Trump’s rush for a vaccine endangers the nation’s health
President Trump and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House event in April. In the push for a COVID-19 vaccine, neither is showing much concern for public health. Redfield has lost credibility because he regularly puts out directives that originate from Trump, rather than from reputable health experts and now he is trying to get states to lift safety regulations that will allow him to fast-track the setup of vaccine centers before November 1. | AP

The Trump administration admits it is aiming for a vaccine for COVID-19 before Election Day and that the public will joyfully rise up to reward him with a second term in the White House.

The news this week that AstraZeneca, a leading pharmaceutical giant, has halted its trial of a COVID-19 vaccine because of an “unexplained illness” in one of the test subjects is not welcome news for a president determined to have a vaccine at any cost before Americans cast their ballots on Nov. 3.

Trump has been angling for a quick “America First” vaccine ever since last March when he tried to bribe CureVac, a German company, to sell exclusive rights to a vaccine only to the United States. The German government and countries around the world reacted with revulsion and put the kibosh on Trump’s scheme.

Americans now are expressing widespread fear of taking any kind of “cure” from a president who once pursued solutions to the pandemic ranging from a variety of unproven drugs and vitamins to the drinking of bleach and the injection of disinfectants. People can be expected to line up for a vaccine only if they are convinced by credible scientists and health experts that the vaccine is safe.

The problem is that the president has undermined and destroyed the credibility of the two most important guardians of public health in the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, which is pushing “emergency authorizations for use” of things the president tells them he wants. Everyone knows, of course, that the president is not a medical authority.

“When I hear things like ‘emergency authorization,’ I get very worried because we’ve never done that for a vaccine that’s going to be given to a large segment of the population,” Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor School of Medicine told the Associated Press this week.

Trump’s vitriolic campaign against the Food and Drug Administration, which must certify that any vaccine is safe and effective, already has destroyed public confidence that the agency is following science rather than obeying an ignorant president.

The reputation of the Centers for Disease Control has also been destroyed as time after time it has put out recommendations originating from Trump himself. In late August, the CDC, at the behest of Trump, suggested that people without symptoms shouldn’t take the trouble to get tested for COVID-19. By caving in to Trump, they put themselves in opposition to every other reputable source in the health care field. Health experts almost unanimously argue that mass testing is key to controlling the pandemic.

For Trump, however, less testing means fewer cases and, therefore, a better chance at his re-election.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford rushed a swine flu vaccine into production and posed for television cameras getting the injection himself. The vaccine was not thoroughly tested before distribution, however, and caused adverse health problems for many people. Many experts worry Trump will try the same thing with a COVID-19 vaccine. | David Hume Kennerly / Gerald R. Ford Library

In short, even before a vaccine, safe or unsafe, is developed, the president’s rush job is already getting more people sick and more people dead.

In a recent poll by the healthcare news website Stat, 70% of respondents said they worried that Trump’s determination to be re-elected is driving the approval process, and more than 80% doubted that a fast-tracked vaccine would be safe.

The dangers of the administration’s rush job grew even more in the last two weeks with the revelation that CDC Director Robert Redfield has sent a letter to the nation’s governors asking them to lift their safety regulations and allow fast-track opening of vaccine centers by Nov. 1—two days before the election.

When Republican President Gerald Ford, concerned about his re-election, similarly rushed through a swine flu vaccine in 1976, hundreds came down with a severe nerve disorder, forcing the suspension of the vaccine program, which featured the president himself, on national television, rolling up his sleeve to take the shot.

The irony is that Trump is accusing Democrats, concerned about public health and therefore opposed to the rush job, of being “anti-science” and “anti-vaccine,” while it’s he who has long been in league with the right-wing anti-vaxxers.

New York and California have already declared that they will require solid evidence of the safety of any vaccine before they allow distribution in their states.

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CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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