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The near-instantaneous COVID-19 vaccine review ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo found no problems with the Pfizer vaccine already examined by a federal panel and set for imminent approval and distribution.
“The New York state clinical advisory task force has approved unanimously the FDA decision to go forward with the vaccine,” Cuomo said at a press conference.
He then added that state officials had “notified the FDA” that New York state had signed off on the agency’s homework.
The state’s completed its review within hours of an FDA panel of experts giving its formal recommendation that the feds approve Pfizer’s vaccine on an emergency basis, which Cuomo bragged about, telling reporters “there was no delay whatsoever in the timing and New Yorkers will have more confidence.”
Cuomo has regularly justified the panel, saying that polling showed New Yorkers were worried about the safety and effectiveness of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine program — doubts that Cuomo amplified as he accused the White House of meddling in the review process.
When he commissioned the panel in September, he argued he needed it to be able to “say to New Yorkers that it’s safe to take. I want to make sure that we know it’s safe to take.”
“The way the federal government has handled the vaccine, there are now serious questions about whether or not the vaccine has become politicized,” he added.
Cuomo’s assertions even earned him a rebuke from the nation’s top infectious disease expert — Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s had his own share of disputes with the White House.
But, under intense fire for potentially delaying vaccine distribution, Cuomo later claimed the state’s review of the federal government’s approval would be finished within days of the FDA completing its examination.
The panel, he said, would not conduct its own studies or collect its own data. Instead, it would simply review the FDA’s review to ensure the agency’s extensive rules were followed.
Republican lawmakers said Friday the review was just a bit of political theater by Cuomo.
“New York has never had a role in drug trials or drug approvals,” said Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Syracuse), the chamber’s minority leader. “This was an opportunity for the governor to insert himself into the process.”
But Assemblyman Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the chair of the chamber’s health committee and a sometimes critic of Cuomo, defended the panel.
“The people on this panel didn’t start looking at this topic yesterday, they’ve been looking at it for a long time so the fact they got it done quickly it’s a good thing,” he said.
For its part, the governor’s office quickly shot back at the criticism.
“Our panel was comprised of experts and they followed the facts and science. If Barclay wants to score political points, maybe he should win an election once in a while,” said top Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi.