Last week, Russia and Vladmir Putin approved a coronavirus vaccine without first completing the necessary vaccine trials. “A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning,” Putin said, adding that one of his daughters had been given the vaccine. “I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity.” The vaccine, named Sputnik-V, bypassed the crucial phase three trials, and while Russian media celebrated the vaccine (because they have to), the rest of the world looked on skeptically.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, our own President, Donald Trump, is also apparently considering bypassing the FDA and releasing a vaccine for emergency use before the election. From FT.com:
The Trump administration is considering bypassing normal US regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental coronavirus vaccine from the UK for use in America ahead of the presidential election, according to three people briefed on the plan.
One option being explored to speed up the availability of a vaccine would involve the US Food and Drug Administration awarding “emergency use authorisation” (EUA) in October to a vaccine being developed in a partnership between AstraZeneca and Oxford university, based on the results from a relatively small UK study if it is successful, the people said.
This is a terrible idea, even if the vaccine ends up being 100 percent safe and effective. Bypassing normal channels will destroy the country’s already shaky confidence in the vaccine. People will refuse to take it. It would embolden the anti-vaxxers. Liberals would be like, “F**k you!” I know, because that’s exactly how I would feel. America’s lack of confidence in a vaccine will extend long past the election, and even once the vaccine is approved by the FDA, the American people will remain skeptical.
How do we know? Because it’s exactly what is happening in Russia. Epidemiologists, pharmacologists, doctors and other experts in Russia have vowed not to take the vaccine. From The Daily Beast:
“This vaccine is made of politics,” said Alexander Nevzorov, a well-known radio observer. “This is a pharmacological record. Thirty eight people tried it, while the entire world says that 5,000 is not enough—this is both a record and a record of absolute impudence [arrogance?].”
That is exactly how tens of millions of Americans would view a vaccine approved by Trump ahead of the election, as a “vaccine made of politics.” It would be a public-health disaster, and it wouldn’t matter how safe or effective the vaccine actually is. It would only invite more misinformation, like rumors that Putin’s daughter died from the vaccine. And when people refused to take the vaccine, Trump would have to do as Putin has apparently been forced to do: Offer skeptical folks $2,000 to try the vaccine.