- The Trump administration reversed itself on Thursday and said a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for the American public after it generated a storm of criticism over the drug’s potential high cost.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he would guarantee public access to a vaccine.
- Only a day earlier, he declined to do so and cited the need for financial involvement from the private sector.
- The development of a vaccine that successfully treats COVID-19 is still far off – at least a year in the best case scenario.
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The Trump administration reversed itself on Thursday and said a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for Americans amid a storm of criticism over its possible high cost.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers during a congressional hearing that he would guarantee public access to a vaccine that treats COVID-19, the disease that the coronavirus causes.
“I have directed my teams that if we do any joint venture with a private enterprise, that we’re cofunding the research and development program, that we would ensure there’s access to the fruits of that, whether vaccine or therapeutics,” Azar said.
The remarks come a day after Azar triggered massive blowback when he didn’t promise a coronavirus vaccine would be financially accessible to most Americans.
“We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar told lawmakers at another congressional hearing. “Price controls won’t get us there.”
Democrats immediately hit back. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference on Thursday: “This would be a vaccine that is developed with the taxpayer dollars … and we think that should be available to everyone, not dependent on Big Pharma.”
The development of a vaccine that successfully treats COVID-19 is still far off – at least a year in the best case scenario, given the rounds of rigorous testing involved on animals and humans.
Anthony Fauci, a top official at the National Institute of Health, said on Wednesday it would take between 12 and 18 months to create one and placed the focus on public-health measures instead to curb the virus’ spread in the US.
The Trump administration is seeking a multibillion-dollar emergency spending package to fight the coronavirus, which has spread to over 47 countries from its point of origin in China. There are at least 60 confirmed cases in the US so far, most of which developed abroad.
At least $US1 billion of the federal funding would be directed toward the creation of a vaccine, The Washington Post reported.