By Jared S. Hopkins 

Pfizer Inc.'s chief executive sought to assure the drugmaker's employees Thursday that their experimental Covid-19 vaccine wouldn't be influenced by politics, two days after President Trump mentioned the company during the debate.

Chief Executive Albert Bourla sent a letter to all employees saying Pfizer "would never succumb to political pressure" as it develops a Covid-19 vaccine.

"The only pressure we feel -- and it weighs heavy -- are the billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of government officials that are depending on us," he wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

President Trump said in the presidential debate Tuesday that he had spoken to Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and a vaccine was weeks away. Mr. Trump also said he disagreed with federal health officials who had said a vaccine wouldn't be widely available until next summer.

The president's comments at the debate, as well as remarks beforehand saying he sought a vaccine's authorization before Election Day, have touched off partisan fighting over whether his administration would push for a vaccine's use before it has been fully vetted.

They come as surveys show significant numbers of Americans harbor concerns about taking a vaccine, partly out of fear a shot might be unsafe.

Dr. Bourla wrote that he was disappointed that Covid-19 vaccines were discussed during the presidential debate "in political terms rather than scientific facts." He added, "People, who are understandably confused, don't know whom or what to believe."

Pfizer is recruiting 44,000 people in more than 100 countries to test its vaccine in a late-stage study. Dr. Bourla has said in public appearances that the company could know results about whether it works as early as this month.

A Pfizer spokeswoman said the company and partner BioNTech SE expect "a conclusive readout on efficacy is likely by the end of October."

Mr. Bourla said in the letter that he can't predict exactly when, or if, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would authorize the company's vaccine.

"But I do know that the world will be safer if we stop talking about the vaccines' delivery in political terms and focus instead on a rigorous independent scientific evaluation and a robust independent approval process," he wrote.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at jared.hopkins@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 01, 2020 16:10 ET (20:10 GMT)

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