The Politics of Inoculation

One week before Christmas, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer accused the Trump administration of stalling the shipment of millions of COVID vaccine doses.  Why would a president who spent the better part of a year pulling his beloved country back from the brink of a global pandemic, invested billions into research to produce several vaccines, fast-tracked testing and approval protocols, created Operation Warp Speed (OSW), and assigned a gifted logistics commander from the military to carry out final distribution to the states, gum it all up in the eleventh hour of his administration?

The answer is that he did nothing of the sort.  Pfizer’s bit of political skullduggery was just another kick in the pants for an outgoing populist president and industry irritant who had grabbed Big Pharma by the scruff, reined in runaway drug costs, and angled to break the industry’s dependence on a foreign supply chain.

Despite the tens of billions given to Pfizer and other drug makers for vaccine research and production, and all the butt-smooching by the White House to get the job done with unprecedented velocity, pharmaceutical companies have never been, nor will ever be, fans of Donald Trump or his Republican cohort.  Trump called them out for acting like a cartel in price fixing prescription drugs, as well as for their accommodations and corporate allegiance to China in exchange for greater profits from cheap production costs, savings that were never passed along to American consumers.

To be rid of him, Big Pharma positioned themselves as water boys for the Biden campaign and made hefty deposits with the intent of unseating number 45.  The owners and political action committees (PACs) of COVID vaccine producers Pfizer, Johnson&Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline, among others, went all in for the Biden candidacy, contributing to his campaign at rates three to six times the monies put into the Trump coffers.  Biden donations from PACs and executives of Novartis, a producer of COVID therapeutics, outpaced those of Trump by a ratio of six to one.  After receiving $450 million from Operation Warp Speed (OWS), executives at Regeneron, creator of the lifesaving coronavirus cocktail that got Trump out of his hospital bed in two days, doled out a hundred thousand dollars for Biden and zero for Trump.

The pharmaceutical industry’s disproportionate endowments to the Biden campaign should raise hackles, as they are disbursements intended to influence both domestic and foreign policy decisions.  Once behind the Resolute Desk, Biden will cozy up to the People’s Republic for reasons of socialist sympathies and also as a quid pro quo to China’s continued withholding of scandalous evidence proving criminal acts by his family.  That rapprochement signals huge profits for the drug industry through hoggish business ventures and investments that will continue to put America’s health care and drug supply under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Hell-bent on propping up their diminished candidate, Pfizer delayed news about the approval of their vaccine until after the election, notifying the Biden campaign in advance while keeping Trump Health Secretary Alex Azar in the dark until after the media was advised.  Not notifying the White House gave the Biden campaign the opportunity to announce his plans for a coronavirus task force, thereby taking a banner headline from Trump.

Tony Fauci, a darling of the liberal set by way of his depressing outlook on the efficacy of the vaccine is the windsock for COVID science du jour, continuously raising the bar for lockdown restrictions and assuring normalcy can return when 70%… no, 75%… no, 90% (probably unattainable) of the population has been vaccinated.  If China Joe doesn’t put Fauci out to pasture, he will continue to spin his sociophobic omens, pushing back the goal posts and turning Trump’s annus miribilis into Biden’s decennium atrocius.

After almost five decades of tripping over his own tongue, Washington has come to expect that crazy Joe Biden will eventually take every position on every issue, to include the pandemic.  Over the past summer, his handlers portrayed him as an anti-vaxxer in order to deny Trump any political triumph for his herculean efforts to create  a national distribution template.  Biden claimed that Trump was cutting corners by rushing vaccine approval.  His running mate, the bottom feeder of the Democrat primary, chimed in to cast doubt on the efficacy of any vaccine distributed while Trump still occupied the Oval Office.

Blue state governors, eager for Biden bailouts, joined the hustle.  Before the election, Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom indicated that they would not accept FDA certification.  Even a jailhouse lawyer can figure out that the federal government has sole authority to approve or deny the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals for prescriptive use.  Blustering in ways intended to diminish vaccine confidence among New York’s most at-risk populations should be expected from a governor who killed off tens of thousands of nursing-home residents by executive fiat and received an Emmy award for accelerating the troubled end of their lives.

This tune suddenly changed after the apocryphal election.  The president- and vice president-elect rushed forward to get their shots.  With just a few weeks left on the sidelines and no time to waste, the new blunt instrument for Democrats to impugn Trump were allegations that he was slow-walking vaccine shipments, particularly to state Democrat strongholds.  Under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control and OWS, shipments of vaccines were arriving as scheduled. The delays over administration were the result of sloppy or inadequate vaccine plans in the states. 

In December, New Jersey’s imperious governor Phil Murphy made political hay by blaming the Trump administration for a week’s delay in vaccines being sent to the state.  That statement covered for his health commissioner, Judy Persichilli, who did a miserable job of gathering the necessary nursing home data by the deadline required by the CDC.  As a result, supply was delayed for a week.  Among calls for her resignation, Persichilli shifted blame back to the “strict rules” of the CDC, regulations that other states have met.  To make matters worse, the end of December brought word that at least 70% of incoming vaccines to the Garden State were sitting in stockpiles, a delay Murphy sloughed off as a problem of personnel and logistics.

Murphy has also given top priority to the inoculation of New Jersey’s 20,000-strong state prison population, leapfrogging nursing home residents and first responders.  The average inmate is 35 years old, an age group that enjoys a COVID recovery rate of more than 99 percent.  Murphy gives his reason as stemming the spread from prison guards to the outside world.  He does not explain why inoculating 6,000 guards and elderly or medically at-risk prisoners wouldn’t make more sense, saving 10,000 or more additional vaccination dosages for nursing and veteran home residents, medical workers, and first responders.

Republican apostates have also taken cheap shots at Trump’s vaccine accomplishments.  Mitt Romney, who has lurked on Twitter under the nom de plume, Pierre Delecto, is a Democrat dressed up as a RINO and two-time presidential sore loser who never misses an opportunity to bash his party’s leader.  Recently, he suggested that Trump had botched vaccination distribution, oblivious to his own state’s shortcomings.

The Biden/Harris ticket is about to assume ownership of the inoculation program.  Their plan for confronting the pandemic includes mask mandates, social distancing, widespread national testing, and the aggressive development of treatments and vaccines.  Do those goals appear a potholed road well-traveled?

Biden proposes the creation of a federal task force to manage distribution, with momentum from the Defense Production Act.  He unabashedly promotes this strategy as if he and his audience had never heard of Operation Warp Speed or the retooling of corporate America to pharmaceutical innovations and the mass production of personal protective equipment and ventilators.  Perhaps recollections of those real-world events have been shuffled off to a corner of his mind where memory, normal thinking, and reasoning are now hopelessly jumbled.  Reprising his role as copycat, it will suit the style of America’s incoming straw boss to simply tear the title page off the hard work of others and put his own name on it.

Image: National Archives