We can have a safe coronavirus vaccine or a rapidly developed vaccine; we can’t have both!

Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine.

Faced with the pandemic of COVID-19 the Trump administration has done everything wrong and tens of thousands of people have died as a result.

  • Trump suppressed information about the threat of the pandemic.
  • He lied about the dangers of the virus.
  • He refused to allow use of the test that would have identified early cases.
  • He failed to provide protective equipment for medical staff.
  • He seized tools states had ordered to fight the disease.
  • He promotes ineffective and dangerous treatments.
  • He is inciting his followers to resist the only measures that have protected them: social distancing, masks and economic shutdowns.

Every action Trump has taken has killed or will kill more people. So why is he doing it? Because Trump doesn’t care about the threat of the virus; he only cares about the perception of the virus. Given the choice between preventing people from getting sick or falsely assuring people they won’t get sick he picks lying every time.

I OPPOSE any effort to develop a vaccine “at warp speed.”

But all that may pale in comparison to the next effort Trump is touting — developing a vaccine “at warp speed.” We could develop a safe vaccine for COVID-19 slowly or we could quickly develop a vaccine that might be deadly.

It’s not a theoretical risk. It has happened before. In 1976, faced with the looming threat of a particularly virulent form of swine flu, President Gerald Ford rushed a vaccine into production and insisted on releasing it immediately. The result: more people were harmed by complications from the vaccine than from the flu.

Emergency legislation for the “National Swine Flu Immunization Program” was signed … on April 15th, 1976 and six months later high profile photos of celebrities and political figures receiving the flu jab appeared in the media. Even President Ford himself was photographed in his office receiving his shot from the White House doctor.

Within 10 months, nearly 25% of the US population, or 45 million citizens were vaccinated …

But the vaccine wasn’t safe. Over 450 people were paralyzed temporarily or permanently by reactions to the vaccine. The worst part was that the swine flu turned out to be less of a threat than the vaccine designed to prevent it.

Why did the debacle occur?

Ford was facing a tough re-election campaign that fall (one he subsequently lost) and he feared the impact of an epidemic on his electoral prospects. He was more concerned with producing a vaccine quickly than producing it safely.

Sound familiar?

I am a passionate advocate of vaccines and I know that the only solution to the current pandemic is a vaccine. Nonetheless, I OPPOSE any effort to develop a vaccine “at warp speed.” We MUST ensure the vaccine is safe and the ONLY way to do that is to test it over time.

We can have a safe vaccine or a rapidly developed vaccine. We can’t have both. We must demand a safe vaccine!

  • MaineJen

    This has been my concern as well…even more so, considering that we have a man “in charge” who will make a “deal” with the lowest possible bidder to maximize profit from a vaccine, safety be damned.

    • mabelcruet

      A ‘man in charge’ who has spent a life time grifting, accompanied by a grifter son-in-law who is equally shifty, dishonest, money-grasping and profiteering. Anything Kushner touches turns to poison-he has the same mindset as Trump (“I’m a genius, you’re all losers”), the same Dunning-Kruger incompetence and ineptitude allied with the dangerous hubris of a man who massively overrates himself. I think he’s more dangerous than Trump at times-at least with the mango moron his idiocy is broadcast and reasonably predictable, but Kushner is behind the scenes wreaking havoc.

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    I also find it interesting that people keep saying WHEN a working vaccine is produced. As far as I know we have never created a successful vaccine for any of the types of corona viruses that can infect humans. There was not one for SARS or MERS or the other 4 subgroups of common human corona viruses. So there may be a vaccine to COVID-19 some day. Or there may not… https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2020-04-17/coronavirus-vaccine-ian-frazer/12146616

    “So that immunization with SARS corona vaccine caused, in animals, inflammation in the lungs which wouldn’t otherwise have been there if the vaccine hadn’t been given.”

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      ANd people keep saying “Now that the peak has passed and we can restart everything” Do people really think that there are going to magically be not many new cases, if we all just start going out and acting like things are normal? I live in Connecticut where we have been sheltering in place since 22 March, however my and other work places started sending people to work from home at least a weeke before that. Our order does not end until MAYBE May 20th. We still have, so far 29,287 confirmed infections and 2,436 deaths.

    • Lurker

      Here’s the question I’ve had, and I don’t know enough about the science of vaccines to know if I’m missing something. I keep hearing we need a vaccine because it’s unknown/unlikely that having been infected will confer long-lasting immunity, if it confers any immunity at all. But – how would a vaccine create more lasting immunity? Doesn’t it just stimulate the production of the same antibodies you would have produced had you been infected?

      • I don’t know if this is the answer to your question, but I’d sure rather get a COVID-19 booster every year or two than get the disease every year or two, if immunity is short-lived. If getting infected doesn’t provide any immunity at all, then I don’t see how a vaccine would be possible.

        • Lurker

          For sure I wouldn’t mind an annual shot similar to the flu, or frequent boosters, if that’s what it takes. But it sounds like there’s no certainty that having had it earlier in this wave would protect you now “so we have to wait until there’s a vaccine before anyone can assume they’re safe.” I just couldn’t figure out how a vaccine would work if the antibodies produced when you the disease aren’t protective against infection.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        We might end up with something similar to the pertussis and tetanus vaccines. Which both wane in effectiveness after a few years (7 for pertussis I think?) and you need to get boosters to make sure you are still protected.

        • US vaccination guidelines suggest DPT every 10 years for adults, so I’m guessing it’s about 10 years 🙂

      • Mel

        WIth vaccines and natural immunity in general, there are a lot of moving parts in play.

        Some viruses don’t mutate much over time while others mutate rapidly. Influenza tends to mutate fast and has multiple strains in play. Since mass producing the flu vaccine takes a long time, scientists have to make an educated guess yearly on which strains are likely to be prevalent in the next year – and sometimes they guess wrong. But getting a flu vaccine every year does mean that a person’s immune system is primed regularly for most influenza strains – and that seems to help out quite a bit at keeping herd immunity up when you look at all the strains on a multi-yearly basis. (This is my best guess for what the coronavirus vaccine might eventually need to do.)

        Our bodies also have different lengths of time that certain diseases provoke a strong enough response to fight off a disease. In the DPT vaccine, the diphtheria portion lasts around 10 years. The tetanus portion lasts around 8-9 which is why doctors recommend a booster in years 8-9 if you get deep, dirty or puncture wounds. The pertussis portion is most effective for 4-6 years – but whooping cough is most dangerous to infants so we give them a few doses in the first year to increase protection followed by the normal DPT cycle.

        In the wild, surviving whooping cough gives immunity for around 4 years – so that’s similar to the vaccine. Surviving tetanus gives no immunity; the disease is caused by a toxin that is so potent that there isn’t enough toxin floating around for the body to respond to it – so the vaccine is a huge improvement. I don’t know the natural response length to diphtheria – but that’s also a disease where the toxin produced by the bacteria is worse than the bacteria itself so the natural response might be very low.

        So….yeah…. my educated guess is that the biggest concern with making a coronavirus vaccine is that respiratory viruses tend to mutate fast and are hard to find a bit on the virus that we can sensitize the body to without accidently sensitizing the body to naturaling occurring proteins in the body.

        • Rita Rippetoe

          Thanks for this information. My sister and I, born in 1948 and 49, both contracted whooping cough in 1960. The doctor did not even recognize it as he was new in practice and had never seen a case. I always kept my Tetanus vaccine current but didn’t worry about Pertussis since I had had it. But when my daughter was pregnant eight years ago my doctor told me that I needed all my vaccines brought up to date to protect the baby since having whooping cough did not give life long immunity. I will also note that I once saw a lamb die of tetanus–it is nothing to fool around with.

    • Julanar

      There were vaccines in development during other coronavirus outbreaks, but they were contained and died out before they spread nearly as much as COVID-19 has. So the efforts were abandoned because there was no need for a vaccine anymore, not because it was too difficult.