Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Wednesday that politics should never interfere with the development, approval and distribution of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does. They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles,” Biden said, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware. “And their timing, their approval and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations.”
“They should be determined by science and safety alone,” he said.
“One thing is certain, we can’t allow politics to interfere with the vaccine in any way,” Biden said.
President Donald Trump has pressured administration health officials to expedite work on both a coronavirus vaccine and treatments in an effort to win over voters and improve his chances at getting reelected in November, CNN previously reported.
A majority of Americans believe political pressure from the Trump administration will cause the US Food and Drug Administration to rush approval of a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day on November 3, according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Biden said that a vaccine would offer a “way back to normalcy” for those in the US and around the world, and said he is “more hopeful than ever in the power of science to get us there.” But Biden cautioned that the process cannot be rushed, and a vaccine is not going to become ready “overnight.”
“Let me be clear: I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this moment, the American people can’t either,” Biden said.
Trump has sought to assure Americans that a vaccine is just around the corner, saying on Tuesday night at an ABC town hall that the US is “within weeks” of developing a vaccine, and that it could be “three weeks, four weeks.” But the President’s overly ambitious timeline goes against what his administration’s medical experts have said.
Biden sought to contrast himself and his approach with the President’s, saying, “I’ll simply follow the science.”
“I’ll level with the American people. I’ll take responsibility, and I’ll support rather than tear down the experts responsible for the day-to-day execution of the plan,” Biden said.
He skewered Trump for his administration’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 195,000 Americans and infected more than 6.6 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University as of Wednesday.
“All the President had to offer last night (at an ABC town hall), President Trump, was the same weak and feckless inaction, the same lies and empty promises, that we’ve seen from the very beginning. He still won’t accept any responsibility. He still won’t offer a plan. And last night, he repeated what he said so many times before, that even if he continues to offer only failing indifference, someday the virus is going to go away by a miracle,” Biden said.
Biden noted that the development of a vaccine is only part of the challenge, and said that the distribution of the vaccine is “as complex and challenging as one of the most sensitive military operations.”
He said if he is elected President of the United States in November, he would implement “an effective distribution plan from the minute I take office.”
Biden received a virtual briefing by public heath experts on how to stop the coronavirus shortly before delivering his remarks, and said he spoke to the experts about an implementation plan and timetable for the distribution of a potential vaccine.
The former vice president said he also spoke to the experts about ways to stop the spread of the virus before any potential vaccine is developed. He mentioned uniform national guidelines, standards on social distancing that can be applied based on the needs of any particular community and more effective approaches to testing and tracing.
“If we do these things between now and January, we could save even more lives. Last night, Donald Trump indicated he has no interest in doing these things. Folks, the President’s first responsibility is to protect the American people, and he won’t. That’s utterly disqualifying,” Biden said.
Biden had previously said that if he could get a vaccine tomorrow he would take it. “If it cost me the election, I’d do it,” Biden said. But he expressed concern that Trump has undermined public confidence in a vaccine.
Sen. Kamala Harris told CNN’s Dana Bash earlier this month that she would not trust Trump’s word alone on any potential coronavirus vaccine. The Democratic vice presidential nominee later told CNN affiliate WISN that she would trust a vaccine under Trump, if public health professionals and scientists said the vaccine can be trusted.
This story has been updated with additional comments from Biden on Wednesday.