Trust and Politics: the Race for a Vaccine
By Manuel Wallick
COVID-19 is still raging across much of the United States, and the death toll has recently passed 200,000 since the start of the pandemic. With a vaccine being the best hope of returning to normal, the country is anxious to see one get developed and produced. Public trust in a possible vaccine has declined due to the politicized nature of it, which could be a major issue when trust in a vaccine will be critical for Americans to receive it. This decrease in public trust is a result of political interference and questioning of the vaccine process.
President Trump has seen his political position drastically decline as a result of the pandemic and its effect on the American people. As a result, he has taken to pushing for a vaccine as soon as possible, his goal being to have one not only by the end of the year but before the November election. In recent days, the President has attacked both his own CDC Director and potential measures from the FDA in regards to vaccine development. The President responded to CDC Director Robert Redfield, who advised the country to continue wearing masks and that a vaccine would not be readily available, by saying, “When he said it, I believe he was confused.” Dr. Redfield stated that a vaccine may not be widely available until around the summer of 2021, and until then the best option is wearing masks. In response to the FDA’s aim to introduce tougher standards for a vaccine, the President called the standards a political move that he may reject. These actions only further erode public trust in any possible vaccine—a trust that will be critical in defeating the virus.
The President is not the only figure taking actions that could lend doubt to a possible vaccine. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently announced that his state would review any data from the FDA on a possible vaccine before accepting it. This review process could further delay the arrival of a vaccine to the Empire State, the first major hotspot within the United States. Other Democrats have taken a different approach by saying that while they do not trust the Trump Administration, they would trust the experts and scientists. Presidential nominee and former Vice President Biden stated as much when asked about whether he would trust a vaccine. This has been the common response from Democrats relating to the President and a vaccine, and though not outrightly hostile, this is still a political response to the research and development of a vaccine.
While they are not outright questioning of a possible vaccine, these actions do create another layer of politicization to the process in which trust will be critical when a vaccine is developed. Some of the high ranking officials in the government have tried to respond to the various accusations and events over the last few weeks. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Robert Redfield once more advised the wearing of masks not just until a vaccine is developed, but well into next year to continue fighting the virus. Other notable responses include those of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn who reaffirmed faith in both the science and vaccine process in front of Congress. Dr. Fauci sharply countered a series of pointed questions from Senator Rand Paul who he has had multiple run-ins with. Dr. Fauci responded to the various points made by the Senator before directly addressing him at the hearing. FDA Commissioner Hahn spoke up in favor of experts and scientists while also standing by his agency’s criteria for a vaccine. While the vaccine process has certainly been politicized and pressured, it is important to rely on experts and an eventual vaccine.
Manuel Wallick is a sophomore from Lexington, South Carolina, majoring in political science.
Note: The GW College Democrats News & Blog Committee’s mission is to highlight, empower, and facilitate the political expression of its members. As such, the views expressed in this article are based on the opinions of its author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the whole of GW College Democrats, its executive board, or its deputy director board.