Trump administration rushed to claim Pfizer’s vaccine win. But that’s not exactly true.


The world got a bit of fantastic news on Monday: Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine looks incredibly promising. 

The massive pharmaceutical company and its partner, BioNTech, announced its vaccine was 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 cases, which far surpassed expectations of a perhaps 60-70 percent effective vaccine. That is unequivocal great news and portends good things for other vaccines further behind in the developmental process. 

Trump allies were quick to take credit for the breakthrough, despite the fact the Pfizer did not take any research and development funding from Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s effort to speed up a vaccine’s arrival. 

“We were never part of the Warp Speed,” Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president and the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer told the New York Times. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”

Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, and others, however, were quick to lavish praise on outgoing President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 election to President-elect Joe Biden. 

To be fair to Ivanka Trump, there is a bit of truth in her tweet. Pfizer did strike a deal with the government to help distribute the vaccine, pending its effectiveness. The government put in an initial order for 100 million doses for $1.95 billion “following FDA authorization or approval.” But unlike its competitors, Pfizer did not take government cash to help fund its development process. 

So, in classic Trump administration fashion, there was some truthiness to their claims of massive success. Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy — a regular, vocal critic of Trump — noted that while the outgoing president shouldn’t take credit for the vaccine, this was a public-private partnership. 

“The Pfizer vaccine requires a complicated and expensive distribution process, so with lots of other vaccine candidates, $2B in taxpayer money to pay for the distribution is a big leg up,” he wrote on Twitter. “Again, not saying Trump should take credit, but the government [dollars] matter here.”

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