Earlier this week I wrote about the people in the media who repeatedly assured us that we could not have a vaccine ready before the end of 2020. Today the Federalist did a roundup of other news outlets that also fact-checked this point:
“Trump’s inaccurate coronavirus vaccine timeline,” read a Washington Post headline that has since been updated to replace “inaccurate” with “accelerated.”
“Trump appears to be expediting the vaccine development process, misrepresenting how fast a vaccine will be available to the public in fighting the novel coronavirus,” the article claimed, citing leftist media’s unassailable hero, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
You can read the Post’s fact-check analysis here. But it wasn’t the only story at the time making this point. A day earlier the Post had published a story titled “Trump coronavirus effort undermined by mixed messages and falsehoods.” The falsehoods in this case related to when the vaccine would be available:
At a Monday roundtable meeting at the White House, Trump prodded pharmaceutical executives about how quickly they could get a coronavirus vaccine to market. He appeared not to understand the vaccine testing process, despite efforts by some executives to clarify the timeline, and incorrectly asserted that a vaccine could be ready “over the next few months” or “within a year.”
It fell to Fauci to correct the president.
“A year to a year and a half,” Fauci said…
But on Tuesday, during a gathering of the National Association of Counties, Trump presented a rosy outlook. “We’re moving at a maximum speed to develop the therapies, not only the vaccines, but therapies,” he said. “Therapies is sort of another word for cure. ”
And he claimed that during his meeting with pharmaceutical executives, he had pressed the leaders to expedite the vaccine process.
“I said, ‘Do me a favor. Speed it up, speed it up,’ he said. “And they will. They are working really hard and quick.”
It’s fair to say that Trump’s suggestion the vaccine might be ready in a few months was way off, but then so was Dr. Fauci’s suggestion that it might take a year and a half (August of 2021) to get there. The truth turned out to be somewhere in the middle. But by early March the media had set the narrative on this topic. Here’s a video the Washington Post produced to amplify this idea that a year to a year and a half was the soonest we could see a vaccine.
It’s worth noting that by July, Dr. Fauci had changed his tune and was saying he was “cautiously optimistic” that we could have one or more than one vaccine approved for use by the end of the year. So Fauci’s initial assessment was wrong but he eventually self-corrected. The media also gradually came around but without really acknowledging that it had confidently told us for months a vaccine couldn’t happen in 2020.
The point is that Trump’s statements about the vaccine were always meant to be aspirational. But in the rush to fact-check his every statement as wrong, the media missed the real possibility that we might be able to achieve this record timeline. As the Federalist points out, you have to wonder what some of these news outlets might have written about Kennedy’s plan to send a man to the moon.
“President Kennedy says moon landing will be coming by the end of the decade, despite contrary evidence,” CNBC 1961 might have written.
“Moon Landing in 10 Years? Experts Urge Reality Check,” Bloomberg 1961 could have reported.
Sometimes you just have to push toward something that doesn’t seem possible because it’s important. In this case it seems to have helped despite all the confident assertions early on that it wasn’t possible.