As the wonderful news about Moderna's successful COVID vaccine trial spread like optimistic wildfire yesterday, an astonishing reality began to set it: It is extremely plausible, if not likely, that by the end of December, tens of millions of the most vulnerable Americans will be inoculated against a lethal virus that has thus far killed nearly 250,000 people in this country. These apparent breakthroughs could not have come at a better moment, as the nation is currently engulfed by dangerous, accelerating outbreaks and a worrisome spike in hospitalizations. Though it's vital that people continue to take precautions such as distancing, enhanced hygiene and masking in the near-to-medium term, it's reassuring to know that help is on the way. This simple sentence is nothing short of incredible:
When Pfizer announced its revelation last week, some partisans attempted to downplay the Trump administration's role in facilitating that success, falsely arguing that Pfizer was unaffiliated with the White House's miraculously effective 'Operation Warp Speed' project. That was not true, and it's doubly untrue in relation to the Moderna results:
On Friday, Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientist for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to accelerate development of vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, said that if any early vaccine candidates received permission for emergency use, immunization could begin sometime in December. Health experts have said the initial doses would go to high-risk people like health care workers, first responders, other front-line workers and frail people in nursing homes. Dr. Fauci said the vaccines would probably start becoming more widely available by April. The U.S. government will buy the vaccines and give them to the public free of charge. But both companies expect to profit, and not to provide their products at cost. Moderna said it would charge other governments from $32 to $37 per dose. The charge to the United States, which has already committed about $2.5 billion to help develop Moderna’s vaccine and buy doses, comes out to about $24.80 a shot, according to Mr. Jordan, the company spokesman. Pfizer did not take any money from the U.S. government to develop or test its vaccine. But Operation Warp Speed has promised Pfizer $1.95 billion to provide 100 million doses, which comes out to $19.50 per dose. Both of the companies’ vaccine candidates began large human trials on the same date, July 27.
The Moderna vaccine, which has proven more effective and easier to store (and therefore to administer), was developed with funding from Operation Warp Speed. Critics must put politics aside and acknowledge a few things. First, this 'moonshot' initiative appears to have blown away virtually all expectations and shattered previous records. Second, the entities that deserve primary credit are the Trump administration and the pharmaceutical industry, both of which are frequently reviled in our political discourse. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Trump era FDA chief, said Monday's news represented a "great day for patients." He also emphasized that bridging the gap to widespread 2021 improvements (thanks to the history-making push over the last nine months) will be essential to minimizing the human toll:
"2021 is going to rapidly become a much better year. We have to get through the 3 hardest months right now. I'm hoping people can hunker down and recognize this is a temporary sacrifice what we need to do over the next 2 or 3 months to preserve life," says @ScottGottliebMD. pic.twitter.com/78HWiJvRaZ— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) November 16, 2020
Another area where Trump deserves credit is telling the truth about the World Health Organization, and attaching consequences to that truth. Many people wrung their hands when Trump threatened to cut off US funding or ties to the group, following through with meaningful action. The WHO spread dangerously false Chinese disinformation about the Wuhan Coronavirus to the world, ludicrously praising Beijing for its openness and transparency. The organization's leader was hand-picked by China, and it shows. This significant New York Times story went largely overlooked a few weeks ago, given its proximity to the election, but it depicts a Communist regime running roughshod over an international group that has surrendered its credibility:
Despite [a WHO official's] pronouncements, and over the advice of its emergency committee, the organization’s leadership had quietly negotiated terms that sidelined its own experts. They would not question China’s initial response or even visit the live-animal market in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak seemed to have originated...Nine months and more than 1.1 million deaths later, there is still no transparent, independent investigation into the source of the virus. Notoriously allergic to outside scrutiny, China has impeded the effort, while leaders of the World Health Organization, if privately frustrated, have largely ceded control, even as the Trump administration has fumed...the health organization pushed misleading and contradictory information about the risk of spread from symptomless carriers. Its experts were slow to accept that the virus could be airborne. Top health officials encouraged travel as usual, advice that was based on politics and economics, not science. The W.H.O.’s staunchest defenders note that, by the nature of its constitution, it is beholden to the countries that finance it. And it is hardly the only international body bending to China’s might. But even many of its supporters have been frustrated by the organization’s secrecy, its public praise for China and its quiet concessions. Those decisions have indirectly helped Beijing to whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak.
The fact that WHO may not be the only international organization "bending to China's might" is hardly reassuring, especially considering that other anti-truth pressure campaigns have resulted in the defanging of other findings about China's malign role and chronic cover-ups regarding COVID-19. It also appears as though WHO may not have been entirely honest and transparent with the public about transmissions among its own employees:
The World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters, despite the agency’s public assertions that there has been no transmission at the Geneva site, according to an email obtained by @AP. https://t.co/hJUtabJLHT— The Associated Press (@AP) November 16, 2020
The timeline of denials, outbreaks and diagnoses remains murky, but the murkiness doesn't seem to be accidental. From the AP story: "The WHO press office did not respond to two emails from the AP — on Nov. 2 and Nov. 10 — asking how many staffers based at WHO headquarters had tested positive for COVID-19." Trump is reportedly planning a series of 'hardline' actions against China in the waning weeks of his presidency, which is very good news. China must be held accountable, and making it as politically difficult for Team Biden to go soft is an important priority:
New w @BethanyAllenEbr: President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China, senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans tells Axios.— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) November 15, 2020
Watch for National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe to publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China's nefarious actions inside the U.S. ... Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening U.S. national security. The administration also will crack down on China for its labor practices beyond Xinjiang forced labor camps. National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told Axios, "Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future U.S. presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions." Behind the scenes: Senior administration officials are discussing expanding a Defense Department list of Chinese companies deemed to have ties to the Chinese military.
I'll leave you with this story, which suggests that much of the "follow the science" crowd was actually following their own tribal political emotions in resisting Trump's (correct) push for the restoration of in-person learning:
“This study suggests that the polarizing politics of red and blue caused school boards to drift away from a dispassionate analysis of covid-19 numbers toward the political preferences of their constituents.” https://t.co/VuGKWMZ05c— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) November 15, 2020