Wiesman warns that politics should not play a role in COVID-19 vaccine-planning

During a weekly briefing on Wednesday, Secretary of Health John Wiesman emphasized that all COVID-19 vaccines are still in clinical trials to determine their safety and efficacy. He stressed that a vaccine must complete a full Phase III trial – where the vaccine is tested on thousands of individuals – before being distributed, unless an independent board of scientists says otherwise.

 

 

Wiesman’s comments come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told public health officials in all 50 states to prepare to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to priority groups by as soon as the end of October or beginning of November. The push to get a vaccine available by the start of November, just days before the 2020 presidential election, is seen by some as a political move to help President  Trump win re-election.  

Political strategy aside, in an interview this week with Kaiser Health News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, seemed to support the idea that a COVID-19 vaccine may be available sooner than expected if clinical trial results are overwhelmingly positive. In this instance, an independent board would have the authority to end the trials weeks early.

Wiesman said, regardless of when the vaccine is available, Washington State is already in the process of building an infrastructure for vaccine distribution. He says DOH is planning for the early November date outlined by the CDC.

“We’re planning towards that date so that no matter when a vaccine actually ends up being available, that we will be ready for that. We need to assure the quality, safety, and effectiveness of these vaccines and we want to distribute them only when it’s safe to do so,” said Wiesman.  

In his comments Wiesman also warned that politics should not play a role in COVID vaccine-planning.

“Trust at this point is low for some people and we want to make sure that the federal government takes all the steps they need to ensure that any release of this vaccine is not driven by politics. The need to discuss the concern that the confluence of politics and vaccine-planning erodes the public’s trust is unfortunate, but we stand here as a state Department of Health prepared to stick by what we believe as being important issues and assuring safety and effectiveness of these vaccines,” said Wiesman.