Federal Judge Squashes FDA's Plan to Keep COVID Vaccine Data Secret for Decades
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Americans should get the data that the Food and Drug Administration relied upon when it approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine far sooner than the agency wanted.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled that the FDA must comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for over 400,000 pages of data much faster than its current rate, Fox News reported.
The FDA never declined to release the data, but said it could not produce more than about 500 pages a month. At that pace, the last of the material would not be released until 2097.
Instead, Pittman ordered the FDA to provide about 55,000 pages a month and wrap up sharing the data in eight months.
Attorney Aaron Siri, who represents Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency, the group that sued, said Pittman handed Americans a major victory.
“This is a great win for transparency and removes one of the strangleholds federal ‘health’ authorities have had on the data needed for independent scientists to offer solutions and address serious issues with the current vaccine program,” he wrote on Substack.
Siri said the vaccine program is flawed.
“No person should ever be coerced to engage in an unwanted medical procedure. And while it is bad enough the government violated this basic liberty right by mandating the Covid-19 vaccine, the government also wanted to hide the data by waiting to fully produce what it relied upon to license this product until almost every American alive today is dead,” he wrote.
“That form of governance is destructive to liberty and antithetical to the openness required in a democratic society.”
In his ruling, Pittman quoted multiple precedents on the matter of the timely sharing of vital information.
“’Open government is fundamentally an American issue’ — it is neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue,” Pittman wrote, quoting Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
“As James Madison wrote, ‘[a] popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives,’” Pittman wrote.
“John F. Kennedy likewise recognized that ‘a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.’ And, particularly appropriate in this case, John McCain (correctly) noted that ‘[e]xcessive administrative secrecy . . . feeds conspiracy theories and reduces the public’s confidence in the government.'”
Pittman recognized in his order that meeting the new timetable would be a challenge for the FDA but said “this FOIA request is of paramount public importance.”
Quoting a past court ruling that said “stale information is of little value,” the judge wrote that “the expeditious completion of Plaintiff’s request is not only practicable, but necessary.”
Reuters reporter Jenna Greene praised the ruling.
“Even if the FDA may not see it this way, I think Pittman did the agency — and the country — a big favor by expediting the document production,” she wrote.
“I’ve been chronicling this fight since November and have heard from of readers who said they felt something was suspicious, even nefarious, in the FDA’s proposed slo-mo timeline. Making the information public as soon as possible may help assuage the concerns of vaccine skeptics and convince them the product is safe.”
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