Pfizer's CEO says Trump mentioned the upcoming election when discussing the COVID-19 vaccine

Grace Panetta
·3 min read
donald trump operation warp speed
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House on December 8. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said Trump had believed a vaccine would boost his reelection chances.

  • But Trump "never pressured me to do something that would be inappropriate with the vaccine," he said.

  • Trump previously accused Pfizer of withholding its trial results until after the election.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said President Donald Trump had made it clear that he thought a successful COVID-19 vaccine would help his chance of being reelected.

In an interview with "The Carlos Watson Show" set to air Friday on Ozy, first reported by The Hill on Tuesday, Bourla said that while Trump never inappropriately pushed him on the vaccine, it was clearly top of mind for the president approaching the election on November 3.

"The president was calling me, and he was making very clear that he would like to see it sooner rather than later, but he never pressured me to do something that would be inappropriate with the vaccine," Bourla said.

Read more: Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte's COVID-19 diagnosis underscores the scary reality of lacking immunity as most - but not all - governors are now vaccinated

As the election drew near, Bourla said, "a few times he was telling me that we need to do it fast."

"First he would say, 'We need to do it quickly, people are dying,' and then also he would add, 'Of course, we have also the election, but people is the important thing,'" Bourla said.

"It was always very clear to him, and also the campaign of the current president, no matter what we will move with the speed of science. Some people wanted to move faster, some people wanted to move slower. Because for them, elections were an important milestone. For me, it was nonexistent," Bourla added.

Trump had previously accused Pfizer and Moderna of conspiring against him by not announcing their full trial results until after the election. And in statements issued through his post-presidential office, Trump has taken credit for the vaccines' development through Operation Warp Speed.

"As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn't have the courage to do it before. Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!" Trump tweeted on November 9, before Twitter suspended his account.

"I wanted to do it quickly," Bourla said in the interview. "If I could do it a week earlier or two weeks earlier or three weeks earlier, I would. The important thing for me was the pressure of the billions of people that suddenly had invested their entire hopes on us, and we had to deliver."

On December 11, Trump directed some of his ire at the Food and Drug Administration. "While my pushing the money drenched but heavily bureaucratic @US_FDA saved five years in the approval of NUMEROUS great new vaccines, it is still a big, old, slow turtle," he tweeted. "Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"

That day, the FDA authorized Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use.

Despite taking credit for the vaccine in public, Trump and first lady Melania Trump were reportedly vaccinated in secret at the White House in January before Trump left office.

Bourla also said in the interview that he had been dismayed by the pace of the vaccine rollout worldwide.

"I was not happy with the speed, but as all Americans and all citizens of the world, it happened not because everybody was incompetent - it was because it's very complicated," he said.

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