Donald Trump is reportedly pushing for fast-track approval of a potential Covid-19 vaccine to be used on Americans ahead of November’s election.
Officials are considering a vaccine candidate being developed by Oxford University, and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, according to a Sunday report by the Financial Times, which cited three sources familiar with the matter.
One option could involve the US Food And Drug Administration (FDA) authorising it for emergency use in October – a month before Americans go to the polls.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told The Independent: “AstraZeneca has not discussed emergency use authorization with the US government and it would be premature to speculate on that possibility.
“Late-stage Phase two/three trials for AZD1222 are ongoing in the UK and other markets globally, and we do not anticipate efficacy results until later this year.”
The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.
There are no approved vaccines for Covid-19 in the UK, but AstraZeneca’s shot, called AZD1222, is widely seen as one of the leading candidates.
Trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden by a significant margin in most major polls, Mr Trump hopes to get the virus under control and the economy back on track to boost his re-election chances
The strength of the economy had been the foundation of Mr Trump’s campaign until coronavirus struck. High unemployment figures and shrinking GDP have forced a change of tack, with the president playing on widespread social unrest to rally his base, and launching personal attacks on Mr Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.
The virus continues to ravage swathes of the US, with high numbers of reported new cases and deaths in the west and south of the country, particularly in California and Florida. In Florida alone, the death toll stands at more than 10,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump also on Sunday hailed FDA authorisation of a coronavirus treatment that uses blood plasma from recovered patients, a day after accusing the agency of impeding the rollout of vaccines and therapeutics for political reasons.
The announcement of its “emergency use authorisation” of the treatment came on the eve of the Republican National Convention, where Mr Trump will be nominated to lead his party for four more years.
“This is what I’ve been looking to do for a long time,” Mr Trump told an unusually brief White House news conference. “Today I’m pleased to make a truly historic announcement in our battle against the China virus that will save countless lives.”
The FDA, explaining its decision, cited early evidence suggesting blood plasma can decrease mortality and improve the health of patients when administered in the first three days of their hospitalisation.
The agency also said it determined this was a safe approach in an analysis of 20,000 patients who received the treatment. So far, 70,000 patients have been treated using blood plasma, the FDA said.
“It appeared that the product is safe and we’re comfortable with that and we continue to see no concerning safety signals,” Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told reporters in a conference call.
But Michael Steele, who served as chair of the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011, said the Trump administration was putting politics ahead of science.
“This is not about good science or even your health, its’s about his re-election,” Mr Steele wrote on Twitter.
Scientists including Dr Anthony Fauci have also said there is not sufficient evidence to say that the plasma treatment is effective.
Plasma is the element of blood that carries water, enzymes and blood cells throughout the body. It also carries the antibodies humans form to fight off disease and boost immunity.
Coronavirus patients have been receiving convalescent plasma for several months through clinical trials at medical centres such as New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Johns Hopkins.
Supplies of plasma are limited because they require that a recovered coronavirus patient donate blood and that it matches the blood type of the recipient. Supplies are massively dwindling, with the American Red Cross saying its stockpile declined by 70 per cent in July.
Additional reporting by Reuters