The President’s curious remarks yesterday about withholding the shipment of any approved vaccines to New York State caused quite a bit of consternation in Albany. It seemed pretty obvious that this was nothing but a political shot across the bow at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a frequent and aggressive critic of the Trump administration. But reading into Trump’s remarks, he didn’t actually say that New Yorkers wouldn’t be getting the vaccine. He simply said that the shipments wouldn’t be authorized until the Governor gave his personal approval. (NY Post)
President Trump on Friday celebrated the recent breakthrough of a successful coronavirus vaccine — but said the people of New York wouldn’t receive it until Gov. Andrew Cuomo got out of the way.
In a Rose Garden address on Friday, the commander-in-chief said they would distribute a COVID-19 vaccine across the United States but would not send it to the hard-hit Empire State because Cuomo doesn’t trust it.
“He wants to take his time with a vaccine. He doesn’t trust where the vaccine’s coming from. These are coming form the greatest companies anywhere in the world, the greatest labs in the world, but he doesn’t trust the fact that it’s this White House, this administration,” he said.
Trump was referring to Cuomo’s previous comments where he basically accused the President of wanting to rush through an unproven vaccine to score points in the election. As a result, he appointed his own “scientific panels” to review any vaccine approved by the FDA.
As I said, this was little more than a bit of political gamesmanship between the Governor and the President. Trump clearly wanted Cuomo to back down and say that he would approve the vaccine when it became available. In his response, Cuomo still refused to do so, saying that his panel of medical experts would make that call, not him. Given the fact that the FDA isn’t going to approve a vaccine that didn’t pass all of the normal trials, this is a fictional scenario, to begin with.
I’m still not sure why the President decided to go down this road in the first place. For starters, we’re still not expecting the Pfizer vaccine (or any others) to become widely available until April at the earliest and perhaps not until June. Any vaccine that receives initial approval will still have to submit three months’ worth of safety data after the last test subjects are vaccinated. At this point, barring something truly miraculous happening, Joe Biden will have long since been sworn into office and it would be his administration handling the authorization.
And it’s not the President who makes those decisions anyway. Neither Trump nor Biden are doctors or specialists in infectious diseases. The same goes for Cuomo. That duty is charged to the FDA. They will let us know when a vaccine has overcome all of the hurdles required to gain approval. Also, the entire conversation is based on something that’s obviously not a certainty at this point. We can’t be certain that Pfizer’s vaccine won’t demonstrate some safety issues during the last phase of testing and wind up going back to the drawing board. We also don’t know if vaccinated people will wind up contracting the virus anyway if the immunity provided by the vaccine turns out to be short-term.
This was a poor subject for political gamesmanship. We have far bigger fish to fry at this point, specifically making sure that the Democrats don’t take both of the Senate seats in Georgia during the runoff elections. The government should also be focusing on whether or not there’s going to be a second round of COVID relief coming and what it would look like, particularly if many governors are going to start shutting down their states again this winter. This spat between Trump and Cuomo will fade from memory pretty quickly. The virus, at least at this point, doesn’t look like it will.