A federal judge on Thursday ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release Pfizer vaccine data within approximately eight months after the agency had asked for 75 years to fully comply with an extensive public records request.
President Donald Trump appointee Judge Mark Pittman ordered the agency to produce 12,000 pages of Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency’s (PHMPT) request by January 31, 2022, followed by 55,000 pages every 30 days. The first round is due by March 1, 2022.
Pittman wrote in part:
“Open government is fundamentally an American issue”—it is neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue. 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.”
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.”
PHMPT’s attorney Aaron Siri in court filings estimated that the size of the FOIA request “appears to be at least 451,000 pages,” which would take roughly 75 years to complete at the FDA’s proposed rate of 500 pages released per month. According to the court-ordered production schedule, PHMPT should receive 451,000 pages by October 1, 2022.