Cuomo: It's "bad news" that Pfizer announced these vaccine results before Biden takes office

Cuomo: It's "bad news" that Pfizer announced these vaccine results before Biden takes office

This isn’t the first time he’s sounded discouraging notes about a vaccine, knowing full well how much persuasion it’ll take to convince skeptics to get the shot once it’s available.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but I think the question needs to be asked in light of his track record.

Is this guy … pro-COVID? That criticism is often thrown at Trump because of his insane recklessness in holding rallies amid a pandemic and his relentless push to reopen for business no matter how high community spread gets. But between the body count Cuomo’s racked up in New York and his consistent casual denigration of a vaccine approved and administered by Trump’s administration, he’s certainly a finalist for coronavirus’s MVP among U.S. politicians.

Ben Sasse just released this statement:

“What on earth is Governor Cuomo talking about? This is great news and everyone – Republicans and Democrats and apolitical folks – should all be jointly thrilled about the possibility of an effective vaccine. After this nasty virus has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and put millions out of work, it is beyond disgusting that Governor Cuomo would use a glimmer of hope for another worn-out ‘Trump is bad’ talking point. When we get a vaccine, we’re going to need all hands on deck distributing it as fast as possible – shamelessly politicizing this is dangerous and stupid.”

Lotta complaints from Cuomo in the clip about empowering “private providers” to take charge of the distribution. I dunno — if ever there were a day when “private providers” get to take a victory lap, today is it, my man. Pfizer was *not* part of Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiative to fund pharmaceutical companies in hopes of speeding up vaccine development. They declined to participate, and they did so for a reason that should warm every conservative free-marketeer’s heart. They didn’t want government bureaucracy to slow them down.

There’s only so much he can do about keeping Pfizer “out of politics.” Already Trumpers are speculating darkly that today’s announcement was delayed artificially to deny Trump a boost before Election Day, although the company said weeks ago that it wouldn’t be in a position to seek emergency approval by the FDA until mid-November at the earliest. Pfizer’s senior VP told the Times that she didn’t learn the results of the clinical data until around 1 p.m. yesterday, after an outside panel of experts had finished reviewing it. If there were an electoral calculation involved in slowing things down so that they wouldn’t have results before Election Day, my guess is that it’s the same one that led John Durham to miss Trump’s preferred “deadline” of November 3 to produce the results of his investigation. In both cases, teams of people have worked hard for months and want their results judged on the merits, not as an “October surprise” shiny object that would be instantly politicized in terms of what’s good or bad for the candidates.

Needless to say, while you wouldn’t know this from Cuomo’s handwringing, the CDC *is* considering how urgently different populations might need the vaccine as the rollout begins:

What Cuomo means, I think, is prioritizing racial minorities because they’ve been hit harder by the virus than whites. There are some experts who agree with him about that, but I’m not sure the timetable here would deny Biden’s administration some influence over deciding which groups go first. Only a relatively small number of doses will be available before Trump exits and virtually everyone agrees that medical personnel should go to the front of the line. Besides, a race-based priority list probably wouldn’t be constitutional anyway. But you know Cuomo: If he can take a shot at Trump he’s going to take it, no matter what it means for the health of the people in his state.

Update: It can’t be overstated how exciting it is that the early results show efficacy of over 90 percent. Scientists were expecting something in line with the flu shot. “This is really a spectacular number,” an immunologist at Yale told the Times. “I wasn’t expecting it to be this high. I was preparing myself for something like 55 percent.” Pfizer’s own VP for research said, “I’ve been in vaccine development for 35 years. I’ve seen some really good things. This is extraordinary.” If the 90 percent figure holds up after continued testing, the vaccine could crush COVID instead of making it a seasonal disease on par with the flu.

There *is* a logistical catch, though: “The vaccine must be stored at super-cold temperatures, which could make it extremely difficult to deliver to many places.” It’s also a two-shot vaccine, which further complicates things. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if Pfizer’s vaccine works this well, chances are some of the other contenders still being developed (Moderna, Oxford, Novavax) may work very well too — and might not present the same distribution difficulties.

Update: There’s only one good thing about the sustained, increasingly ferocious community spread of COVID that America’s experiencing right now. It makes it easy to tell quickly whether a vaccine is effective or not.

Dr. Jansen said the global surge in coronavirus infections contributed to the speed with which participants in the trial got infected with the virus. “You can see for yourself, the rates are going up everywhere,” she said. “So we think based on our predictions, it shouldn’t take us very long” to get to 164 cases of Covid-19.

Dr. Paul Offit, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory panel, said the news that Pfizer’s trial was progressing quickly was a good sign for other trials, too.

“If there’s any silver lining in the fact that our country is currently on fire with this virus, it’s that these trials can reach a conclusion much quicker than otherwise,” he said.

If your test subjects are operating in a population where transmission of COVID is low and after a month or two they still haven’t contracted the disease, it’s hard to know if that’s because the vaccine rendered them immune or because they simply didn’t encounter the virus “in the wild” over that period. There’s no such ambiguity when the virus is burning through the population at an accelerating rate. If they didn’t get infected after a month or two, it’s the vaccine, not luck.

Update: I completely agree with this:

The vaccine has arrived on Trump’s watch and will be authorized by his FDA, which should encourage Republican buy-in, and will be mainly distributed by the Biden administration, which should encourage Democratic buy-in.

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