CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election
The appearance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking orders from political leaders grew stronger this week as the organization told states to prepare facilities for a coronavirus vaccine before November's general election. The issue raised alarm for health experts who worry that a vaccine will be rolled out before its safety and efficacy are well established, according to The New York Times.
The letter, written by Director of the CDC Dr. Robert Redfield, is dated August 27 — the same day that President Trump gave his speech at the Republican National Convention claiming that a vaccine would be available before the end of the year. The letter says that the CDC had entered a contract with McKesson Corp. to distribute hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to state and local health departments nationwide in less than two months, according to NBC News.
The New York Times obtained a planning document that the CDC sent out. It described an evolving vaccine landscape, but touted the promise of two different vaccine candidates, and laid out a scenario where 2 million doses could be distributed before November and another 10 to 20 million doses distributed by the end of that month.
Both vaccine candidates would require two injections taken a couple of weeks apart and it identified at-risk populations and frontline workers as the people to receive the vaccine first.
"These scenarios are designed to support jurisdictional, federal, and partner planning, but they are still considered hypothetical," one document reads, as CNN reported.
In the documents, Redfield asks governors to expedite applications for the vaccine distribution facilities that McKesson would run, according to NBC News.
"If necessary," Redfield wrote, the agency "asks you to consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from being fully operational by November 1, 2020," as NBC News reported.
Public health officials worry that the Trump administration is looking to roll out a vaccine prematurely, or at least to hype one, before the election as a way to score political points, as The New York Times noted. There are Herculean logistical challenges involved in distributing and storing a vaccine in sub-zero temperatures to a messy and disjointed healthcare system.
"This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications," said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist based in Arizona, to The New York Times. "It's hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine."
Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins, however, told CNN that he doesn't see it as a premature rush to distribute a vaccine. He said it's proper planning should one of the two vaccine candidates tested show fast, clear evidence that it is protecting people.
"Now, keep in mind that the likelihood of that is pretty low," Collins told CNN. "This is like the Boy Scout motto, 'Be Prepared.'"
"Even if it's very low likelihood, if everything happened to come together really beautifully and we had an answer by then and we knew we had a vaccine that was safe and effective, wouldn't you want people to be ready to figure out how to do the distribution? That's all that CDC is saying," he added.
Medical experts did appreciate that the CDC earmarked the first vaccines for healthcare workers, essential workers and people who work in national security, according to The New York Times. The guidelines also said early vaccines should go to older people, indigenous people, minority groups and to prison populations — all communities that have been most affected by the novel coronavirus.
That specific direction is beneficial for public health, "so it doesn't just all wind up in high-income, affluent suburbs," said Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency medicine physician at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, to The New York Times.
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
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Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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