Canada's deputy prime minister warns of pressure on health regulators

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is warning of the “very dangerous consequences” of political pressure on health regulators around the world.

Freeland made the remarks Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump suggested the White House might reject an FDA proposal for stronger standards on the emergency use of any eventual Covid-19 vaccines.

“We are seeing interference and pressure on regulators around the world, and I think we can all see the very dangerous consequences of that kind of an approach,” Freeland told reporters in Ottawa, without naming any other countries. “That will not be the approach our government takes.”

She said that, as a mother, she wants to be assured any medicines or tests used in Canada have been approved by regulators without any “political interference or pressure.” The independence of regulators to make their own careful, medical judgment is more important than ever during the global pandemic, Freeland added.

More on the FDA backstory: Trump also suggested Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration's decision to toughen its guidance "was a political move more than anything else."

Trump has tried to reassure Americans by suggesting a coronavirus vaccine will be available before they vote on Election Day. Top experts, however, have said it’s very unlikely a shot will be ready by then.

Other concerns about political pressure: Two prominent science academies warned Thursday about cases of political interference.

"We find ongoing reports and incidents of the politicization of science, particularly the overriding of evidence and advice from public health officials and derision of government scientists, to be alarming," wrote the presidents of National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. "It undermines the credibility of public health agencies and the public’s confidence in them when we need it most.”

More on Canada’s approach: Freeland, who has long been Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minister responsible for U.S.-Canada relations, said the Liberal government has been working to line up advance deals for medicines, tests and vaccines.

“We need to be ready to pounce and to procure new technologies, new tests, new vaccines, new therapeutics as soon as they get that Good Housekeeping seal of approval from Canadian regulators,” Freeland said after being asked what it would take for Canada to approve rapid Covid-19 testing kits.

Access to testing and concerns about the lack of speed in getting results have been major worries for Canadians months after the start of the pandemic. Much of Canada, Trudeau warned Wednesday, has entered the second wave.

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