“Public health is too slow” tends to be an argument made by techno-optimists and libertarians who see the public-health agencies as unhealthily obsessed with their own credibility, and genuinely too risk-averse to do the right thing even when it’s staring them in the face. The libertarian thinker Alex Tarrabok has been arguing from the beginning for a much more aggressive posture from these agencies. Other thinkers have suggested that the only way for these agencies to have credibility is to move quickly once they have good enough evidence. And it’s not unreasonable: The CDC has been particularly slow to update guidelines with new evidence in this pandemic, and its recommendations on food preparation would ruin most of the steak and turkey dinners in this country. For what gain?
But probably more common among the public, and peculiarly present among vaccine skeptics, is the view that the FDA and other public-health agencies are moving too quickly, are too easily bought out, or are just plain biased by their relationships to big pharmaceutical companies. This view isn’t entirely without reason. An FDA regulator who approved the drug OxyContin, by Purdue Pharmaceutical — the drug that kicked off the opioid crisis — got a very cushy gig from the company itself.
If you think medical regulators tend not to be cautious enough, the resignations of two senior officials over vaccines at the FDA because of political pressure is going to set off a ton of alarm bells.