Daily US Times: As the next election date is coming nearer, President Donald Trump is desperately hoping to turn a Covid-19 vaccine into his October Surprise.
He predicts a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough multiple times a day, assures American citizens he has the military on standby to rush it out and promises 100 million, 250 million, even 500 million individual doses will be very quickly available. The President hails a “tremendous” vaccine that is “very close” and will be ready “very, very early, before the end of the year, far ahead of schedule.”
Experts are also very hopeful about the potential for an effective vaccine. But by implying vaccine is almost imminent and will quickly end the current pandemic, Mr Trump is raising expectations that are unlikely to be swiftly met and would come too late to save his presidential campaign in any case.
But from a short-term political perspective, talking about a Covid-19 vaccine allows Trump a chance to promise voters an end to the disastrous nightmare that has upended everyday life for much of the country. A big White House South Lawn announcement that a vaccine is finally within reach a few days before a close election must dance in the President’s dreams at night. Mr Trump is currently behind his opponent Joe Biden in polls.
When asked on Thursday whether a vaccine, Trump bumped up his personal timetable, characteristically telling anyone listening exactly what they want to hear. At least 29 prototypes of which are currently being developed and trialed by several countries including the US.
The President said: “I’m optimistic that it’ll be probably around that date. I believe we’ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly, but around that date, yes. I think so,” agreeing that an announcement could boost his reelection bid.
“It wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt. But … I’m doing it, not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.”
His rhetoric about Covid-19 vaccines may also be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending the pandemic. Mr Trump’s comments on Thursday drew a rebuke from former Surgeon Gen. Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said it was “very dangerous” to set artificial timelines and cautioned against a perception that the process was being rushed.
While speaking to CNN, Murthy said: “We can’t sacrifice our standards because if we do, it not only hurts people, but it’s going to damage people’s faith in vaccine efforts.”
Suspicions of political interference for vaccine
Everyone would love to share Trump’s optimism about vaccines. The prospect of many more months of stunted life, another winter likely to bring more sickness and death is dismal and huge unemployment caused by the pandemic.
But it’s hard to take the President’s assessments seriously. Throughout America’s fight against the coronavirus crisis, it has sometimes been difficult to tell whether Mr Trump is being deliberately deceptive or does not fully appreciate the details and the scale of the challenge ahead.
It’s the same with a vaccine. Many medical experts across the world believe that a vaccine could be available by early next year for high-risk patients and it could take till middle of next year for it to become widely available. That might mean it could be fall 2021 before as ususal life really begins to take course, long after Trump’s presidential fate will be decided one way or the other.
Still, as a political device, talking about a vaccine may seem alluring for a President who has seen nearly 160,000 Americans die on his watch in a public health crisis he has neglected, downplayed and denied.
Talking about an imminent vaccine let Mr Trump to look forward. When talking about the Covid-19 vaccine, the president is not being cross-examined about his many failures in the pandemic, and the rising death toll to which Mr Trump has often seemed indifferent — “It is what it is,” he told Axios in a recent interview.
The Trump’s administration’s record of bending rules for political achievements and cutting legal corners and the way the administration cavalierly treated human life in the pandemic — demanding swift economic openings, for example — raise a flurry of ethical questions about its trustworthiness in handling the first successful vaccines.
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