Ashish Jha Warns of ‘Shenanigans’ as Trump Teases Vaccine News

Harvard global health expert, Dr. Ashish Jha, warned of possible “shenanigans” in response to President Donald Trump’s recent, unexpected tease of “big news” about a Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday evening, Jha’s comments came after he expressed alarm about the FDA’s abrupt approval of convalescent plasma as a coronavirus therapeutic after Trump openly pressured the agency and baselessly questioned its deliberate drug review process as possibly being part of a “Deep State” plot to hurt him politically.

“How dangerous is it for there to be political pressure on the critically developments?” Blitzer asked Jha.

“American people trust the scientists of the FDA and the CDC to make decisions based on evidence and data and not based on the whims of political leaders,” Jha noted “It is absolutely critical that we maintain that faith if we are going to get through the pandemic. I think referring to the scientists as ‘deep state,’ putting pressure to create an emergency use authorization, all of that, not just hurts those agencies, but really hurts America’s faith in science. Much, much harder to get through the pandemic.”

When Blitzer noted Trump’s promise of big vaccine news “very soon,” the CNN host asked how much the president was connecting the vaccine to his re-election campaign.

“Vaccines, which have generally a terrific track record of safety and effectiveness, when they are studied carefully are contentious enough,” Jha pointed out. “If we sort of — if we perform the shenanigans and try to push them out to the public before they are ready, it would be doing enormous harm not just for this vaccine but confidence for vaccines more generally. I don’t know the timeline. I’m enthusiastic and excited about having a vaccine. But science is going to dictate the timeline and when it’s ready, it will be ready. But it may be ready before the election or after, we don’t know, and we cannot rush it more than we already are.”

Biltzer then noted that the White House has floated the a trial balloon of granting what an emergency use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine before final, phase-3 trials are complete. “Are there any circumstances under which you think it would be appropriate to do such a thing?” he added.

“I can’t think of one,” Jha emphasized. “Look, phase-3 is the big game. Phase-1 and 2 are just the sort of warm-ups. To declare victory before the game is over, whether you know the vaccine works and safe, is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. So, I am hoping that that is not what the White House does. I believe that the scientists at the FDA won’t tolerate it. We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Originally published: 2020-08-24 18:07:40

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