- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday that he fears that the public’s trust in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has greatly eroded under the Trump administration and that the politicization of a potential coronavirus vaccine would be a “tragedy.”

The billionaire philanthropist, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a major partner with the World Health Organization, said the FDA has lost “credibility” during the ongoing pandemic. He cited FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn admitting that he exaggerated the efficacy of blood plasma treatments for COVID-19 during a White House press briefing last month.

“We saw with the completely bungled plasma statements that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails,” Mr. Gates said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “The FDA lost a lot of credibility there.”

Asked directly whether he still trusts the FDA, Mr. Gates responded, “I think in the FDA there’s a lot of professionals.”

“Historically, just like the CDC was viewed as the best in the world, the FDA had that same reputation as a top-notch regulator,” he said. “But there’s been some cracks with some of the things they’ve said at the commissioner level. Hopefully the staff isn’t pulled in that direction.”

Mr. Gates’s comments followed a new poll that revealed 62% of Americans believe political pressure from the Trump administration will cause the FDA to rush a vaccine approval before Election Day on Nov. 3.

Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker asked Mr. Gates whether people are now finding themselves in the “awkward position” of trusting the word of private companies over the government.

“The companies have their reputations,” Mr. Gates responded. “Many of these companies are doing this on a not-for-profit basis, so there’s not some big profit upside to many of the companies involved.

“These companies are very professional and the benefits of the vaccine here are very dramatic,” he said. “Thank goodness that we have this private-sector expertise that we want to shape into a global public good that gets to everybody on the planet.”

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