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James Freeman calls Cuomo’s coronavirus vaccine comments ‘reckless and irresponsible’

WSJ’s James Freeman slams N.Y. Gov. Cuomo for criticizing the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine rollout plan.

Video Transcript

ANDREW CUOMO: The Trump administration is rolling out the vaccination plan, and I believe it's flawed. I believe it learns nothing from the past. They're basically going to have the private providers do it. And that's going to leave out all sorts of communities that were left out the first time when COVID ravaged them.

CONNELL MACSHANE: That was the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, really slamming the Trump administration on its handling of the virus and also, as you heard there, the possibility of being able to roll out the vaccine, effectively. It comes on the day that Pfizer and BioNTech announced their COVID-19 vaccine trial is 90% effective. James Freeman from the Wall Street Journal, Fox contributor, joining us now. What do you make of Cuomo's comments on a day like this?

JAMES FREEMAN: So disappointing, questioning the role of private providers. Who does he think just created this vaccine? And who is going to create the other-- or has created the other vaccine candidates and the other potential therapies? It is the private medical research enterprise in this country.

So I don't know what he has in mind if he's saying private companies should not participate in administering vaccines. I think we've seen what his management did in New York. And I don't think people want that replicated in the drug and vaccine area.

CONNELL MACSHANE: Also, we need-- I think we've talked about this even in segments you've been on in the past. We need buy-in here. And it is going to become-- especially with the divisions in the country, red and blue and all the rest, we are going to need buy-in from blue states if the FDA approves this vaccine, people to take it.

And you would think this type of talk is going to undermine that. I mean, we don't-- it's hard to tell how much. But, you know, if people see Governor Cuomo and they're a fan of his, and then they think twice. And this could be perfectly well approved, rolled out, and everything else. But if people don't take it, we've got an issue on our hands, right?

JAMES FREEMAN: His comments are really reckless and irresponsible, suggesting that if the FDA, while Donald Trump is in office, approves it, that there's a problem here. Just, I think common sense should tell people and it's really sad that we have to go through this.

But just to lay it out, Pfizer is a massive corporation. The idea that they would put this out there without a lot of confidence that this was going to work is kind of nutty. It's not going to have a material positive impact on Pfizer that the thing works. It would have enormous damage to them reputationally and otherwise if this isn't ready to serve the public.

So yes, there are caveats. The data has not been peer reviewed. Pfizer notes how, you know, there's more information coming in. The FDA has to do what it does. We hope it doesn't take too long. But for Governor Cuomo to suggest that we shouldn't, in any way, trust a vaccine because it gets developed and approved while someone he doesn't like is president, I think it's highly irresponsible.

CONNELL MACSHANE: That's a really good point about Pfizer because it's not like it's some small, little company on the way up that, you know, you boost the stock one day, not that that necessarily would happen either. But it's not like you could-- this is Pfizer. This is one of the biggest companies, in terms of drug companies anyway, in the world. And it's in their interest. It's in their interest to tell the truth in this case or to put out the best information that they have in this case.

JAMES FREEMAN: Yeah, you don't have to believe that big business is virtuous to understand the incentives here. Huge downside for them and relatively smaller upside of putting out there something that isn't ready.

CONNELL MACSHANE: Really good point. I want to-- before I let you go, we played what Governor Cuomo had to say. Now President-elect Joe Biden also made some comments today on the vaccine a little bit different from that. But here's what he said. And then we'll talk about it. Here's Mr. Biden.

JOE BIDEN: And we just received positive news in this fight with the announcement that there's been progress made toward a successful vaccine. The expectation is the FDA will run a process of rigorous reviews and approvals. And the process must also be grounded in science and fully transparent so the American people can have every confidence that any approved vaccine is safe and effective.

CONNELL MACSHANE: OK, the last part saying it needs to be grounded in science, I mean, I think we all agree it does and hopefully will be. But is that at least a more appropriate way of addressing it, do you think, than what we saw from Governor Cuomo, James?

JAMES FREEMAN: Yeah, absolutely a more responsible statement than we heard from the governor of New York. I would hope that FDA review is not too extensive and onerous. They have to realize the stakes here. They have to move more quickly than they normally do. I hope there's a realization there.

But it's not just government bureaucrats. Fortunately, there is a active research enterprise and people can look at the results. And we continue to get more data. And Pfizer will have more data, and other vaccines are seeking approval. So there's a lot of information that's going to be coming out. This is very positive news.

But we're not-- we don't want to simply rely on bureaucrats. And as I said, I think for all of these companies, they have a very large stake in getting it right and, obviously, have been putting a lot of resources into that.

CONNELL MACSHANE: Yeah, agreed on the incentive side of it. It's a really good point and unique look at things. As always, James Freeman, thank you, sir. It's good to see you.