Trump's vaccine contracts scrutinized over special protections for drug execs: report
Coronavirus Dozens of pharmaceuticals and research labs across the world are racing to develop a vaccine Thibault Savary AFP:File

According to Politico, the Trump administration's contracts with drug companies to produce a COVID-19 vaccine have transparency problems, with drug executives shielded from disclosing conflicts of interest.

"The arrangement, which is covered through a $611,500 contract for 'Operation Warp Speed,' raises more questions about the transparency of the pandemic response and the roles of outside contractors, including top coronavirus vaccine adviser Moncef Slaoui, who are helping steer the government's $10 billion development program," reported Dan Diamond. "It's also paying for several other consultants whose roles have not been previously reported, including Carlo de Notaristefani, a pharmaceutical industry veteran who the Department of Health and Human Services said is overseeing all of the program's manufacturing. As consultants, instead of political appointees, Slaoui and de Notaristefani can sidestep the ethics disclosures required of federal workers."

Slaoui's conflicts were first reported in May by The New York Times. He has declined to divest from his holdings, despite the controversy, and the Trump administration will not force him to do so.

According to the report, "The contract also covers William Erhardt and Rachel Harrigan, who are both former Pfizer executives. HHS declined to specify their tasks when asked about their roles; Harrigan is listed as a clinical adviser in the HHS directory."

“For a drug company executive with clear conflicts of interest who is already skirting government ethics rules to be given 'free' housing by a private contractor who was awarded a vague $600,000 government contract smacks of the kind of corruption that is unacceptable in any government program,” said Eli Zupnick, who is affiliated with progressive activist group Patients Over Pharma. “Examples like these are exactly why [Operation Warp Speed] needs to be brought out of the shadows.”

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