Pfizer CEO pushes back against Trump claim on vaccine timing

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 file photo, Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer, prepares to testify before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, Bourla wrote to Pfizer employees that he's disappointed the timing for a vaccine to be available was politicized during Tuesday nights presidential debate, saying the company wont succumb to political pressure. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 file photo, Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer, prepares to testify before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, Bourla wrote to Pfizer employees that he's disappointed the timing for a vaccine to be available was politicized during Tuesday nights presidential debate, saying the company wont succumb to political pressure. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The head of Pfizer, one of the drugmakers racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, told employees on Thursday he was disappointed that its work was politicized during the presidential debate and tried to reassure U.S. staff that the company won’t bend to pressure to move more quickly.

CEO Albert Bourla told the employees that the company is “moving at the speed of science,” rather than under any political timing, according to a staff letter obtained by The Associated Press.

“The only pressure we feel — and it weighs heavy — are the billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of government officials that are depending on us,” Bourla wrote.

Despite top U.S. federal health officials repeatedly stating that a vaccine is unlikely to be available widely until mid-2021, President Donald Trump has insisted that a vaccine will be ready before Election Day.

During Tuesday's debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump said he had talked with the companies whose experimental vaccines are furthest along in testing.

“I’ve spoken to Pfizer, I’ve spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others. They can go faster than that by a lot,” Trump claimed. “It’s become very political.”

“We’re weeks away from a vaccine,” Trump added.

Pfizer has said that by late October it expects to have data from its ongoing late-stage test that could show whether the vaccine is safe and effective. In his letter to employees, Bourla wrote that the company hopes to have “a hundred million doses delivered by the end of the year.”