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Operation Warp Speed advisers held investments in COVID vaccine firms, records show

By Tara Copp and Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

"HHS ethics officers have determined that Drs. Carlo de Notaristefani, William Erhardt and Rachel Harrigan are all in compliance with the relevant federal ethical standards," the HHS official said.

Calls to Pfizer and Teva to ask if those equities had been divested were not immediately returned.

To serve on Operation Warp Speed, each member is required to disclose any stocks they hold with firms conducting COVID-19 business and will be required to donate any gains made by those investments due to coronavirus work to the National Institutes of Health.

But the terms of the donation are vague, and at present allow each adviser or their surviving spouse to hold on to the gains until their deaths, according to the HHS disclosures.

The financial ties are likely to make it more difficult to convince the American public it can trust a COVID-19 vaccine, said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.

"Unfortunately those ongoing questions are likely to contribute to the lack of public confidence in taking a vaccine once one is ready," Smithberger said.

Public confidence in the development of vaccines has already dropped sharply since the beginning of the year due to the perception of political influence over the process. Several surveys released in the past month have shown declining confidence, including a recent poll released by the Pew Research Center that found only 21% of Americans say they plan on "definitely" getting a coronavirus vaccine once one is available, while 49% of Americans say they "definitely or probably" will wait.

 

The select committee also sent a second request to Alexandria, Virginia-based Advanced Decision Vectors, LLC, a consulting firm that has been awarded up to $684,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services to "provide expert advice regarding development and mass production of new COVID-19 vaccine candidates, therapeutics and diagnostics."

Chief Executive Officer David S. Harris of the consulting firm has not so far provided the subcommittee any documentation on what, if any, pharmaceutical equities or business relationships he or his firm may have to any companies currently pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a congressional letter sent to Harris' firm Monday, Clyburn warned that the correspondence was a final opportunity for Harris "to comply before the select subcommittee considers compulsory process."

A phone call and email to Advanced Decision Vectors for comment were not immediately returned.

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

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