The Rush for a Covid-19 Vaccine

A hurried timeline, nakedly political motivations, public disagreements, and lack of transparency are eroding public trust in a prospective coronavirus vaccine. American Oversight is investigating the key players and influences involved in the Trump administration’s push for a vaccine.

On Sept. 7, President Trump told reporters, “We could have a vaccine soon, maybe even before a very special day. You know what day I’m talking about.” The remarks came amid growing concerns that a fast-paced vaccine-development and approval schedule may compromise safety and effectiveness — and dissuade people from obtaining the vaccine should it become available.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the administration launched Operation Warp Speed with an initial goal to have a vaccine ready in October, though this was later updated to January 2021. The initiative funneled billions of dollars into promising vaccine candidates, supporting the research, manufacturing, and eventual distribution of these vaccines, with full payment contingent on companies meeting specific timing milestones. 

In May, Trump announced Dr. Moncef Slaoui would be the initiative’s chief adviser, despite his glaring financial conflicts of interest. After Sen. Elizabeth Warren called him out for holding more than $12 million in stock options for biotechnology company Moderna, Slaoui sold his stake and resigned from the company’s board. But he still has millions of dollars of shares in his former company, GlaxoSmithKline, which is a contender in the vaccine race and is supported by more than $2 billion in taxpayer money. And an investigation by the House found that he also has undisclosed holdings in Lonza Group, a biotechnology company that has a contract with Moderna to manufacture its coronavirus vaccine.

In August, as multiple vaccine candidates began to enter phase three trials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified state officials to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine as early as late October, and Director Robert Redfield asked governors to prepare vaccine distribution sites by Nov. 1. A month later, the administration released a vaccine distribution plan that promised a free vaccine and called for states to submit distribution plans to the CDC by Oct. 16. Officials are also rushing a new and untested system to track vaccines. 

While the groundwork is laid, leaders of science agencies are cautioning against expecting a vaccine so soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it’s unlikely a vaccine will be approved before the election, and Redfield has repeatedly stated that it’s impossible to determine when exactly a vaccine will be available. Both have made it clear that any vaccine available at the end of this year would be of limited supply and prioritized for specific groups, such as health-care workers, and Redfield has said that a vaccine likely won’t be widely available until months into 2021. 

In response, Trump has attacked Redfield publicly for tempering expectations. He’s also dismissed and threatened to deny White House approval to Food and Drug Administration plans for stricter guidelines of vaccine authorization, which includes more rigorous criteria for clinical trials and a recommendation that a committee of independent experts review the data. Previously, Trump claimed that the “deep state” at the FDA was attempting to delay the vaccine process until after the election. 

American Oversight is investigating the Trump administration’s interference with the vaccine process and has filed multiple requests for agency and White House communications about coronavirus vaccines. We’ve also filed requests seeking contracts and communications with leading vaccine developers, including Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. And as the administration moves into distribution plans, we’ve filed requests with state officials seeking communications with federal officials about coronavirus vaccine plans. 

Related Documents

October 15, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine and Therapeutics Development Contracts Funneled Through Defense Contractor

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, DHS - Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense, DOD - Defense Health Agency, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
October 15, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Records Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contract Terms

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, DHS - Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DHS - Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense, DOD - Defense Health Agency, DOD - Department of the Army, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
October 15, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Documents Reflecting the Terms of Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, DHS - Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense, DOD - Defense Health Agency, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
October 8, 2020

HHS Records Regarding Covid-19 Vaccine Development Contracts

Department of Health and Human Services
Agency Record
October 7, 2020

FDA Guidance Regarding Emergency Use Authorization of Covid-19 Vaccines

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
Agency Record
October 6, 2020

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking the FDA Guidance Regarding Emergency Use Authorization of Covid-19 Vaccines

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
September 30, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Guidance to Vaccine Manufacturers Regarding Emergency Use Authorization of Covid-19 Vaccines

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
September 22, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Directives to McKesson Regarding Vaccine Distribution

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Copy of Vaccine Distribution and Administration Tracking Contract with DeLoitte

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Orders to Deloitte Regarding Vaccine Distribution and Administration Tracking

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Any Assessments from Deloitte Regarding Vaccine Distribution Tracking and Administration

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Copy of Vaccine Distribution Contract with McKesson

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Directives to McKesson Regarding Vaccine Distribution

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Directives to McKesson Regarding Vaccine Distribution

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
September 16, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Orders to McKesson Regarding Vaccine Distribution

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
September 15, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
September 15, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
September 1, 2020

Public Records Request to Arizona DHS Seeking Records Reflecting Plan to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine Through Hospitals

Arizona Department of Health Services
FOIA Request
September 1, 2020

Public Records Request to Arizona DHS Seeking Emails with Federal Officials Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Plans

Arizona Department of Health Services
FOIA Request
September 1, 2020

Public Records Request to Nevada DHHS Seeking Emails with Federal Officials Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
September 1, 2020

Public Records Request to Wisconsin DHS Seeking Emails with Federal Officials Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine

Wisconsin Department of Health Services
FOIA Request
September 1, 2020

FOIA to HHS Inspector General Seeking Tips or Complaints Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Development

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Office of the Inspector General
FOIA Request
August 19, 2020

HHS Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with Janssen Pharmaceutica

Department of Health and Human Services
Agency Record
August 10, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to DFC Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to VA Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to VHA Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Veterans Affairs, VA - Veterans Health Administration
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to USTR Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to DHA Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Defense, DOD - Defense Health Agency
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to JPEO-CBRND Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

DHS - Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking Communications with Leadership of Operation Warp Speed

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
August 10, 2020

FOIA to DOD Seeking External Emails Sent by Operation Warp Speed Chief Operation Officer Gustave F. Perna

Department of Defense
FOIA Request
July 31, 2020

HHS Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with Moderna, Inc

Department of Health and Human Services
Agency Record
July 16, 2020

No Records Response from BOP Regarding Communications About Vaccines or treatments for Covid-19

Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons
Agency Reply
July 16, 2020

No Records Response from BOP Regarding Communications About Vaccines or Treatments for Covid-19

Department of Justice
Agency Reply
June 12, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
June 12, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Recent Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines for Covid-19

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Pfizer Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Pricing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Merck and IAVI Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Pricing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with AstraZeneca Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Pricing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contract with Emergent BioSolutions

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with Merck

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with AstraZeneca

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
May 19, 2020

No Records Response from VA Regarding Communications with Individuals Pushing Questionable Coronavirus Treatments

Department of Veterans Affairs
Agency Reply
May 11, 2020

No Records Response from USTR Regarding Communications with Individuals Pushing Questionable Coronavirus Treatments

White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Agency Reply
May 7, 2020

No Records Response from CDC Regarding Communications with Coronavirus Drug Companies

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Agency Reply
May 6, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Moderna Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Pricing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
May 6, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Janssen Pharmaceutica Regarding Coronavirus Vaccine Pricing

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
May 6, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with Moderna, Inc

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
May 6, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Coronavirus Vaccine Development Contracts with Janssen Pharmaceutica

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Communications Concerning Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to VA Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to VHA Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Veterans Affairs, VA - Veterans Health Administration
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to BOP Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons
FOIA Request
April 17, 2020

FOIA to CMS Seeking Communications with Individuals Regarding Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Communications with Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking All Records Reflecting Communications with CureVac

Department of State
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to Treasury Seeking All Records Reflecting Communications with CureVac

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking All Records Reflecting Communications with CureVac

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to FDA Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to CDC Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to NIH Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institutes of Health
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to NIAID Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
FOIA Request
March 27, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Communications Regarding Companies Developing Vaccines or Treatments for Coronavirus

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request