NOVEMBER 13, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Friday wrongly claimed full credit for Pfizer Inc.’s announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine was robustly successful, misrepresenting the extent of government support behind the company’s efforts.
A look at the claim, made during his first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden:
TRUMP: “As a result of Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer announced on Monday that its China virus vaccine was more than 90% effective. …Pfizer said it wasn’t part of Warp Speed, but that turned out to be an unfortunate misrepresentation.”
THE FACTS: Not so much. Pfizer notably did not accept government money to develop, test or expand manufacturing capacity under Trump’s Operation Warp Speed initiative to quickly find a vaccine and treatments for the disease sweeping the country.
In fact, Pfizer partnered with the vaccine’s original developer, Germany’s BioNTech, in March and the following month announced the first human study in Germany. The White House announced Operation Warp Speed in May.
Pfizer opted not to join Operation Warp Speed initially but is following the same general requirements for the vaccine’s development as competitors who received government research money. The company says it has risked $2 billion of its own money on vaccine development and won’t get anything from Washington unless the effort is successful.
“Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing costs have been entirely self-funded,” Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said this week. “We decided to self-fund our efforts so we could move as fast as possible.”
However, Pfizer did sign an agreement with the U.S. government in July worth $1.95 billion — if the vaccine pans out and is cleared by the FDA — to supply 100 million doses. That guarantees Pfizer a U.S. market, an important incentive.
The supply side of Operation Warp Speed also allows Pfizer logistical help, although the company will directly ship its own vaccine, while the government will control shipping of other COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer’s announcement does not mean a vaccine has been approved and will immediately hit the market.
The next step for Pfizer would be to apply for “emergency use authorization” by the Food and Drug Administration, probably later this month, which would allow for limited distribution before it seeks full FDA approval for wider use by the general public in 2021. Neither step is guaranteed to happen.