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Hyper-Partisan Attacks Could Undermine a Covid-19 Vaccine's Adoption

The Covid-19 vaccine provides one more example of how the hyper-partisan political climate affects everything. 

Nine major U.S. and European biopharmaceutical manufacturers working to develop a Covid-19 vaccine have taken the very unusual step of releasing a joint statement pledging that they will not take shortcuts or compromise patient safety in their quest to have a vaccine available as soon as possible. 

They took that step to quell fears among the public.  Critics may use any problem that arises—a small number of adverse reactions to the vaccine, less effectiveness than hoped for, more side effects, etc.—as a way to hammer President Donald Trump.

In so doing, Trump critics might also undermine confidence in the vaccine. 

Trump is not manufacturing the vaccine. In the United States private sector companies develop and manufacture drugs. 

But Trump will be blamed if there is even a hint of a problem—and perhaps if there are no problems at all. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden—the other half of the Obama-Biden administration that so bungled the rollout of in October 2013—will, no doubt, claim a safer and cheaper vaccine would have emerged quicker if he had been president. 

But he doesn’t get to manufacturer the drug either—unless, or course, Senator Bernie Sanders is successful in turning the health care system into an arm of the federal government. 

The fact is no one is more eager to ensure the safety and efficacy of a new Covid-19 vaccine than the drug companies. Their reputations are on the line. They jumped into the battle early and have poured millions—if not billions—of dollars into producing a vaccine in record time. 

Drug makers know that critics, and especially Democrats, will be looking for any excuse to accuse them of rushing the vaccine through the approval process in order to (1) reap exorbitant profits from people and the government and/or (2) kowtow to pressure from the Trump administration. 

But drug development is a learning process. Once a drug has been approved and is widely used, drug makers may discover ways to improve its effectiveness or reduce certain side effects, or both, which may allow them to release a new-and-improved version in future. 

Later iterations of a Covid-19 vaccine may be more effective than the first ones, just as the new Shingrix vaccine for shingles is much more effective than earlier shingles vaccines. 

Trump critics are waving red flags that the Covid-19 vaccine(s) may not be safe. And the more they do the greater the chance they will undermine the public’s confidence in the vaccine, who may then refuse to be vaccinated, leading to more coronavirus deaths. 

That’s a high price to pay just to find one more way to attack Donald Trump.