7 former FDA commissioners write op-ed blasting Trump administration for eroding trust in the organization

The FDA.
(Image credit: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Seven former Food and Drug Administration commissioners have written an op-ed for The Washington Post slamming the White House for "eroding the public's confidence" in the agency. The officials, who served under Presidents Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush, stressed that a COVID-19 vaccine is "urgently" needed, but that "if the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so."

The piece cites several "deeply troubling" ways the Trump administration has appeared to attempt to influence the FDA's approval of an eventual vaccine, including Trump's own attacks on the FDA and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's "power grab," which wrested away the FDA's ability to sign new rules and regulations regarding the nation's foods and medicines — including vaccines — by reserving that power solely for himself. "These actions are eroding the public’s confidence," the commissioners wrote, citing a new study that found 42 percent of Americans lacked trust in the FDA's decision making, and that 78 percent of Americans believe the vaccine approval process will be too hasty. Additionally, only 21 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" take the COVID-19 vaccine, despite that number being twice as high just a few months ago.

"If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce COVID-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer," the commissioners wrote. "Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years … Political intrusion only prolongs the pandemic and erodes our public health institutions." Read the full piece here.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at TheWeek.com. She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.