Other’s opinion: A vaccine must be done right

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 5, 2020

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The Free Press, Mankato

The simplest solution to the global COVID-19 pandemic — a vaccine — isn’t all that simple. This disease is caused by a coronavirus, and immunity to coronaviruses is notoriously unstable and short-lived.

That is why we can catch the common cold repeatedly. The antibodies to that particular coronavirus don’t last long. Fortunately, the cold also isn’t that severe an ailment for most people.

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COVID-19, its confirmed death toll in this nation alone over 180,000 and rising, is no common cold.

But a study reported this week out of Iceland — an island nation where some 15 percent of the population has been tested for the virus — suggests an effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus is indeed feasible. The researchers say the antibodies generated by survivors’ immune systems come in two waves, with the second and more effective wave persisting at least four months.

There are, according to the New York Times, 36 different vaccines in clinical trials in humans, with at least 90 others in preclinical testing on animals. There are a lot of horses in this race, and, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, we should be rooting for them all, foreign and domestic. Many, probably most, of the vaccines under development will be ineffective or unsafe, and the more that do work, the better.

To that end, the Trump administration did the nation and the planet no favors this week by declaring that the United States would not join an international coalition to find and distribute a vaccine worldwide due to the group’s association with the World Health Organization. Trump’s ill-considered antipathy to international cooperation in general and irrational distrust of WHO in particular is an unnecessary obstacle.

So is his politicization of the federal response to the pandemic. Last week Trump and the head of the Food and Drug Administration made grandiose — and factually unsupported — claims about convalescent plasma. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn later retracted his statements and apologized, but the damage to his credibility, and that of his agency, was done.

America already has a loud contingent of antivaxxers deeply suspicious of vaccines in general, with Trump at times encouraging their nonsense — and those are vaccines that have been well-tested and confirmed repeatedly to be safe. If a faulty COVID vaccine is rolled out prematurely for political purposes, the damage to public faith could be incalculable.

The job must be done right.