On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended a “pause” on the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because six of the 6.8 million people who took the vaccine have experienced a “rare & severe” type of blood clot. Former President Donald Trump slammed the decision and suggested that the FDA may have had a political reason for it.
“The Biden Administration did a terrible disservice to people throughout the world by allowing the FDA and CDC to call a ‘pause’ in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine,” Trump said in a statement. “The results of this vaccine have been extraordinary but now [its] reputation will be permanently challenged.”
“The people who have already taken the vaccine will be up in arms, and perhaps all of this was done for politics or perhaps it’s the FDA’s love for Pfizer,” Trump added.
Why would the FDA ally with Pfizer against Johnson & Johnson? Trump suggested a political alliance.
“The FDA, especially with long time bureaucrats within, has to be controlled. They should not be able to do such damage for possibly political reasons, or maybe because their friends at Pfizer have suggested it. They’ll do things like this to make themselves look important,” Trump alleged.
“Remember, it was the FDA working with Pfizer who announced the vaccine approval two days after the 2020 Presidential Election,” the former president recalled. “They didn’t like me very much because I pushed them extremely hard. But if I didn’t, you wouldn’t have a vaccine for 3-5 years, or maybe not at all. It takes them years to act!”
“Do your testing, clean up the record, and get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine back online quickly,” Trump concluded. “The only way we defeat the China Virus is with our great vaccines!”
Trump was right to attack the FDA’s move. Even if it turns out that the blood clot issue is not a direct result of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, this announcement will taint the public’s perception of the vaccine. This is a lose-lose scenario.
Yet Trump’s accusation seems a bit too neat. It certainly seemed suspicious when Pfizer announced its vaccine effectiveness shortly after the presidential election, but Johnson & Johnson did not exactly go out of its way to support Trump. According to Open Secrets, Johnson & Johnson employees gave three times as much money to Biden ($370,001) as they did to Trump ($106,718).
There may be some political machinations involved in the FDA’s decision, but if so, it seems far more complicated than Trump suggested.
Alternately, it is quite plausible that the FDA and the CDC were just being honest — perhaps these agencies are extremely concerned about the blood clot issue and perhaps the leadership did not think about the negative consequences of urging a “pause” in vaccine distribution. Perhaps the agencies wanted to be forthcoming about what they saw as a potential problem.
That said, the FDA’s announcement did seem a little suspicious. Trump may be correct that there is more to the story.