Eric Topol, a cardiologist and public health expert with a significant Twitter following, who criticized Pfizer’s vaccine plans in op-eds and wrote to Pfizer’s CEO with 60 other experts in Sep. 2020 asking he not apply for an Emergency Use Authorization before late November, when there would be more safety data.

Pfizer also met with Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a member of then-candidate Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, who in June 2020 accused Trump of turning the vaccine’s release “into a campaign stunt” in a New York Times op-ed.

“Thousands of Americans have already died as Donald Trump has perpetually postponed effective public health interventions and made poor therapeutic recommendations. We must be on alert to prevent him from corrupting the rigorous assessment of safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in order to pull an October vaccine surprise to try to win re-election,” wrote Emanuel, who also signed Topol’s September letter.

In a reply, Silver doubled down on the notion politics may have been behind the delay, especially given how the people behind the push tended “to be strong Democratic partisans.”

“It’s a story that deserves more reporting and I’ve done some poking around myself,” Silver added.