Reason Roundup

The FDA Continues To Drag Its Feet on Vaccine Approval

Plus: Oregon rolls back parking minimums, regulators approve a new type of pig, Shrek finally gets the recognition it deserves, and more...


The first batch of the freshly approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is now being distributed across the country, sparking hopes that we are finally turning a corner on the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to drag its feet in approving additional vaccines.

On Friday, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for this vaccine, allowing Pfizer to start shipping out the first of some 3 million doses from its warehouse in Kalamazoo, Michigan. By noon on Monday, some 55 locations had received their shipments of the vaccine, reports the Wall Street Journal. By Sunday, millions of doses are supposed to ship to over 1,000 locations. By the end of the year, Pfizer says 25 million doses of its vaccine will be available countrywide.

This is all great. The endless stories about healthcare workers getting the first round of vaccine shots are some of the first bits of good news to make it onto the front pages of newspapers and websites in the last nine months.

It's nevertheless important to remember that the FDA's approval is coming nearly two weeks after British regulators greenlighted the same vaccine, and almost a month since Pfizer/BioNTech submitted its final data for the agency to review.

Had the FDA acted more swiftly—say by bumping up the December 10 meeting it held to recommend approval of the Pfizer vaccine—Monday's good news could have arrived a few weeks earlier. Meanwhile, the advisory committee tasked with evaluating another vaccine developed by Moderna is not set to meet until Thursday.

Given the slow rollout of these vaccines (slow, at least, when considered against the number of people needing to be vaccinated), it's easy to think that the delay of a few days or weeks isn't all that consequential.

Not so, says George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok, who deploys some back-of-the-envelope math to argue that a few thousand people will die for every day the FDA dawdles in approving new vaccines.

"The slow ramp up doesn't change the number of deaths caused by delay. It just spreads them out over different days. You can adjust the ramp [up] so that it occurs over 10 days or 30 days. Doesn't change much," he writes in a post at Marginal Revolution.

"FDA delays [in approving early coronavirus tests] cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives back in January, and it's happening again now," wrote John Hopkins scientist Marty Makary in The Dispatch about the agency's slow-walking of vaccine approvals.


An Oregon regulatory board issued a new rule that trims the number of off-street parking spaces developers can be required to build. Michael Andersen, in an article for the Sightline Institute, describes what the changes will mean in much of the state:

Middle-housing projects on residential lots of 3,000 square feet or less can't be required to have more than one off-street parking space, total, for the first four homes. For lots of up to 5,000 square feet, no more than two parking spaces can be required, total; for lots of up to 7,000 square feet, no more than three spaces. On lots larger than 7,000 square feet, a limit of one mandatory parking space per home applies.

Parking minimums are yet another regulation that drives up the costs of housing by requiring developers to build more spaces on more land than they otherwise might. By limiting what people can build on land they own, these minimums obviously infringe on property rights.

Oregon's decision to pare back how many parking spaces local governments can require for new developments is a win for both affordability and freedom.


In addition to vaccines for humans, the FDA also approved a new type of genetically engineered pig on Monday, reports The Verge. A snippet:

The Food and Drug Administration has approved genetically engineered pigs for use in food and medical products. The pigs, developed by medical company Revivicor, could be used in the production of drugs, to provide organs and tissues for transplants, and to produce meat that's safe to eat for people with meat allergies.

Who knows what other types of super animals we might be getting if regulators weren't so busy dragging their feet (or hooves).


  • Republican senators are coming around to the idea that Joe Biden might have won the 2020 presidential election following his victory in Monday's Electoral College vote.
  • Had the FDA approved a vaccine a little more quickly, the momentous news about Shrek being added to the National Film Registry might not have been so criminally overshadowed.
  • Attorney General William Barr announced Monday that he will resign sometime before Christmas.
  • A report from the Center of Global Policy suggests that up to half a million ethnic minorities are being forced to pick cotton in China's Xinjiang region.
  • U.S. tech giants face huge new fines from European regulators, Reuters reports.
  • A San Francisco cop hit two bicyclists after allegedly running a red light.