New York Will Review Virus Vaccines, Citing Politicization of Process
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Thursday that New York would review coronavirus vaccines that are approved by the federal government, giving the state a potentially contentious new role in the process a day after President Trump raised doubts about tougher F.D.A. guidelines.
“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers, based on the federal government’s opinion,” Governor Cuomo said at a news briefing.
New York officials do not play a role in the approval process for a possible vaccine, but under the current plan they would help determine how it would be distributed throughout the state. In theory, officials could delay such distribution if they believed the vaccine was not safe.
New York officials do not play a role in the approval process for a possible vaccine, but under the current plan they would determine how it would be distributed throughout the state. State officials can delay distribution if they believe the vaccine is not safe.
Officials in the state and in New York City have said that for months they have been discussing a vaccine rollout plan.
Governor Cuomo’s remarks, which echoed earlier calls for state oversight of any vaccine, threatened to further complicate a vaccine process that has become mired in political debate and for months has faced mistrust from the American public.
Polls have shown a remarkable decrease in the number of Americans who would be willing to take a vaccine once it is approved. A survey conducted this month by the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans would either probably or definitely take a vaccine, a significant drop from 72 percent in May.
The chief concern among those surveyed was that the vaccine approval process would move too quickly without taking time to properly establish safety and effectiveness.
The development and quick production of a vaccine is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic, which has claimed more than 202,000 lives in the United States, 32,000 of them in New York State.
Governor Cuomo said that he was alarmed when, on Wednesday, Mr. Trump suggested that the White House might reject new F.D.A. guidelines that would toughen the process for approving a coronavirus vaccine.
Mr. Trump said the F.D.A. plan sounded “like a political move,” a comment that yet again threatened to undermine government officials who have been working to boost public faith in a promised vaccine.
Governor Cuomo’s stated concerns echoed comments made by Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for president, who last week pushed the issue of a potential vaccine into the center of the 2020 race. Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of exerting political pressure on the vaccine process and trying to speed up the approval of a vaccine to help him win re-election.
To vet a vaccine, Governor Cuomo said that he would assemble a panel of scientists, doctors and public health experts who would review its safety and effectiveness, after the federal government approves it. He did not provide specific details about the panel’s actions.
The governor wants the group, led by the state Department of Health, to advise him, “so I can look at the camera and I can say to New Yorkers that it’s safe to take.”
Governor Cuomo also said that he would create a second panel to determine how to implement and distribute the vaccine, including who to prioritize in the vaccination process. The governor seemed wary of the logistics involved in administering a two-shot vaccine, saying such a treatment would require 40 million doses to fully inoculate the state’s population, which is nearly 20 million.
“It’s going to be a monumental undertaking,” he said.
Governor Cuomo said that he believed in the good-faith actions of the F.D.A. and its commissioner, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, framing Mr. Trump’s push for a vaccine as an election-year ploy to win votes. “I don’t think Dr. Hahn is running for anything,” Governor Cuomo said, adding, “President Trump is engaged in the political process and has an Election Day.”
Multiple health experts said that Governor Cuomo had reason to be concerned, but that his actions risked politicizing the process even further and reducing confidence in federal government scientists.
“I don’t think setting up a state board to revisit the decision and look at the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness is a good idea,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman, a professor of medicine at Georgetown University who was the F.D.A.’s chief scientist from 2009 to 2014 during his 11-year stint at the agency. “I think this could set a precedent that creates more of the thing that it’s trying to avoid. It could create a very politicized situation.”
Instead of creating a new state review board, Dr. Goodman said, concerned officials should focus on monitoring the F.D.A.’s process and insisting on transparency.
“We should point our efforts to protecting the integrity of the process,” he said. “And I’m just concerned that saying that right now we need to create a different process might complicate that.”
Dr. Arthur Reingold, a professor of public health and an expert in epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley, said a panel such as Mr. Cuomo’s could be welcomed by New Yorkers who are skeptical of a vaccine deemed safe in Washington.
“If the people of New York will feel more comfortable lining up for a vaccine if the governor’s own committee says that too, that’s fine, that’s great,” he said. “I’d be surprised if they came to a different conclusion.”
The action by the governor, a third-term Democrat, is just his latest clash with Mr. Trump and his administration, including recent threats by the Department of Justice to withhold federal funding from New York City. The president suggested that the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio had allowed “anarchy” to take hold in the nation’s largest city.
Governor Cuomo’s announcement on Thursday morning came less than an hour after he and Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan — another frequent target of Mr. Trump — released a joint statement calling for a congressional investigation of the Trump administration’s “politicization of the pandemic response.”
The governors cited several recent examples, including the decision by the C.D.C. to rescind guidance related to the airborne transmission of the virus, something Governor Cuomo and Governor Whitmer said was part of a plan “to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration’s political agenda.”
They added: “The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of this tragedy is the direct result of President Trump and the federal government’s deceit, political self-dealing, and incompetence.”
Governor Cuomo’s skepticism about Mr. Trump’s motives and the vaccine have been percolating for several weeks. The governor first floated the idea of a state review on Sept. 3, suggesting that Mr. Trump was trying to unveil “an Election Day miracle drug.”
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