Nate Silver claimed “liberal public health elites” pressured Pfizer to delay fast-track approval of its COVID-19 vaccine until after the 2020 presidential election — thus denying then-President Donald Trump a political win before voters headed to the polls.
The number-crunching data journalist reacted to an article by Politico which cited a House report that claimed the Trump administration sought to expedite approvals for both vaccines and “unproven treatments” for COVID-19.
“‘Trump pushed for vaccine approvals too fast’ is the worst possible critique of the Trump administration’s COVID policy,” Silver, the founder of the Disney-owned FiveThirtyEight political news and analysis web site, tweeted.
“That probably saved a lot of lives. If anything approval should have been faster.”
In a subsequent tweet, Silver wrote that “liberal public health elites” pushed Pfizer to “change its original protocols” that govern its authorization of vaccines so that the decision would be put off until after Election Day two years ago.
Silver noted that Pfizer’s decision “had the convenient side-effect of delaying any vaccine announcement until after the election” and that the story “deserves more scrutiny.”
The FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief said that most public health officials “tend to be strong [Democratic] partisans” and that their push for Pfizer to take its time in announcing a vaccine “may have been politically motivated in whole or in part.”
“It’s a story that deserves more reporting and I’ve done some poking around myself,” Silver tweeted.
The Politico story that Silver linked to quotes several public health experts who criticized Pfizer for going too fast in seeking FDA authorization of its vaccine.
The pharmaceutical giant was under intense pressure by the Trump administration and its allies to announce the success of its vaccine at clinical trials before Nov. 3, 2020.
Six days after the election, Pfizer announced that its COVID vaccine was 90% effective.
According to House Democrats probing the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, White House officials demanded that the FDA authorize the use of an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, to treat COVID — even though there was no research to support its use.
Trump administration officials were also accused of pressuring the FDA to speed up its vaccine approval process in order to benefit the president politically. Trump officials have denied the claims.
Trump has said that “Operation Warp Speed,” the government initiative to develop the COVID vaccines, saved some 100 million American lives.
But he also lashed out at Pfizer, accusing the firm of playing “corrupt games” by timing the announcement of its vaccine in order to harm his re-election chances.
The company has denied delaying the results for political reasons.
Silver’s tweet suggesting that Trump’s suspicions of Pfizer could be justified raised eyebrows among some of his more than 3.5 million Twitter followers.
“This is the kind of take I’d expect to find on Truth Social,” one Twitter user wrote, referencing the social media site founded by Trump after he was kicked off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms in the wake of the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021.
One Twitter user accused Silver of going “full MAGA conspiracy guy.”