Monday, August 24, 2020


A couple of weeks ago, I warned you that President Trump might try to use a Russian COVID-19 vaccine as an October surprise in order to get reelected. Now the Financial Times reports this:
The Trump administration is considering bypassing normal US regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental coronavirus vaccine from the UK for use in America ahead of the presidential election, according to three people briefed on the plan.

One option being explored to speed up the availability of a vaccine would involve the US Food and Drug Administration awarding “emergency use authorisation” (EUA) in October to a vaccine being developed in a partnership between AstraZeneca and Oxford university, based on the results from a relatively small UK study if it is successful, the people said.

The AstraZeneca study has enrolled 10,000 volunteers, whereas the US government’s scientific agencies have said that a vaccine would need to be studied in 30,000 people to pass the threshold for authorisation. AstraZeneca is also conducting a larger study with 30,000 volunteers, although the results from that will come after the smaller trial.
I'm sure Trump had never heard of "emergency use authorizations" until this month, but I'm betting they're his favorite presidential power now, the medical equivalent of executive orders. He just forced the FDA to issue an EUA authorizing the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID -- which was already being done on an experimental basis, and which is not considered by most scientists to be a "breakthrough," as Trump claimed the day before his convention started.

If, a month before Election Day, Trump really does approve a vaccine that hasn't been fully tested, that sets up the possibility that the Trump cult -- which thinks the coronavirus is no more harmful than the flu and believes vaccines are an excuse for Bill Gates to inject microchips in heretofore free citizens -- will volunteer to be vaccinated, while the rest of us -- who generally believe in vaccines -- pass it up. (I'm eager for a vaccine, but I want one that's fully tested and accepted for use in the EU, Canada, New Zealand, and other civilized countries.)

We could get to the point where the rest of us are getting a vaccine that's widely accepted throughout the world, but the Trumpers will demand the one he promoted. (And if it's determined to be ineffective or dangerous, they'll say that conclusion was a Deep State plot to force everyone to take the one with the microchips.)

I believe that there's a pro-science silent majority in America, and if Trump tries this October surprise, he won't have very many takers. More likely, he'll get pushback from the professionals in the federal government, and he'll abandon the effort -- and why not? He doesn't actually need a vaccine to get the intended effect. He'll be fine if he can just say he wants one distributed, but "they" won't let him. That will make his cult love him even more.

Either way, it's unlikely that any vaccine will be in wide distribution until after the election. So Trump can promise whatever he wants.


UPDATE: Joshua Holland has more. He thinks this won't work -- polls say the public mistrusts Trump on the pandemic, and the press has become more skeptical. We'll see.

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