President Donald Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News' Brian Kilmeade that aired on Sunday that the US wouldn't have developed a vaccine for the novel coronavirus for five years if he weren't president.
"If I wasn't president, according to almost everybody, even the enemy — if I wasn't president, you wouldn't have a vaccine for five years," Trump said.
The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine developed by the drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech last week, marking an inflection point in the pandemic and kicking off what's set to be the largest vaccination campaign in US history.
The decision follows an endorsement from an independent expert panel that reviewed data on the shot.
"I pushed the FDA, and companies and everybody else involved, like nobody's ever been pushed before, and now you have it rolling out," he said on Sunday, claiming: "frankly, they could have done it last week."
But Trump has also come under fire for attempting to exert undue political pressure on the vaccine approval process. The Associated Press reported last week that, hours before the FDA's decision, a high-ranking White House official had threatened to fire FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn if the agency didn't green-light the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by Saturday.
Following the FDA's authorization, Trump also praised Operation Warp Speed, a federal initiative that has a total budget of $18 billion to subsidize clinical-trial research, manufacturing and distribution operations, as well as purchase vaccine doses on behalf of the US government, according to Bloomberg.
"We have given Pfizer and other companies a great deal of money, hoping this would be the outcome and it was," Trump said during a press conference on Friday.
However, while Pfizer received funding through Operation Warp Speed for manufacturing and distribution, it did not accept funds for research and development. In July, the Trump administration ordered 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine for $1.95 billion but did not pay the money upfront, as the contract rested on whether the vaccine would get authorized.
The New York Times also reported last week that the Trump administration declined to buy additional doses of Pfizer's vaccine during the summer. Sources close to Pfizer told The Times the decision could mean the US won't get additional doses until June 2021, due to the company's commitments to other nations.
Operation Warp Speed has also given money to Moderna, which received $955 million to advance clinical trials and $1.5 billion to manufacture and deliver 100 million vaccine doses, and paid for 100 million vaccine doses from three other companies: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline, as well as another 100 million doses from Novavax.
While COVID-19 vaccine development has proceeded at a historic pace, Trump did not provide any evidence on Sunday to support his claim that Operation Warp Speed or other efforts by his administration were responsible for shaving off more than four years from that timeline.