The country that brought the world reality television appears to have learned nothing about drama, except, perhaps, its usefulness in distraction. Canada and The UK have begun distributing vaccinations to their populations, prioritizing their people over political ploys. As US politicians point fingers and lay claim to the vaccine legacy, the population remains without vaccination.
The UK was the first country in the world to make Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine available. Echoing Pelosi’s concern that the UK regulatory body is not on par with the one in the US and that she mistrusts the vaccine testing safety regime, Faucci rushed to cable TV to criticize the British regulators. They brushed it off and moved on with approval. Apart from the two cases so far that got an allergic reaction, the vaccine has not shown any major complications yet.
Faucci then had to walk back his political statement: “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does, both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint,” he said for BBC.
In America, Trump kept up his optimism about the vaccine’s availability, but, at the same time, Biden reiterated his election campaign message about the “dark winter”.
While the US remained entangled in a political game of who deserves credit for the vaccine, rather than who will get it and how fast, Canada moved forward to approve it. The US lagging behind in order to time the vaccine release closer to Biden’s move into the Oval Office has become increasingly hard to justify.
On Friday, Trump called the FDA a big, old, slow turtle.
“Get the damn vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA,” Trump tweeted. “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”
Trump grew impatient, and while his political opponents attacked him for rushing vaccines before he left the office, the Democrats for the same political reasons wanted to slow it down. The pandemic was politicized from day one, and that is not exclusive to America, but Canada and Britain have placed their people above politics.
Trump’s impatience is justified.
One of the most irresponsible politicization of the vaccine was done by Andrew Cuomo who paddled mistrust of the FDA approval in an interview with George Stephanopolous on “Good Morning America”.
In October 2020, Governor Cuomo said that he’s not “that confident” in the approval process.
“I don’t believe the American people are that confident. You are going to say to the American people now, ‘Here’s a vaccine, it was new, it was done quickly, but trust this federal administration, their health administration, that it’s safe, and we’re not 100% sure of the consequences,’ I think it’s going to be a very skeptical American public about taking the vaccine, and they should be,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo propagated his belief that Trump was making decisions based on politics rather than science, but it was never Trump working on the vaccine. Cuomo’s televised statements for which he got an Emmy Award were effectively irresponsible.
He went as far as to undermine the trust of the CDC and the FDA to fit his political talking points that are completely divorced from the reality wherein those organizations, scientists are making their decisions based on facts — not on what political parties have dictated.
With all the politicization, and even ridicule, of him over the past few months, Trump’s impatience with vaccine rollout was justified especially since the UK and Canada approved that same vaccine.
“Approve vaccine by Friday or resign”, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows declared, placing an ultimatum on the FDA’s Chief Stephen Hahnplaced. Swiftly, a vaccine was approved yesterday allowing Trump to make positive news on a day when SCOTUS denied the suit in Texas to overturn the election results.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
Now that the vaccine is ready to roll out, the fight in public forum as to who gets the credit continues. Fact-checkers are even involved to explain that Trump cannot take credit because Pfizer vaccine development was not funded by the US. However, Trump never asked to be credited for vaccine development.
Pfizer signed an agreement with the U.S. government in July worth $1.95 billion to supply 100 million doses.
1. U.S. government placed an initial order of 100 million doses for $1.95 billion and can acquire up to 500 million additional doses.
2. Americans are to receive the vaccine for free, consistent with the U.S. government’s commitment for free access to COVID-19 vaccines.
3. Pfizer and BioNTech remain on track to begin an anticipated Phase 2b/3 safety and efficacy trial later this month, seek regulatory review as early as October 2020, and manufacture globally up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and potentially more than 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“Expanding Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio by adding a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Depending on success in clinical trials, today’s agreement will enable the delivery of approximately 100 million doses of this vaccine to the American people,” he added.
Thus, while fact-checkers are correct that Trump cannot take the credit for vaccine development, which no politician in the world can, he and his administration are to take credit for including both the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines in the US portfolio and for securing the contract to buy the vaccines, a problem that many countries in the world now have. Trump is also to get credit for making the vaccine free for all, something that, for example, Bernie Sanders (Medicare for All) would do.
Operation Warp Speed was launched under Trump’s leadership, and the rollout of the vaccine is now happening under those contracts the U.S. government was able to secure. Politics will always remain politics, and giving Trump any credit for anything he has done during the pandemic goes against the accusations made by the Democrats that Trump is responsible for close to a quarter of a million COVID deaths.
Political narration in absolute terms — a polarization of black and white with wholly-good or evil political actors — is doomed to fail. Nothing is ever completely good or completely bad. Politics is complex and so are the political actors who try to navigate its social context. Looking from an armchair at the President at work, many claim that they would have done better in his shoes during this pandemic, a hypothesis that will remain untested indefinitely. So far, New York, run by the largely understood-to-be-competent Governor Cuomo, did not do very well. After closing schools, restaurants will now also be closing, a development that was supposed to fall into an early set of measures— not as a relapse in December 2020.
New political, economic and social challenges are yet to come. Biden and Harris are getting ready to move into the White House, but so far they have not done anything to earn the title Man of the Year for 2020. While the debate on whether or not Trump should get credit may continue, one thing is certain. The democrats deserved none this year, and the American people deserve transparency and the delivery of the vaccine.