Pfizer wants to help the FDA with its new, court-mandated $4-5M FOIA release on the company's Covid-19 vaccine data
An FDA court loss earlier this month has put the agency’s Freedom of Information Act office on its heels, as it now has to dump $4 million to $5 million into hiring 15 contractors to complete a historically swift anti-vaccine FOIA request that won a court-mandated release of 55,000 pages of data per month on Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.
What’s more, Pfizer told the court this week that it’s ready to intervene to help the agency redact those pages.
While stressing that it supports the public disclosure of “the vast majority of this information to promote transparency and the public’s confidence in the vaccine,” Pfizer told the Texas district court that it only seeks to intervene in the case to ensure “information that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA is not disclosed inappropriately.”
This comes as the FDA, meanwhile, realized it doesn’t have the staff to meet the needs of this massive FOIA request, and has had to pull over staffers from CBER while calling on the court to amend its timeline so it can bring on about two dozen employees and contractors to deal with this situation.
While transparency is supposedly at the heart of this lawsuit, a closer look reveals it’s another ploy to drum up inaccurate anti-vaccine resentment. Pfizer notes in its brief the extent of the data that has already been made public around the safety and efficacy of its vaccine by the CDC, FDA and published in journals.
Anti-vax lawyer Aaron Siri, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, called on the court to reject the FDA’s ask to slow the schedule for releasing the documents, claiming that FDA’s staffers could read more than five pages per hour and calling the $4-$5 million figure “an absurd overestimate.”
The Jan. 6 court order required that FDA disclose more than 12,000 pages of information by the end of this month, and then 55,000 pages every 30 days, including the production of redacted versions of any documents for which FDA claims a privilege, exemption or exclusion.
“FDA respectfully requests that the January 6 Order be modified to provide that — for only the first two 30-day periods following FDA’s scheduled January 31, 2022 production — FDA’s monthly quota be adjusted to 10,000 pages per month,” the agency wrote on Jan. 18. “FDA would use this period to ‘stand up’ the extraordinary resources that will be required to bring full compliance with the Order within the realm of possibility — while still processing records at a rate on par with the most extreme processing rates that Plaintiff cited in its briefing.”
FDA also said that it shares Pfizer’s view that “in the unusual and indeed extraordinary circumstances here presented, Pfizer’s intervention would facilitate an orderly resolution of this matter, and consents to Pfizer’s intervention.”