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FDA Posts COVID Vaccine Guidance Amid White House Pushback

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday signaled its resistance to President Donald J. Trump’s drive for an accelerated clearance of a COVID-19 vaccine, while medical and trade associations called for a thorough review of any such product before approval.

The FDA took the unusual step of posting background materials much earlier than usual for its planned October 22 advisory committee meeting on potential vaccines for COVID-19. The FDA also on Tuesday afternoon released a new guidance document, expanding on a previous set of recommendations the agency released in June.

In the new guidance document, FDA officials outline what will be required for even a limited clearance, known as an emergency use authorization (EUA), for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Data from Phase 3 studies should include a median follow-up duration of at least two months after completion of the full vaccination regimen to help provide adequate information to assess a vaccine’s benefit-risk profile,” the FDA said in the document.

FDA staff have emphasized the higher bar that drugmakers and regulators face in considering approval of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccines are complex biological products, and an EUA for a COVID-19 vaccine may allow for rapid and widespread deployment for administration of the vaccine to millions of individuals, including healthy people,” the agency staff said in the briefing documents.

The FDA’s briefing document for the October 22 meeting appears to be markedly at odds with the claim Trump made in a video Monday night, in which he told the American public that “vaccines are coming momentarily.”

Trump, who is in a tightly contested presidential race against Democratic candidate Joe Biden, has repeatedly made claims of the potential arrival of COVID vaccines that are at odds with timelines offered with guarded optimism by experts in infectious diseases.

But based on these new guidelines from the FDA, it appears that the White House may now endorse the FDA’s stance, according to a Wall Street Journal report based on “people familiar with the matter.”

The publication reports that the White House, which has yet to officially comment, “endorsed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s plans for assessing whether a Covid-19 vaccine should be given widely, casting aside objections to requirements that would likely mean a shot won’t be cleared until after Election Day, people familiar with the matter said.”

Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Monday night said during a virtual appearance at the twenty-first annual New Yorker Festival that there could be evidence as early as November or December about whether one of the vaccines now in testing will work out. He declared himself to have “cautious optimism” about potential rollout of vaccines as early as late 2020 or early 2021.


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