As an octogenarian, I’m alert to anything moving us closer to “Herd Immunity.” At my age, with a wife recovering from lung cancer, life is basically a form of house arrest. It will remain that way until we arrive at “Herd Immunity.” We get there by enough people becoming immune to impede the virus. Natural spread, a vaccine, or a combination of the two are the ways we get there. Given the history of vaccine development, a successful one at first looked a very long way off. Due to herculean efforts by all hands, miraculously, we might have one in a month or two. A get out of jail card may be in the offing.
However, even when the clinical trials are over, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently decreed a further two-month observation period before release. This will probably push a vaccine well into the new year. The need for this is hotly contested in the scientific community. Unfortunately, it got injected into election-year politics. Having pulled out all stops with his “Operation Warp speed,” President Trump was looking forward to the early vaccine O.K. Democrats claimed he was pushing through a possibly unsafe vaccine to help in his re-election. If half the country refused to get vaccinated, it would be difficult to achieve any early “Herd Immunity.” The fact a delay would cost lives and cause further hardship is the basis of the FDA rules’ criticism. The critics see little risk in moving quicker.
In the midst of all of this, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a warning a Covid-19 vaccine should not be authorized for use in the U.S. based on data from British trials. Ms. Pelosi told reporters in Washington, “We need to be very careful about what happens in the U.K. We have very stringent rules in terms of the Food and Drug Administration here, about the number of clinical trials, the timing, the number of people and all the rest.”
According to the Economist in an article entailed, “Britain prepares to roll out a covid-19 vaccine,” the U.K. is getting ready for vaccine approval and distribution. Are the Brits getting prepared to push a dangerous vaccine using slipshod methods? Not according to Joe Biden’s top medical advisor, Ezekiel Emanuel. He and others authored a New York Times article entitled, “Where Is America’s Groundbreaking Covid-19 Research?” It’s subtitled, The U.S. could learn a lot from Britain.” It compared British methods favorably with our own. In light of the FDA’s hand in our early testing fiasco, we can agree.
Some vaccines are on parallel on tracks in both countries. If the same vaccine is approved and used in the U.K. while still held up by the FDA in this country, is it over safety or politics? If the vaccine is approved, would it even be ethical to withhold it here? I don’t want older, or other at-risk people sickened and dying when it could be prevented. Our politics shouldn’t play a part. Unaffected by our politics, something decided in Britain would have to be seen as fair. If they find it safe, withholding a lifesaving vaccine for months just wouldn’t be right.
At first glance, one would think as an octogenarian Pelosi would be out front pushing for the earliest safe vaccine. However, this is not a person seeing herself as one of us. While the rest of us have to follow the rules, not so Nancy. For instance, you can’t get your hair-care mask-less indoors alone, but she can. Maybe she’ll write her own early access to a vaccine into some bill giving congressional leaders the vaccine first. We wouldn’t know it until after it passed. Remember the Pelosi rule, you have to pass a bill to know what’s in it. One thing for sure is Pelosi never sees herself as one of the little people. Other people’s health and well being don’t appear high on her list.
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Do not put such hope in a vaccine. It likely won’t be safe. Better thereauputics are what is needed.