On March 2, 2020, Trump and members of the coronavirus task force met with 10 pharmaceutical executives in the the White House Cabinet Room. Trump exhorted the companies to collaborate to speed up the process of getting a vaccine and therapeutics to victims of the virus. Trump told executives from Gilead, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer that they worked for a “great company.” He referred to the assembled drug executives as “geniuses.”
Trump pressed the representatives at the table about their timeframes for getting a vaccine ready and took upbeat comments from some of the company leaders to mean that it could be ready to deploy within months. Trump said at one point to Daniel O’Day, the CEO of the biotech giant Gilead Sciences, after he described progress on a therapy that could be used to mitigate coronavirus symptoms. “Get it done, Daniel. Don’t disappoint us.”
Pressed on whether the vaccine would be ready in the short timeframe he desired, Trump said he had heard from the leaders at the table a range of three to four months to a year. But Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, said: “He’s asking the question: When is it going to be deployable? And that is going to be at the earliest a year to a year and a half,” Fauci said.
Undeterred, Trump continued to ask various versions of the same question: “So what do you think in terms of timing?” The executives told the president that for both therapies and vaccines, companies could enter early testing within months, with the aim of reaching the market in time for peak season in a year’s time.
In response to a question about whether the federal government would provide financial assistance to companies investing heavily on vaccine development, “I think they’re so rich — I know the companies very well — some of them are so rich I think they could actually loan money to the federal government,” Trump said. “They don’t need money, they need time.”
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“This is all hands on deck. And the news out of this meeting that you’ve already formed a consortia … now we know they will be working together to create therapeutics and ultimately a new vaccine,” Vice President Mike Pence said as the session drew to a close.
Trump met with pharmaceutical executives on virus vaccines & therapies — very informative! https://t.co/9SlIHeqYTW
— HYGO News (@HygoNews) March 3, 2020