Tuesday, December 13, 2022


The possible next president of the United States wants to launch an all-out assault on vaccine manufacturers -- but don't worry your silly little head about the public-health implications of that, because according to NBC's Marc Caputo, this is just a horserace story:
For about a year, Donald Trump’s confidants, advisers and boosters have worried that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was positioning himself to get to the right of the former president over the issue of Covid vaccines.

DeSantis, who is mulling whether to challenge Trump in the 2024 Republican primary for president, deepened those suspicions Tuesday.

At a roundtable he convened of Covid vaccine skeptics and opponents — including his own surgeon general — he formally called on the state Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate whether pharmaceutical companies criminally misled Floridians about the side effects of vaccines, a position at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This could have a chilling effect on the development of future vaccines. It's frightening, though it's not as frightening as a DeSantis presidency could be, especially if it coincides with a new pandemic, or the spread of a really bad COVID strain. DeSantis is putting vaccine makers on notice that if he's the president, it's open season on them. But to Caputo, this is just a story about the 2024 election:
The decision by DeSantis to now investigate the vaccines was widely panned by those in Trump’s orbit.

“Prior to this, his position was identical to Trump’s, and he advocated the efficiency and safety of vaccines. That’s his record,” said Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump and an outspoken critic of DeSantis.

“This is a shot across the bow. We know exactly what Ron is up to,” said another Trump adviser who spoke more bluntly, but on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak freely.

“The fact is, we’ve seen this coming for a year, ever since Ron started to get anti-vax,” the Republican said, explaining the governor's opposition to the vaccine. “Yes, there’s a portion of our base that is anti-vax and some people could walk away from Trump over it. That’s why Ron is doing it. It’s so transparent.”
Whether this is good or bad policy (it's terrible policy) is of no concern to Caputo. All he cares about is whether it's related to 2024. DeSantis's surrogates insist it isn't:
Those familiar with DeSantis’ thinking downplayed the political ramifications, pointing out that he was one of the first high-profile Republicans to challenge expert opinions and health care professionals when it came to the Covid response....

DeSantis was also an early public critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, during the pandemic who became anathema to conservatives in 2020, even as Trump resisted pressure to oust him (while still often criticizing him).

“This isn’t about 2024. This is about what DeSantis believes in,” said one Republican who was not authorized to speak publicly on his behalf.
There's a brief mention of public health -- one entire sentence!
DeSantis’ announcement came just hours after a study found the vaccines have saved 3.2 million American lives.
But then we're right back to the 2024 race. A new poll is cited (in which DeSantis is crushing Trump). The pollster is quoted describing DeSantis as someone whose "support spans many columns and crosstabs, and that includes Trump voters and lots of them are anti-vax." And we're reminded that Trump was once booed for saying he'd received a booster shot.

Inectious diseases can kill millions, but what's really important is who's up and who's down in electoral politics.

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