THE WORLD’S 7.5bn people want a vaccine for covid-19 as soon as possible. One person needs it by November 3rd. As President Donald Trump limps towards election day, he wants to report real medical progress against the disease. Earlier this year it seemed possible that one or two pharmaceutical firms might be able to obtain some sort of limited approval by the time Americans cast their ballots. That may still be possible. It is certainly desirable, given the pandemic’s toll on lives and livelihoods. But on September 8th, in an unprecedented move, nine global drugmakers, including AstraZeneca, GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi, announced a pledge to uphold scientific and ethical standards in the search for a coronavirus vaccine.
The message is intended to reassure the public that the companies will not bow to mounting political pressure from the White House to rush through a vaccine without the proper safety and efficacy tests. But it is also a rebuke to the president, who has been politicising the drug-approval process—and eroding public confidence in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This could undermine trust in any vaccine that arrives, as sooner or later one almost certainly will.
Mr Trump has already successfully harried the FDA to authorise drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, with no scientific evidence for their...
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