Trump is mad at the FDA for being a "big, old, slow turtle" and not approving the Pfizer vaccine yet
Since the pandemic began, President Trump and his administration have mishandled it at every turn. The one major investment Trump did make was pushing billions into developing a coronavirus vaccine. With the president on his way out and a vaccine on the horizon, it's clear he doesn't want any part of that victory to fall to President-elect Joe Biden. So, Trump is using Twitter to pressure the FDA into approving the coronavirus vaccine before he leaves off.
Earlier this month, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve Pfizer's vaccine, and it vaccinated its first patient — a 90-year-old woman — this week. The U.S. isn't far behind, given that an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration endorsed the vaccine Thursday. The FDA itself still has to approve the vaccine, but it seems Trump is getting very impatient.
Just hours after the panel's decision, Trump tweeted, "While my pushing the money-drenched but heavily bureaucratic [FDA] saved five years in the approval of NUMEROUS great new vaccines, it is still a big, old, slow turtle. Get the [damn] vaccines out NOW ... Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"
Trump's tweet at the FDA is extra given that the agency has already signaled it plans to approve the vaccine. While appearing on ABC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the FDA told Pfizer it intends "to proceed towards an authorization" of the vaccine and, if that is done, the first vaccinations could begin in the U.S. as early as Monday or Tuesday.
However, Trump's impatience makes a lot of sense when you remember that a vaccine is really the only win his administration will have throughout the whole pandemic. In May, the administration founded Operation Warp Speed, with the goal of producing and delivering 300 million doses of "safe and effective vaccines". The operation's budget was increased from its original $10 billion to $18 billion in September.
Trump's ultimate goal of using the vaccine to bolster his own legacy is clear. Minutes after his original tweet about the FDA, Trump wrote another missive targeting former President Barack Obama for his administration's handling of the swine flu (also known as the H1N1 virus) and alleging that Biden's pledge to actually do something about the coronavirus pandemic is actually an attempt to "come in and take over one of the 'greatest and fastest medical miracles in modern day history.'" He added: "I don’t think so!"
Outside of pouring money into Operation Warp Speed, Trump didn't do much else to address the pandemic. From the beginning, Trump and his administration basically ignored the issue, and while public health experts argued for countermeasures like wearing masks or lockdowns, the administration overall pushed an anti-mask agenda.
He also egged on his supporters to "liberate" states with Democratic governors who had instituted lockdowns or other restrictions. These early actions, combined with Trump's tweet about Biden, further show how the president has approached and treated the coronavirus pandemic as a partisan issue rather than a public health issue.
Even now, with vaccines on the horizon, that doesn't mean the pandemic is defeated in the U.S. — even though it's likely that Trump will frame it that way. First, it will take time to vaccinate enough of the U.S. population for any sort of herd immunity to develop. But perhaps most glaringly, Trump and his administration have done nothing to address the fact that communities most impacted by the pandemic may not want a vaccine. For example, Black Americans have highlighted histories of medical abuse at the hands of the U.S. government to explain their wariness regarding the coronavirus vaccine — and there's no indication the federal government has planned to address this.