Documents released by U.S. regulators Tuesday confirmed that Pfizer’s vaccine was strongly protective against COVID-19 and appeared safe — offering the world’s first detailed look at the evidence behind the shots.
Not everyone in the American public will be easily convinced, however — so President Donald Trump has volunteered to step up.
Trump, along with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — have all said at various times they’re willing to put aside their differences for a day and get the vaccine.
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During a call with the White House on Monday, a journalist asked, “Does the president expect that he will ever receive the vaccine himself on live TV to promote the safety of the vaccine?”
“With respect to the president and taking the vaccine, that’s certainly something that is under consideration,” the White House official responded. “The president has previously expressed his willingness to do whatever the experts thought was the best path, in terms of instilling vaccine confidence.”
The White House official noted that it still remains an “open question” because Trump has already gotten COVID-19 and recovered. But the president has said he’s very confident in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
“He’s expressed his willingness,” the White House said. “I think there is an open question as to whether, ultimately, he will be one of the ones to take it on air. And that’s simply a function of whether that would actually serve the desired purpose, given the fact that he’s a recovered patient.”
Trump isn’t alone, of course. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have also said they’re willing to put aside political differences and get the vaccine to instill confidence with the public.
“But there are other sort of famous, shall we say, vaccine influencers and experts who I think have come forward and volunteered to participate in an effort to help instill public confidence, and we’re certainly considering such offers,” the White House said.
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Even White House aide Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, said she was willing to receive the vaccine on television.
I applaud these pronouncements to help assure the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.
My offer holds to do the same. https://t.co/CXswL8eaWg
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) December 3, 2020
The Pfizer vaccine’s positive review from Trump’s Food and Drug Administration sets the stage for a decision allowing the vaccine’s initial use within days. FDA regulators posted their analysis online even as across the Atlantic, Britain began vaccinating its oldest citizens with the shots, which were co-developed with BioNTech.
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But the U.S. judges experimental vaccines in a unique way: On Thursday, the FDA will convene what’s essentially a science court that will debate — in public and live-streamed — just how strong the data backing the shots really is. That public vetting is considered key to bolstering confidence in the shots ahead of what’s expected to be the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history.
A panel of independent scientists will pick apart the FDA’s first-pass review before recommending whether the vaccine appears safe and effective enough for millions of Americans. The FDA typically follows the committee’s advice and if it gives the green light, the first recipients would be health care workers and nursing home residents, according to plans laid out by each state.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla declined to predict how quickly FDA might issue a decision.
“They need to take as much time as they need to feel comfortable. It’s very important for the trust of the vaccine from the people,” he said at a news conference in Geneva.
FDA reviewers said the vaccine has “a favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns” that would prevent a decision to allow emergency use.
The main side effects are injection-site pain or flu-like reactions that indicate the immune system is revving up. Those tend to last a day or two and are most common after the second dose: More than half of adults under 55 experienced fatigue or headache, about a third reported chills or muscle pain, and 16% had a fever.
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Older adults were less likely to experience those reactions, and the FDA said they were considered severe in less than 5% of participants.
It’s one of several vaccines in the pipeline being tested in the hope of ending the pandemic. The FDA later this month will consider a COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.
The Associated Press contributed to this article