A federal judge said the drug regulator must radically speed up the release of hundreds of thousands of Pfizer vaccine files.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been ordered to speed up publication of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine documents by more than 100 times, after the agency said disclosure would take decades.
In a sentence of On Thursday, District Judge Mark Pittman dismissed earlier FDA arguments after saying it could take decades, possibly until 2096, to complete the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Although the agency said it could only process and publish around 500 pages per month, Pittman said it should have sped up the pace, instead ordering 55,000 pages to be published in the same amount of time.
“The court concludes that this FOIA request is of fundamental public importance”, wrote the judge, adding that the timely completion of the release is “Not only practicable, but necessary”.
Pittman accepted an earlier FDA proposal for an initial publication of around 12,000 pages by the end of this month, but said he will need to speed up the process drastically by March. It allowed the regulator to black out the records only when he has “Privilege, exemption or exclusion” on the information and told plaintiffs and the FDA to file a “Joint status report” which details the progress of the ongoing disclosure by April 1, and again every 90 days thereafter until completion.
The FOIA lawsuit was filed in September by attorney Aaron Siri on behalf of the organization Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency, a group of professors and scientists who previously complained that the FDA was dragging its feet on sharing data on Pfizer vaccines. Because the agency was able to process Pfizer’s entire baggage of documents in 108 days to authorize the vaccine, the plaintiffs insisted it didn’t take decades to review, draft, and deliver the documents as claimed.
Commenting on Thursday’s ruling in a post in Substack, Siri deemed the decision one “Great victory for transparency” that will break one “Suffocating grip” of the government on vaccine data.