A controversy over the coronavirus vaccine has emerged even though it isn’t ready yet, and Bill Gates is in the thick of it. The billionaire philanthropist believes the Food and Drug Administration has lost credibility. Meanwhile, former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb is concerned about the latest controversy over the coronavirus vaccine that’s been raised as a result of Bill Gates’ comments.
The Microsoft co-founder told Bloomberg that he's not sure whether the FDA can even be trusted with a vaccine for the coronavirus. Bill Gates' comment is fanning the flames of one already-existing controversy over the coronavirus vaccine - whether it will be safe when it is released.
He believes the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are bowing to pressure from the Trump administration. He gave the example of comments from FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who he said exaggerated the positive results from using blood plasma to treat COVID-19 but then backtracked the very next day.
Gates described Hahn's comments about plasma as "completely bungled," adding that "when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails." He said the FDA and the CDC should no longer be viewed among the best regulators in the world.
A key controversy over the coronavirus vaccine is whether it will be safe despite efforts to develop it in record time for vaccines, and Bill Gates called this issue into further question. The FDA will have to approve the COVID-19 vaccine before it will become available to the general public. If people don't have any confidence in the FDA, they won't trust the agency to ensure that the vaccine is safe before it is released.
A CBS News poll already showed that most Americans are worried that development of the vaccine is being rushed. A Gallup poll showed that one-third are planning on not getting vaccinated for COVID-19. President Donald Trump has said that there will be a vaccine sometime in October, so Gates appears to be concerned that he will pressure the FDA into approving a vaccine in time for the election, whether it's safe and ready for release or not.
Drug companies pledge safety
There is another factor in the development of the coronavirus vaccine, and that's the drug companies that are working on vaccine candidates. Nine pharmaceutical companies that are working on COVID-19 vaccines have pledged to put ethics and science first and to prioritize safety over speed in the development of their vaccine candidates.
The vaccines will be submitted for emergency approval, and the FDA has said that vaccine makers will have to meet a higher standard than usual for that emergency authorization. Gates doesn't expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be available by October, although he said there is one company that could theoretically have one ready that, and that is Pfizer.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb spoke out against Bill Gates' comments about the FDA, saying they are worsening the controversy over the coronavirus vaccine. He told CNBC's Squawk Box that he is concerned that Gates' continued criticism of the FDA and CDC will further decrease Americans' trust in a COVID-19 vaccine.
He believes the pandemic has been "plagued" by "imprecise" statements. In response to a question about Gates' comment about trust in the FDA, he said "people who are in public health positions… need to be very careful about how they communicate about these things because they're very complex, and they can't be summed up, frankly, in a soundbite."
"So when you put out a soundbite that could potentially erode confidence, it does erode confidence," he explained.
He admitted that there have been "some missteps by agencies and by political officials," but he believes that just confuses things further. However, he trusts that the FDA will not allow its decisions to be influenced by politics.