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Exclusive: States plan to independently vet COVID-19 vaccine data

By Emily Kopp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON - State officials are expressing skepticism about federal reviews of potential COVID-19 vaccines, with some going so far as to plan to independently analyze clinical trial data before distributing a vaccine in a sign of how sharply trust in federal health agencies has fallen this year.

The wariness, which public health experts call highly unusual if not unprecedented, could undercut the goal of a cohesive national immunization strategy and create a patchwork of efforts that may sabotage hopes of containing the coronavirus.

Some red states appear more likely to rely on the Trump administration while blue states may scour the data and be more cautious about vaccinating their residents immediately.

CQ Roll Call contacted state health departments in 50 states and the District of Columbia and received substantive responses from a dozen.

Seven jurisdictions indicated they would analyze the data independently: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, New York, Oregon and West Virginia. Another two - Montana and Wyoming - said they'd only administer a vaccine that completed clinical trials and an outside committee's review. Three states - Arizona, Georgia and Oklahoma - indicated they would accept federal recommendations as usual.

Governors are publicly raising doubts about the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ability to withstand pressure from President Donald Trump to develop a vaccine with record speed.


"The president says he's going to have a vaccine. CDC is talking about a vaccine in early November. How convenient. It's going to be an Election Day miracle drug," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said earlier this month.

Cuomo referenced the FDA's emergency use authorization earlier this year of a drug touted by Trump, hydroxychloroquine, which the agency later withdrew after finding the drug was not effective against COVID-19 and could lead to dangerous heart conditions. "Some people are concerned that the vaccine may wind up being hydroxychloroquine," he said, adding that the state health department will review the research before recommending that New Yorkers take any vaccine.

State plans to review the data indicate how deeply any appearance of political meddling could disrupt vaccination and cost lives.

Nearly 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


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