Trump blasts FDA for J&J vax pause, says Pfizer 'in' with the agency

April 20, 2021

“I’ll give you a little breaking news,” former President Donald Trump told Sean Hannity yesterday. “Pfizer is in…with the FDA.”

In Trump’s first sit-down, televised interview since leaving office, the former president tackled the topic of vaccine approvals and hesitancy. While addressing the subject of the CDC and FDA’s decision to suspend distribution of J&J’s vaccine after the shot was linked to a small number of patients with blood clots, the former president suggested that some of the company’s woes may be related to the agency’s favoritism of Pfizer. The idea that Pfizer is up to something fishy with the FDA has become a rising conspiracy theory.

“What the FDA did with Johnson and Johnson is so stupid,” Trump said, before explaining that “they” wanted him to do a commercial to promote vaccines. In response, Trump said he called “them” and asked about the decision to pause the J&J vax when only “six people out of eight million people…experienced some difficulty” with the shot.

Trump didn’t say what the result of his call was. Instead, he went on to say that “they love Pfizer,” in a way that suggested that the FDA was teaming up with the company to somehow thwart J&J.

Why would that be the case? According to Trump, Pfizer “doesn’t like” him because Trump wanted to pass a “favored nations” policy — a reference to his proposal to create a global price index for drugs that would link prices in the U.S. to those in other countries. Trump also acknowledged that the idea had spurned criticism from all major drug companies. 

Pfizer became a target of Trump’s scorn last year after the company delayed releasing results of a late-stage trial of its vaccine until after the presidential election — a move Trump asserted was done purposefully to hurt him.

When Trump has also claimed that his administration has not gotten enough credit for the fast pace of COVID-19 vaccine development, many often point out that Pfizer’s vaccine — which became the first approved shot in the U.S. — was developed without government backing.

Trump also discussed vaccine hesitancy with Hannity. A few days ago, a New York Times report showed that the counties in the U.S. where vaccine uptake is the lowest were heavily skewed towards Trump in the 2020 election. Trump claimed that he did not understand why vaccination rates are lower in these areas. 

“I don’t know what that is,” he said, also implying that the FDA has been urging him to help the country boost vaccinations.

“They all want me to do a commercial because a lot of people won’t take the vaccine,” he said.