It’s a new month, so naturally Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton got out his Rightwing Conspiracy dartboard. He squinted hard, flicked his wrist, and voilà, a new investigation was born.
Attorney General Paxton launched an investigation into the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson concerning whether they engaged in gain-of-function research and misled the public about doing so.
Paxton is also investigating whether the companies misrepresented the efficacy of their Covid-19 vaccines and the likelihood of transmitting Covid-19 after taking the vaccines in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The investigation will also look into the potential manipulation of vaccine trial data. This investigation concerns potentially fraudulent activity that falls outside the scope of legal immunity granted to manufacturers of the Covid-19 vaccine. It will also review the companies’ controversial practice of reporting the metric of “relative risk reduction” instead of “absolute risk reduction” when publicly discussing the efficacy of their vaccines.
Paxton’s previous investigative targets have included: Twitter, for possibly lying to Elon Musk; the parents of trans kids; and the state bar for daring to open an investigation into him. So it was only a matter of time before this comic book villain came after vaccine manufacturers for rescuing us from a deadly pandemic and making it possible to go back to normal life. Although, to be fair, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis beat him to the punch, petitioning the state’s highest court to impanel a grand jury to investigate “sudden deaths of individuals that received the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.”
Fluent speakers of wingnut will have clocked that bit up top about “gain-of-function research,” a buzzword for wingnuts obsessed with the theory that SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a Chinese lab in Wuhan using funding from the National Institutes of Health, and then leaked/deliberately unleashed on the world, and thus Dr. Anthony Fauci is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic.
Pfizer Director of Research and Development, Jordan Walker, gave a speech describing the company’s efforts to anticipate future mutations of the virus to make the vaccine better. Agitprop media outlet Project Veritas then released a video falsely claiming that Pfizer was making the virus more dangerous to goose its sales. And then all the worst people in Congress cited the video in their never ending stupid culture war, because if libruls are for it, then they’re agin’ it.
And that’s how we wound up here, with the Texas attorney general dropping subpoenas on drugmakers and boasting that he’s going to “force these companies to turn over documents the public otherwise could not access” and suggesting that “a profit motive or political pressure may have compromised Americans’ health and safety.”
In his announcement, Paxton briefly acknowledges that the Trump administration granted almost blanket immunity to drug manufacturers in an effort to get vaccines to market faster. The companies are almost unequivocally immune from suit by the states, despite Paxton’s blasé insistence that he’s investigating conduct which “falls outside the scope” of the government’s protections. But it’s not clear whether they’re immune from civil process, although they will certainly argue that they are.
LSS? Texas voters just returned this ghoul to office, and he’s going to make as much trouble as he can for the foreseeable future.
Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate COVID-19 vaccine makers [Texas Trib]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics and appears on the Opening Arguments podcast.