Vaccine Scare Tactics Are a Threat to Public Health

The media and Democrats have focused much of their criticism of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on his failures to clearly communicate legitimate health guidance to the public. Recent revelations from taped interviews with Bob Woodward have added fuel to this fire, with the president’s detractors accusing him of downplaying the dangers of COVID-19 for his own political purposes.

But, these same parties must also share the blame for spreading misinformation and amplifying public fears, including their recent attempts to undermine heroic efforts of the biomedical community to bring a safe, effective vaccine to market in record time. Unfortunately, it seems the president’s opponents are motivated primarily by politics, hoping to reinforce a narrative that his selfish motivations or willful ignorance endanger the American people. The recent politicization of a CDC directive serves as a perfect, albeit frustrating, case study.

On August 27, 2020, CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., announced in a letter to governors that they should be prepared for medical facilities to administer a coronavirus vaccination as early as November 1, 2020, explaining that the agency had contracted with pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corporation to deliver upwards of hundreds of millions of doses in the fall. The letter did not indicate that federal officials had already greenlit the administration of the vaccine to the general public, nor did it say that McKesson would be allowed to subvert robust testing requirements before bringing it to market.

Outlining how the existing approval systems could create a slowdown that poses “a significant barrier to the success of this urgent public health program,” Redfield simply asked state agencies to do their part in aiding a “public health effort of significant scale” by expediting the processing of “permit applications for the new McKesson distribution facilities,” including those for “related business and building permits.” But, Redfield insisted, breaking the bureaucratic logjam would “not compromise the safety or integrity of the products being distributed.”

After the news broke of Redfield’s letter, the political Left began promoting conspiracy theories about the vaccine, arguing the president would rush an untested vaccine to market in time for the election but before it was safe to administer it. Some reporters have given credence to such baseless claims, including CNN’s Gregory Krieg, who wrote that Trump’s “coronavirus delusions risk corrupting the search for a vaccine,” while ironically asserting Trump was setting off a “vicious circle that could undermine public confidence in a vaccine that credibly meets the strict, long-held standards set by scientists and public health officials.”

Ordinarily, such outlandish assertions are confined to activists, social media trolls, and a media unflinchingly committed to embarrassing a president they disdain. But, the highest leaders in the Democratic Party are espousing them, too.

Earlier this month, Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), told CNN that she would not trust a coronavirus vaccine on the president’s word, but instead, rely upon “a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of