September 10, 2021

GEORGE KORDA: Mixed messages in 2020 may be behind some ongoing vaccine resistance.

The people who got it wrong owe the country either a non-self-defensive admission of their error, or an apology.

Throughout the summer of 2020, President Donald Trump predicted that a COVID-19 vaccine would be ready by year-end. Trump’s expectation was met with a wall of skeptical political, medical, and media reaction. One wonders especially about the effect on Americans predisposed to vaccine hesitancy, regardless of race, age, gender, or political party.

For example, a Sept. 16, 2020 Associated Press story quotes then-candidate Joe Biden saying, ’I trust vaccines. I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t, either.” As Trump told Americans a vaccine would be ready by year-end, Biden was telling American to not believe him – and that’s what dominated the headlines.

The publication Scientific American weighed in with a June 22, 2020, commentary headlined, “The Risks of Rushing a COVID-19 Vaccine, Telescoping testing time lines and approvals may expose all of us to unnecessary dangers.”

Among the article’s points: “But there are risks that come with a fast-tracked vaccine delivered end of this year, not the least of which are the risks related to the safety of the vaccine itself … Aside from questions of safety that attend any vaccine, there are good reasons to be especially cautious for COVID-19. Some vaccines worsen the consequences of infection rather than protect … As recently as 2016, Dengavxia, intended to protect children from the dengue virus, increased hospitalizations for children who received the vaccine.”

A Sept. 3, 2020 CNN Health Report headlined blared, “Doctors warn against rushing a COVID-19 vaccine as Fauci says it’s critical to have a safe Labor Day.” The report said many health experts thought a safe and effective vaccine could be ready by early 2021, but added warnings. A graphic illustrating five phases of vaccine development included, “Typically each step can take two years or more to complete.” The graphic was followed by this: “Some doctors say they’d rather see a vaccine go through all the rigors to get a full FDA approval.’

‘”How can you justify a substandard or lesser review for something that would be injected in tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Americans?’ said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.”

Speaking of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, his changing comments on masks and other subjects, including Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for COVID-19 vaccines, did little to build confidence.

An August 2020 Newsweek article on EUAs for COVID-19 vaccine began: “Dr. Anthony Fauci has said experimental coronavirus vaccines should not be given emergency use authorization (EUA) — especially if their effectiveness has not been proven — as it could undermine the development of others.” In Dec. 2020, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were issued EUAs from the Food and Drug Administration.

The Trump-related nature of some of the vaccine-wariness articles was encapsulated in two national stories in May 2020: “Trump promises coronavirus vaccine by end of the year, but his own experts temper expectations – A vaccine has never been developed so quickly,” ABC News, and “Fact check: Coronavirus vaccine could come this year, Trump says. Experts say he needs a ‘miracle’ to be right,” NBC News.

That doesn’t matter now because shut up.

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