In initiating Operation Warp Speed (OWS), former President Trump actually made a serious contribution to President Biden’s ability to kick-start his entire national vaccine plan. And now Biden needs to personally convince Trump to take one more step in the fight against Covid-19. He must convince his predecessor to call on his supporters to get vaccinated, now!
You might well be surprised to know that in spite of plenty of implementation flaws, Donald Trump’s much hyped OWS, which aimed to fast track Covid-19 vaccine development and production, was successful enough to give President Biden’s high-energy vaccine distribution a significant jump start.
Specifically, the Trump Administration invested about $18 billion dollars to promote vaccine development and preorder some 400 million doses of the new Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. So, in spite of my relentless criticism of almost every aspect of Donald Trump’s presidency, I have concluded that OWS was a genuine success and crucial building block for the Biden Administration. (Trump, naturally, agrees, boasting to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker in their new book about his final year that “I’m a big believer in science. If I wasn’t you wouldn’t have a vaccine.”)
I doubt that either POTUS 45 or 46 would be anxious to admit that it was complementary efforts by both presidents that allowed the U.S. to create, manufacture, and distribute Covid-19 vaccines in record time and with startling efficiency. But it was after OWS that President Biden was able to focus on upping vaccine production even further and simultaneously assemble a spectacularly effective team to make sure that the shots were distributed rapidly and promoted aggressively. In so doing, the Biden strategy resulted in twice as many doses administered as he himself had set as a goal for his first 100 days.
Of course, in addition to this unlikely alliance of two politically and ideologically polar opposite U.S. leaders, much credit is owed the scientists working in academia and in the private sector since at least 2003 when more than 770 people were killed by the first global SARS outbreak. The whole idea of using messenger RNA to develop effective immunity to any coronavirus, including SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of Covid-19), is something that has been in the works for nearly two decades.
How interesting is it that in spite of Trump’s virulent attacks on science, his boisterous rejection of evidence-based public health policies, his off-the-wall flouting of recommendations to wear masks and keep appropriate social distancing, avoid crowds, and so on, that he pushed hard to get vaccine development fast-tracked.
Trump’s many political rallies, meetings, and events at the White House, themselves were reckless Covid-19 super-spreader events. It would be impossible to determine how many people were infected as a result of all this wholly unnecessary exposure. But it has recently been estimated that almost 900 Secret Service Officers working for the Trump White House contracted Covid-19 infections. And, of course, the president himself and the first lady both developed Covid-19. The president was actually very sick. Many medical and health care experts, including me, watched in horror as a short of breath, cyanotic, overweight 74-year-old man could barely speak after climbing the steps to a White House balcony, moments after being dropped off by helicopter following discharge from Walter Reed Hospital.
Yet this profoundly uninformed anti-truther seems to have legitimately made it possible for his successor in the White House to get a serious head start in controlling the pandemic which has already claimed more than 600,000 American lives.
Unfortunately, the crisis is very far from over. A rampaging Delta variant of the original Covid-19 virus is wreaking havoc across the globe and is now responsible for most of the new infections in the U.S.
And it is important to note two essential facts about the current situation: first, Covid-19 vaccines absolutely, unequivocally prevent serious illness and deaths in people who may get infected with the virus. In fact, more than 99% of the recent Covid-19 fatalities have occurred in non-vaccinated people. Second, it should be understood that the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. are actually in red states that Trump won in 2020.
Even without dwelling on the implications of those realities, I believe that Donald Trump could actually serve his country right now by using his still viable, still influential platform to his millions of his fanatically devoted followers to get vaccinated. That’s it. That message could increase the number of vaccinated Americans by millions – especially in the states Trump won in 2020, precisely where the lowest vaccination rates are.
Some may argue that whatever Trump says at this point will still not move some Americans who are devoted, conspiracy believing anti-vaxxers. That’s probably true for the fringers who believe that vaccinations include implantable microchips or make people magnetic. But hopefully the number of people that crazy is small enough that we’ll still be able to create a situation of herd immunity, at least here in the U.S.
If Trump needs to call it “the Trump Vaccine” to convince “his people” to take it, let him; their lives are at stake and, as the virus continues to mutate, the decisions they make, or do not, matter to everyone else.
President Biden’s team will surely remain unrelenting in its efforts to stop the pandemic. But it would be immeasurably helpful and could save many lives if he could get Donald Trump to go public with an assertive, pro vaccine message directed at his most loyal supporters. That would be a legacy accomplishment for Trump - and a huge benefit to a nation still threatened by a deadly virus.