WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's push for a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough before Election Day is forcing his Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden, to make a choice.
He can either cast doubt on a vaccine process widely seen among Democrats as political - or begin to build up trust in an eventual vaccine that Biden may be tasked with distributing early next year if he wins in November.
Biden campaign officials are attempting to walk that tightrope by confronting the president on his politically advantageous timeline without undermining public confidence in a prospective inoculation.
The former vice president plans to give a speech on vaccine development on Wednesday, nearly six months since the country was thrust into a national emergency over the pandemic.
Biden has already said he would take a vaccine but is requesting "full transparency" around the process, while his running mate Kamala Harris said bluntly she "would not trust Donald Trump" on a vaccine.
"The way to get confidence in a public health matter is to lead with the docs and with the science, and that's what the vice president is proposing to do," said Denis McDonough, a former White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama.
Privately, Biden advisers have been in contact with the producers of leading vaccine candidates, including Moderna, the first company to enter a vaccine into Phase 3 clinical trials, two sources familiar with the discussions told McClatchy.
One source said that distribution planning is part of the discussions.
"We are committed to sharing with the public timely information on the development of mRNA 1273 and raising awareness with those who are key to setting policies for COVID-19 vaccines," said Ray Jordan, chief corporate affairs officer for Moderna, referring to the technical name for their coronavirus vaccine candidate. "This involves engaging a wide range of public health experts and stakeholders, including some that are advisors to former Vice President Biden."
Dr. David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner and Biden's point person with companies developing a vaccine, is bound by confidentiality agreements, according to a campaign spokesperson.