A Trump October surprise vaccine?
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a member of Joe Biden's Public Health Advisory Committee, has gone full Adam Schiff with an opinion piece in the New York Times that plays out a scenario where President Trump rushes a COVID-19 vaccine to market in an attempt to boost his polling in the election:
Oct. 23, 2020, 3 p.m., at a hastily convened news conference, President Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration has just issued an Emergency Use Authorization for a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Trump declares victory over Covid-19, demands that all businesses reopen immediately and predicts a rapid economic recovery. Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched. In a desperate search for a political boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.
There is so much wishful thinking packed into this little piece of fiction that it's hard to figure out where to begin.
First, it assumes that Trump is behind in the polls come October 23 and that the polls, which predicted Hillary in a landslide about that time four years ago, are more accurate this go-around.
Next, it seems to indicate that we will still be locked down and in economic turmoil five months from now. Apparently, Dr. Zeke is in Biden's bunker, playing gin rummy with the presidential hopeful, and is blind to what is happening in the real world. Record hiring and rebounding stock markets are not indicators that the world will be in a long-term recession come October — at least not the United States.
If there is a second resurgence and the Democrat governors shut down their states (the red states will certainly not shut down again), the Democrats will have other problems. At the same time, most people will be clamoring for a vaccine, side-effects or none.
Emanuel goes on to speculate that "[o]ne highly unlikely possibility is that recruitment of volunteers in a coronavirus 'hot spot' would be so rapid that it would allow for an adequate assessment of the vaccine's safety and effectiveness very quickly. There is another scenario that is far more ominous: Three months after the N.I.H. trials begin in July — so, mid-October — studies reveal many patients are developing high levels of antibodies to the coronavirus without severe side effects."
Now, I'm no scientist or expert, but I fail to see how these two outcomes are "ominous." Biden's health adviser seems to think so. It does make sense to test the virus on the most vulnerable first, and if the results show high levels of antibodies with no severe side-effects, I think Trump should be up on the pulpit, singing hallelujah!
Dr. Zoltar points out that there are over a hundred companies and researchers spending billions of dollars working on a vaccine. This isn't an accident and was something Trump promoted heavily early on, although Emanuel fails to give him credit. He admits that "the F.D.A. could issue an Emergency Use Authorization for one or more vaccines. These authorizations only require that the F.D.A. finds it 'reasonable to believe' that a vaccine 'may be effective' in preventing a life-threatening disease for it to be put on the market, without being formally licensed." But he goes on to liken such an announcement to President G.W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" proclamation.
Emanuel is correct when he says antibodies may not mean that any vaccine is effective at preventing infection; it is only a good indicator that it might work. But Dr. Zeke gives Trump an out in case it doesn't work as promised — "[i]ndeed, about half of the vaccines for other diseases that work and are on the market actually lack clear immunological correlates for protection." It is unclear why he thinks this common outcome would be bad in such dire circumstances. A hundred million people are immunized each year for influenza and millions still go to hospitals, and tens of thousands still die each year, but I'm sure he's the first to recommend getting a flu shot.
In a final salvo, the Biden political operative masquerading as an expert panders to his leftist audience by claiming, "Thousands of Americans have already died as Donald Trump has perpetually postponed effective public health interventions and made poor therapeutic recommendations." This argument is heads you lose, tails I win. If he postpones a vaccine release until it is proven 100% effective and safe, he's responsible for thousands more deaths. If he rushes it to market, he's putting thousands at risk even if it works.
Even if it seems like a political stunt, I'm all for this kind of "October surprise."