The Star (Kenya)

MIR­A­CLE VAC­CINE JUST WHAT TRUMP NEEDS

- His new book is ‘Grow­ing Pains: The Fu­ture of Democ­racy (and Work)’ GWYNNE DYER Health · Medical Activism · Anti-Vaccers · U.S. News · Vaccines · Alternative Medicine · Medical Treatments · Germany · GlaxoSmithKline · United Kingdom · Johnson & Johnson · Johnson · Merck & Co · Novavax · Pfizer · France · Russia · Beijing · Donald Trump · United States of America · Republican Party (United States) · U.S. government · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · White House · McKesson Corporation

Nine of the world’s big­gest phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have just promised not to ap­ply for reg­u­la­tory ap­proval for any new Covid-19 vac­cine be­fore it has gone through all three phases of clin­i­cal study. Why would they do such a thing?

You’d be sur­prised if brain sur­geons got to­gether and promised not to op­er­ate while drunk, or if the bus driv­ers’ union pub­licly pledged that its mem­bers will not drive reck­lessly. They don’t do that be­cause op­er­at­ing sober and driv­ing care­fully are just part of the job. So is en­sur­ing that new vac­cines are safe and ef­fec­tive.

Yet nine ma­jor play­ers in the in­ter­na­tional phar­ma­ceu­tics mar­ket – As­trazeneca (Uk-swe­den), Biontech (Germany), Glax­osmithk­line (UK), John­son & John­son (US), Merck (Germany), Moderna (US), No­vavax (US), Pfizer (US) and Sanofi (France) – Ob­vi­ously, it’s the per­cep­tion that other play­ers in the same mar­ket may in­deed be cut­ting cor­ners.

We’re not talk­ing here about Rus­sia and China, both of which have be­gun in­oc­u­lat­ing some key work­ers with vac­cines that are still listed by the WHO as be­ing in clin­i­cal tri­als. No sur­prise here: Ev­ery­body knows that those regimes break the rules when­ever they feel like it.

Usu­ally the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions are viewed with weary res­ig­na­tion by the rest of the world, but it would still be a very big deal if the United States started dis­tribut­ing a vac­cine that had not been prop­erly tested. Yet the signs are that that’s just what is go­ing to hap­pen.

Last month at the Repub­li­can na­tional con­ven­tion Don­ald Trump told the del­e­gates and the coun­try: “We are de­vel­op­ing life-sav­ing ther­a­pies, and will pro­duce a vac­cine be­fore the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”

On Septem­ber 4, the US gov­ern­ment’s Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion (CDC) told Amer­i­can health of­fi­cials that “lim­ited Covid-19 vac­cine doses may be avail­able by early Novem­ber 2020.”

More specif­i­cally, the CDC urged state au­thor­i­ties to con­sider “waiv­ing re­quire­ments” and grant per­mits to Mckesson Cor­po­ra­tion so they can start dis­tribut­ing a vac­cine by Novem­ber 1.

You don’t need a weath­er­man to know which way the wind blows. The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is on Novem­ber 3, two days later: That’s long enough for the glad news to get around and float­ing vot­ers to be swayed in favour of Trump, but too short for any de­fects in the rushed vac­cine to come to light.

Don­ald Trump is go­ing to lib­er­ate Amer­i­cans from the curse of Covid in a lit­tle less than two months. If the vac­cine’s mirac­u­lous prop­er­ties sub­se­quently fade, even it turns out to kill large num­bers of peo­ple, that won’t mat­ter. The votes will have been counted, and Trump will be back in of­fice for an­other four years. That, at least, is the sce­nario that is cur­rently en­vis­aged by the peo­ple around Trump.

It is a plau­si­ble one, es­pe­cially if the race has tight­ened by then. Just 100,000 votes in three states, mostly from peo­ple who had pre­vi­ously voted Demo­cratic, put Trump in the White House in 2016. A mir­a­cle vac­cine could cer­tainly swing that many votes again.

The nine phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ma­jors who felt the need to is­sue a “his­toric pledge” to up­hold sci­en­tific and eth­i­cal stan­dards were doubt­less driven by this sce­nario. Even if there re­ally has been an Amer­i­can break­through, they would still have to cope with the pub­lic’s sus­pi­cion that Trump is cheat­ing – and the mis­trust that will also at­tach to any other early vac­cines.

It is pos­si­ble that the vac­cine or vac­cines that Trump is about to un­leash on the Amer­i­can pub­lic re­ally do work and are safe. It would be a his­toric first in the de­vel­op­ment of vac­cines – hav­ing a Covid vac­cine ready for gen­eral use by next June or July would nor­mally be seen as a re­mark­able achieve­ment – but mir­a­cles do hap­pen.

The prob­lem is that they don’t hap­pen of­ten, and if the full test­ing regime is not fol­lowed, you don’t know if this is one of those times.

It’s only be­cause the As­trazeneca/ox­ford Univer­sity vac­cine was go­ing through the full third phase of tests, in­volv­ing tens of thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als and many months of test­ing, that they spot­ted a bad re­ac­tion re­quir­ing hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion on Wed­nes­day and paused the tests. The Amer­i­can mir­a­cle vac­cine will only start third-stage tests at the same time that it is made gen­er­ally avail­able.

Pauses like As­trazeneca/ox­ford Univer­sity’s hap­pen of­ten in the de­vel­op­ment of a vac­cine, and the pause will prob­a­bly only be tem­po­rary. But even a very low-fre­quency bad re­ac­tion can be a mass killer when tens of mil­lions of peo­ple are be­ing vac­ci­nated, and th­ese are not des­per­ately sick peo­ple will­ing to risk any­thing for a cure. They are peo­ple in good health, and you mustn’t kill them.

IF THE VAC­CINE’S MIRAC­U­LOUS PROP­ER­TIES FADE, EVEN IT TURNS OUT TO KILL LARGE NUM­BERS OF PEO­PLE, THAT WON’T MAT­TER. THE VOTES WILL HAVE BEEN COUNTED, AND TRUMP WILL BE BACK IN OF­FICE

IT WOULD BE A VERY BIG DEAL IF THE US STARTED DIS­TRIBUT­ING A VAC­CINE THAT HAD NOT BEEN PROP­ERLY TESTED. YET THE SIGNS ARE THAT THAT’S JUST WHAT IS GO­ING TO HAP­PEN

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 ?? /REUTERS ?? Sup­port­ers, one wear­ing a shirt with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s face, re­act as Trump speaks dur­ing a cam­paign event at Smith Reynolds Re­gional Air­port in Win­stonsalem, North Carolina, on Septem­ber 8
/REUTERS Sup­port­ers, one wear­ing a shirt with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s face, re­act as Trump speaks dur­ing a cam­paign event at Smith Reynolds Re­gional Air­port in Win­stonsalem, North Carolina, on Septem­ber 8

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