FORT WORTH, TX, January 22, 2022 – Federal Judge Mark T. Pittman of the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, on January 6, ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accelerate the release of an estimated 451,000 pages of material related to the licensing of Pfizer’s BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Originally, the FDA proposed a release schedule of 500 pages per month after a group of scientists issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, asking the U.S. Government to release the data it reviewed before licensing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The latest order by Judge Pittman now accelerates this schedule to 55,000 pages per month. In other words, all the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine data will now be accessible to the public by the end of this summer instead of the year 2097.
The public can view the documents on the Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency’s (PHMPT) website. To view the Lynnwood Times article on the first set of FOIA released data, click here.
FDA resistance and court ordered compliance
The FDA argued that its 10-member FOIA staff could not handle the workload of more than 500 pages a month in addition to the normal incoming FOIA requests. However, attorneys for the Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency countered stating the agency with a $6.5 billion budget can reassign some of its 18,062 employees to fulfill the request.
Pittman in his order agreed with the plaintiff’s argument and stated that the “FOIA request is of paramount public importance.”
“Here, the Court recognizes the ‘“unduly burdensome”’ challenges that this FOIA request may present to the FDA…But, as expressed at the scheduling conference, there may not be a ‘“more important issue at the Food and Drug Administration . . . than the pandemic, the Pfizer vaccine, getting every American vaccinated, [and] making sure that the American public is assured that this was not rush[ed] on behalf of the United States,”’ Pittman wrote.