Journalist calls rapid development of COVID vaccines ‘an American story’

The author of a book chronicling the development of the COVID-19 vaccine called their rapid production and delivery “an American story” Thursday evening.

Writer Gregory Zuckerman noted in an interview on “Fox News Primetime” that pharmaceutical company Moderna was “developing a vaccine for years and people counted them out” because its scientists were pursuing an mRNA approach. The “A Shot to Save the World” author noted further that the company persisted despite being experts expressing skepticism over the technique.

But CEO Stéphane Bancel, Zuckerman explained, “had a vision [for a vaccine] and he kept pushing [his employees]. And that’s in some ways an American story [of] American entrepreneurs.”

He went on to say that he interviewed executives, investors, entrepreneurs and scientists who were “mostly American” as the coronavirus vaccines were under development as part of then-President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” program to quickly field a series of vaccines as the pandemic swept across the country beginning in early 2020. Zuckerman said he was betting that the vaccine development would be “successful and effective.”

“There was American exceptionalism, I would argue, in terms of both the investors, but also the scientists working deep in these labs[,]…working hard and trying to develop the vaccines,” he told Fox News.

He went on to say that foreign executives would “say without America, these vaccines could not be done” sans American researchers and investors who funded the development “with just the promise of potential profits down the road.”

“Only in America could that happen,” Zuckerman continued.

What Trump described as a “safe and effective vaccine” was developed in just nine months under his program, which the author and journalist called a “modern-day miracle.”

Host Brian Kilmeade asked Zuckerman about the “unsung heroes” who were involved in developing the vaccine, leading Zuckerman to mention Novavaz, a small company in Maryland that was “on [its] last legs” in the early part of last year, with its stock price just $3.93 a share on Jan. 10, 2020. It closed at $150.62 a share on Thursday.

“Everyone counted them out,” he said, though the small pharmaceutical company “kept at it and…ignored all the skepticism.”

He went on to say that he expects the company’s vaccine approval to come “soon” for global distribution.

The outgoing Trump administration cleared the way for the new vaccines to be rolled out in December 2020 shortly after the November election, as the Food and Drug Administration granted two drugmakers — Pfizer and Moderna — emergency authorizations to begin distributing them around the country. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told ABC News his agency had “all hands on deck” and that personnel were “working day and night, and on the weekends” to both evaluate and clear vaccines for use.

“We are committed to expediting the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but not at the expense of sound science and decision-making. We will not jeopardize the public’s trust in our science-based, independent review of these or any vaccines. There’s too much at stake,” he said.

“Operation Warp Speed’s goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics,” Health and Human Services noted on its website announcing the Trump-directed initiative last year.

Jon Dougherty


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