President Donald Trump attacked the FDA on Saturday in his latest tweet, while stoking conspiracy theories about the existence of a "deep state." Trump claimed that the regulatory agency is slowing the testing of COVID-19 vaccines in order to hurt his chances of re-election.
"The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics," Trump tweeted. "Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!" Trump tagged the commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, in his tweet.
The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives! @SteveFDA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2020
Hahn has promised that the FDA — along with other scientific organizations around the world — is working hard to produce a COVID-19 vaccine as fast as possible without harming the millions of people who are going to take it. Last week, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks, told Reuters that he has not faced any political pressure to speed the process up. If he did, Marks said, he would resign from his job.
"I could not stand by and see something that was unsafe or ineffective that was being put through," Marks said. "You have to decide where your red line is, and that's my red line. I would feel obligated [to resign] because in doing so, I would indicate to the American public that there's something wrong."
Many doctors and studies disagree with this! https://t.co/fpLVJZMvHS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2020
As a world leader, Trump's tweet constitutes political pressure, as far as many people are concerned. In addition, his use of the term "deep state" alludes to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has directly led to acts of violence like the PizzaGate shooting and is linked to racist and antiSemitic rhetoric as well.
Progress on a COVID-19 vaccine is moving along steadily, with large-scale human trials underway on products from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. The FDA has scheduled a meeting on the findings of these trials on Oct. 22, with a vaccine hopefully on the way by the end of the year.
In the meantime, scientists say that vaccine development is already going as fast as is safe, considering the emergency situation and the incredibly high stakes. However, the president's spread of disinformation can only harm this process and increase the pressure on researchers who are operating within very thin margins.