President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to restore trust in the federal government’s pandemic efforts after nine months of sabotage, ensuring Americans that he and his public-health team believe that clear “communication is essential to combating” the coronavirus.
But on Thursday, the Biden team flubbed an important — if minor — communications test regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization process for the vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer. An independent FDA advisory committee’s 17-4 vote to recommend that the Pfizer shot be given to Americans over 16 was a historic step in the long road toward vaccination. However, the president-elect’s team misread the announcement, stating that the FDA itself had granted emergency-use authorization:
The mix-up is in some ways quite small. It is almost certain that the FDA will follow the advisory board’s advice and grant EUA to a vaccine developed at a staggering pace. It is indeed a “bright light in a dark time,” as a corrected version of the announcement stated. But considering that the easy error was made on the number-one issue on Biden’s agenda, it’s far from ideal that the his team had to scrap their press release for the first major step in vaccine authorization. Considering the scale and elaborate nature of the vaccine rollout, it’s also inopportune to bungle something so simple.
Now that the advisory board has voted in favor of rolling out the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA is expected to grant emergency use authorization as early as Friday — while distribution itself could begin as early as 24 hours later. Though the news on distribution is a glimmer of hope, it comes as the United States suffers two days in a row of 3,000 COVID deaths, a rate that is still expected to rise.