The former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said he believes the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for the use of convalescent plasma in coronavirus patients “was politically driven.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn admitted Monday to having mischaracterized the benefits of the plasma when he said plasma treatment had saved the lives of 35 out of 100 coronavirus patients.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Dr. Thomas Frieden called Hahn’s comments and subsequent apology “a substantial concern.”
“The substantial concern is this appears to have been a politically driven announcement,” he said. “The way it was announced, the headline, the framing.”
Convalescent plasma has promise, said Frieden, who is now president of the global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
“It may help some people if given at some dose, at a certain time in infection,” he said. “We don’t know the answers to those questions, and just saying ‘use it’ means we may never learn the answers, or it’ll take longer to learn the answers to those questions, so that’s a big concern.”
Coronavirus vaccines: Frieden called the plasma EUA announcement a “huge concern” because it’s a “dry run” for the FDA and the Trump administration in how they’re going to inform Americans about a coronavirus vaccine.
Public health experts already worry that a significant number of people won’t consent to any eventual coronavirus vaccine.
“This is a failure. The only way you can get people to take vaccines is to be completely transparent and we’re relying on the FDA to be completely transparent about what we know, when we know it.”
Different vaccines will most likely become available and different vaccines will work differently in different people, Frieden said.
“We will know something about how well they work, how safe they work, how much of them we’ll have, who should get them,” he said.
“Fundamentally, people have to trust them (the FDA) or the best vaccine in the world won’t be able to end the pandemic.”