"Extreme confidence": Fauci gets the COVID vaccine

This came two days after he told America’s children not to worry about Christmas presents arriving on time this year because he’d already been to the North Pole and vaccinated Santa himself.

Which raised the question: Why would Fauci put himself at risk by interacting with Santa’s household before being vaccinated himself?

The “trip to the North Pole” story is clearly just another of the medical bureaucracy’s COVID lies. Everyone knows that Santa has magical powers and is therefore naturally immune. Even Fauci!

Get your story straight, doctor. Assuming you are a doctor, I mean.

Yesterday on social media, as photos of congressmen getting vaccinated were circulating, I saw some guy say, “It’s interesting that Dr. Fauci hasn’t submitted to the vaccine yet.” Now that Fauci has received it, I’m sure that same guy is somewhere tweeting, “I wonder what was really in that shot they gave to Fauci.” Sigh. What was in it was Moderna’s vaccine, not Pfizer’s, which I believe is what was given to Mike Pence and various members of Congress. That’s because NIH, which includes Fauci’s agency, partnered with Moderna on that vaccine’s development. Fauci was demonstrating his faith here not just in the concept of COVID vaccination generally but in the particular product his own office worked on. It’s the fruits of their labor.

As for the frightening COVID variant now circulating in the UK, which somehow isn’t frightening enough to Fauci to convince him to endorse a travel ban, Pfizer’s partner announced this morning that they could have a vaccine specifically tailored to provide immunity from that variant ready in just six weeks if need be.

“[T]he beauty of the messenger mRNA technology is we can directly start to engineer a vaccine that completely mimics this new mutation and we could manufacture a new vaccine within six weeks,” Sahin told the FT.

How it works: The new variant has multiple mutations, but most of the sites that trigger immune response have not mutated, Sahin said.

“[This] makes us confident that the T cell response will still work, but we need to do experiments to quantify how well it works,” he added.

“In principle, what we would do is change the insert [of the vaccine] and replace a virus variant with another variant without touching the platform,” said BioNTech chief medical officer Ozlem Tureci.

It’s plug-and-play. If I’m understanding the technology correctly, it’s not wildly different from changing a few lines of some very basic code to alter a software program. (Moderna’s vaccine took all of two days to develop.) The question is how long the modified vaccine would need to be tested before we could feel confident that it’s as safe as the current one. Is that another 10 months, essentially starting from scratch with phase one, two, and three trials? Or would the safety data for the current vaccine provide some degree of reassurance that there’ll be no scary side effects from the modified vaccine, allowing Pfizer to skip right to phase three or whatever?

There’s always the possibility of challenge trials if the British variant really does seem to require a modified vaccine ASAP in order to tame it.

Fauci’s vaccination today is uncontroversial because he’s part of a group that’s already receiving the shot but the debate over whether to vaccinate members of Congress has led to some strange political bedfellows. On the pro side: Marco Rubio and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of whom received the shot months ahead of their respective age cohorts. On the anti side: Ilhan Omar and New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who called it “outrageous” and “insulting” that members of Congress would be cutting the line after doing nothing on COVID stimulus for months. I don’t usually disagree with Patterico but we’re on different sides of this too. He thinks there’s no good reason for lawmakers to get vaccinated early:

All politicians, especially younger ones, should simply wait their turn. The claim that they need to “set an example” is simply their excuse to do what they always do: treat themselves better than they treat you…

This vaccine is a precious, limited resource. At some point it will be available to everyone, but right now access must be prioritized. If you are the type of person who won’t take it unless you see your favorite politico take it first, then guess what? You can wait. I don’t see why such people should be prioritized over people who are willing to take it without seeing a politician from their tribe take it first. (Read: less stupid people.)

Once it’s your favorite politician’s turn, he or she can take it, and then the political fanatics will be comforted, and they can take it then.

Frankly, it’s inexcusable privilege that politicians even get to decide whether to prioritize themselves. These people are supposed to be our servants, but they treat themselves like our betters, in every way, all the time. I’m sick of it.

I have senior citizens in my family who are in “wait and see” mode even though their opportunity to get the vaccine will be coming relatively soon. (Late January/early February, maybe?) I’m leaning on them to get it on the first day it’s available, knowing that every day they go unvaccinated with the pandemic raging means they’re risking their lives. I think it’s useful to have them see geriatrics like Pelosi and McConnell getting the shot, to reassure them that the old folks running the government have enough confidence in the product to subject themselves to it. But I think it’s also basic sound practice to have a group as aged as Congress getting vaxxed up before an outbreak emerges that cuts a swath through it. We don’t want a third of the House sick or in quarantine at a moment when emergency legislation might be needed to address some crisis or another. We’re talking about 535 doses of a vaccine during a week when something like seven million are rolling out across the country. Not a gigantic ask for basic government continuity.

I’d share the outrage if members of Congress *and their families* were getting early access. But it would be bananas to go nine months with our fingers crossed, hoping Congress can dodge a debilitating rash of cases, only to deny them something that would prevent that outcome now that it’s available. “The highest levels of the U.S. government need to function” is a good excuse as excuses go. I’m willing to compromise on an age cut-off if need be — no congressmen over 50 get early access, say — but it’s loony to me to make the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader wait another six weeks or whatever on principle when we could immunize them now.