Trump praises progress on vaccine (Zeke Miller et al., AP)
News Journal ran this “news story,” which was prompted by a White House press conference. The subject was the recent announcment (by Pfizer) of the promising results of a COVID-19 vaccine (90% effective per tests to date); next step would be FDA clearance to market followed by expedited distribution. In addition to the president, there were remarks by the co-leaders of Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Saloui & General Gustav Perna, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and Vice President Mike Pence. The gist of the news conference was an encouraging update on this important development, which would promise a welcome resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic within a few months. See Transcript, 11/13/20.
This news story seems slanted to muffle positive aspects of the announcement and prevent the Trump administration from achieving any PR mileage from it. Gliding over significant challenges still to come – a rosy update – first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden – still did not concede the election. No mention of the other speakers, all of whom lauded his support for and involvement in the effort – it was as though Trump appeared at the podium by himself.
Public health experts worry that “Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.”
Trump said the nation would not be going into another lockdown during his administration; Biden has not endorsed a nationwide lockdown, but has urged that Trump take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus. Notwithstanding Trump’s assurance that vaccines would “arrive within a few weeks,” this report questioned the details as though they were fact-checking the president. No guarantee that Pfizer’s vaccine will get rapid authorization for emergency use - no information yet re whether the vaccine works for older adults versus younger, healthier adults - Pfizer doesn’t have a large commercial stockpile already poised to ship - initial batches of shots would be small and targeted to certain still-to-be-determined populations. Worse, the president took no questions so the press wasn’t able to ask him why he had not yet conceded the election, which is apparently the main point they cared about. Trump has supposedly “leveled baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, even though his own administration has said there is no evidence to support the claims.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany declined to elucidate afterwards, but unnamed “aides suggest he is merely trying to keep his base of supporters on his side in defeat.” Also, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera is quoted to the effect that Trump would acknowledge the loss after exhausting his legal options.
Two juicy points were missed in this story: (1) Trump called out the Pfizer CEO for mistakenly stating that his company had not been involved in Operation Warp Speed (which would imply that the president deserved some credit) and then having to admit that they had been provided with $2 billion in taxpayer funds under the program for vaccine development; (2) No vaccine would be provided to New York until the governor, Andrew Cuomo, specifically said he wanted it.