The greatest news in the world today is the availability of not one, but two vaccines for the Covid-19 pandemic. Who gets the credit for this remarkable achievement?
All the scientific experts made fun of President Trump when he promised a new vaccine before the end of the year. Nine months ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the recognized expert on the Corona Virus Task Force, stated, “It will take at least a year and a half to have a vaccine we can use.” The health community dismissed even this statement as a fantasy.
Dr. Paul Offit, co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, confessed, “When Dr. Fauci said 12 to 18 months, I thought that was ridiculously optimistic.” A New York Times vaccine timeline went further, declaring: the grim truth behind this rosy forecast is that a vaccine probably won’t arrive any time soon.” All these naysayers were wrong.
Graham T. Allison, professor of government at Harvard, writes his opinion in The Wall Street Journal. He asks readers to answer a short quiz as to who should get the most credit for this rapid development of a vaccine to this new coronavirus. Here are the possible answers:
- World organizations – The initiative forwarded by the United Nations, Group of 20, World Health Organization (WH0), and COVAX – an affiliate of WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) that called for “a people’s vaccine available and affordable for everyone, everywhere,” in the words of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
- Foundations and Donors – The Gates Foundation that established CEPI (the “alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines” at Davos, Switzerland in 2017.)
- Leaders and Federal Agencies – The directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary and the assistant secretary for health.
- Medical and Public Health Schools – The hundreds of medical and public health schools, their associated research labs and hospitals, and the tens of thousands of epidemiologists, virologists and other experts who have been talking endlessly about this plague.
- President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed – Led by Moncef Slaoui, a controversial former head of vaccine development at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmith Kline, which has delivered more vaccines than any other company in the world – which gave billions of taxpayer dollars to biotech and pharmaceutical companies to speed vaccine development and manufacture doses in advance in case a vaccine proved effective.
- Private, profit-seeking corporations – Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novovax, Johnson & Johnson, and others.
Which of these should you be thanking when you receive your vaccine soon?
Professor Allison says the answers are clear but may be uncomfortable for some readers.
Here is his answer, “Had the WHO and the Gates Foundation not existed, there would have been little difference in the availability of the vaccine. Had all of the departments and agencies in the U.S. government been on autopilot, this miraculous development would never have happened. This bureaucracy – including the CDC, FDA, and HHS – was unable to provide a coronavirus test for several months after South Korea, Singapore, and others were conducting extensive testing under their public-health responses.”
“Universities are rightly claiming to have built the foundations of knowledge without which other researchers couldn’t have sequenced the virus’s genome or developed mRNA delivery systems necessary to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. But holding the pre-Covid base of knowledge constant, these scholarly researchers could have slept through the pandemic and it would have made little difference.”
That leaves us with only two choices to give the credit, according to Allison:
- First – Capitalism – The capitalist system, which facilitated competition between private, profit-seeking biotech and pharmaceutical companies to produce a lifesaving product. Charities, universities, government agencies all want to do good, but the for-profit corporations, like Pfizer and Moderna, have been racing to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Allison says, “There would be no Covid-19 vaccine today had there been no venture capitalists prepared to invest before a product or profit was visible, no corporate leadership willing to double down with the companies’ own money in the spring to fund a crash effort to produce a vaccine by year-end, and no researchers pursing a dream about mRNA as an unprecedented route for vaccines.
- Second – Operation Warp Speed – President Trump deserves the credit for creating this initiative. Allison says, “Had Mr. Trump not created the initiative, appointed as its leader a man who knows the vaccine development world, and given him license to spend $10 billion outside normal contracting procedures, Covid-19 vaccines would still be only works in progress. Even after they were finally approved, the vaccines’ distribution could have been long delayed. Imagine a world in which Mr. Trump had not appointed as deputy head of the operation a general who knows logistics and had the authority to write contracts with FedEx and UPS to book space on their airplanes and in their network of distribution centers.”
As we celebrate this Christmas, we should all be thankful for a system of capitalism that made this achievement possible, and a president from the business world who knew how to get things done quickly. Those conclusions may make many Americans cringe who favor socialism and hate Trump, but they are strong arguments against their way of thinking.