We all want a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as we can get it, and we’d like to know that the vaccine is safe and actually works. Those two desires are at cross-purposes now, since the testing required to vet a new vaccine takes time.
President Trump has made clear that his top priority is speed. For a time, his administration rejected the Food & Drug Administration’s proposed criteria for assessing vaccine candidates — criteria which make it all but impossible to have a vaccine available by election day.
This week, the White House relented and approved the FDA’s proposal. But the question remains: Could Trump force regulators or companies to give the public a COVID-19 vaccine that didn’t meet scientific standards?
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To play out the possibilities, you’ll need to understand some facts about vaccine science, the political calculations and commercial motives of the central characters, and what it will take to get Americans to trust a vaccine so we have a shot at returning to something resembling normal life.