It’s a good question. I had the same one when I heard someone on television mention she was taking it. We were told she tested positive for COVID-19 but she is asymptomatic. If she has no symptoms, why is she taking Pfizer’s wonder drug?
The simple answer is because she’s the vice-president. If she was Kamala Harris, the office assistant from down the street, she very likely wouldn’t have access to the drug, Paxlovid. The Covid-19 antiviral pill, according to the Politico piece, is reserved for patients “at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19,” according to the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization standards.”
Is Kamala a high risk patient? Her office isn’t answering that question, only saying that she “remains asymptomatic” and is “feeling good and has been in touch with staff.” Maybe she has an underlying health condition that hasn’t been publicly disclosed. That’s a little difficult to believe, given how much her office leaks these days. The most likely answer is that she is the vice-president and she gets special treatment.
Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams weighed in on the subject.
To be clear, I’m not opposed to VP (or anyone who tests positive) getting early treatment. But I’m opposed to hypocrisy from our government leaders and media. And I wonder why it seems VP isn’t following FDA criteria. Does that mean others shouldn’t either?
— Jerome Adams (@JeromeAdamsMD) April 27, 2022
Fair enough, Dr. Adams. World leaders are often given top-of-the-line medication, even as a precautionary measure, just like Trump did when he was hospitalized for COVID-19. We’ve since learned that Trump’s infection was worse than we knew at the time. That may or may not end up being the case with Kamala. Trump also brushed it off at the beginning of his infection. Naturally the president or the vice-president of the United States will be given the best that is available to keep them out of danger.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” said Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who’s also editor-at-large for public health at Kaiser Health News. She said the FDA’s reference to “high risk” for progression to severe disease in its Paxlovid fact sheet suggests a patient can be asymptomatic at time of diagnosis and still be eligible for the drug.
“We know that the way that presidents, or in this case vice presidents, are treated is not necessarily the way the average person is treated,” added Gounder, who advised the Biden transition on Covid-19. “It’s not just about what is best for that patient – it’s about what’s best for the nation.”
One medical ethicist points to the unfairness of the medical system. “It’s what I make of the American health care system – better to be rich and connected,” said Arthur Caplan, a New York University professor of medical ethics.” For most Americans, it is quite complicated to obtain the drug, especially in a timely manner. The drug needs to be taken within days of the appearance of symptoms.
Harris’ speedy access to Paxlovid sharply contrasts with the rest of the country’s ability to get it. The sheer logistics of finagling a prescription, and then finding the pills within days of symptom onset, has complicated the drug’s rollout after it was first authorized in December.
Only physicians, physician assistants and certain registered nurses — not pharmacists — can prescribe the drug. That means patients may have to visit a testing site, a doctor’s office and, in the worst-case scenario, visit a participating pharmacy just to get the pills.
The White House has tried to address this through its “test to treat” initiative, setting up one-stop shops for patients to get tested and access treatment on the spot. But a Department of Health and Human Services map of “test-to-treat” locations nationwide shows that many sites are concentrated in major metro areas, raising accessibility concerns in rural pockets of the country. The White House announced this week it’s working with states to launch more sites with federal support and will allow thousands more pharmacies to directly order the medication.
Also, it should be pointed out that Kamala has a history of rules for thee but not for me behavior. The latest glaring evidence of her arrogant behavior toward COVID-19 mitigation was during the time of the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson. She presided over the Senate vote though she was directly exposed to a top aide, Jamal Simmons, who was diagnosed as COVID positive. She failed to wear a mask as CDC guidance states, for the next 10 days. Her office covered for her by saying she practiced social distancing during the vote. Later, though, Kamala was still unmasked during a celebration at the White House and hugged the new Supreme Court justice. Jen Psaki claimed that Kamala was socially distanced for “99.9 percent of the event and she wore a mask inside. Sure, Jen. Rules are for the little people.
The White House is said to be working on increasing availability of Paxlovid.
Efforts by the Biden administration include physician outreach, direct distribution of the drug to pharmacies, and purchasing a supply of the treatment that should last the nation several months. Initially, the drug was limited in supply, but manufacturing has since increased, and it is now far more available, the Associated Press reports.
“The bottom line is that we want to make this therapeutic available to all Americans,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said Tuesday on CNN.
I wish Kamala a speedy recovery. I hope she doesn’t have an underlying condition that complicates her diagnosis. As much as I criticize her ineptness in office, it’s in the best interests of the country that the line of succession isn’t compromised, especially with Sleepy Joe at the top of the chain of command.