Columnists, Coronavirus, Mike Rosen, National, Politics, Uncategorized

Rosen: The vexing politics of vaccinations

After duly considering the risks and rewards, I’ve taken the first two Pfizer vaccine shots and recently added the new booster.  My reasoning was clear cut.  The small risk to my health of a bad reaction to the vaccine was far lower than the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID if I didn’t take the vaccine.  Most people seem to agree, but not all.  Why not?

Politics, for one thing.  When President Trump took credit for “Operation Warp Speed,” which expedited release of the vaccines, Democrat politicians and leftist activists said it was unsafe.  Now that Joe Biden, their guy, is president they’re not only championing the vaccine but want to force everyone to take it.

Some conservatives, refusing to take the vaccine, insist that no one can force them to do so.  I agree that a federal mandate on all Americans to that effect is an overreach.  These folks justifiably opposed the draconian lockdown of society and the economy, as did I.  Ironically, it was the vaccines that paved the way for reopening.  And while the unvaccinated are free to take the personal risk to their health, they won’t be excused from some restrictions they may find inconvenient and costly.  Businesses can legally require vaccinations or impose restrictions in order to protect their workers or patrons, as can government employers and schools.  College and professional sports teams are, likewise, requiring vaccinations or imposing restrictions on those who aren’t vaccinated.

Some have a religious objection because vaccine research might have used cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.  The Pope recently declared that it’s nonetheless “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive this vaccine given the “grave danger” to billions from the pandemic.  Other objections on religious grounds include those with a general aversion to medical treatment.  If they shun the vaccine, let them do so at their own peril but they’re not so numerous as to threaten the societal benefit of herd immunity.

Then there are the anti-vaxers who irrationally fear vaccines.  I don’t understand that.  Vaccines have protected us from Smallpox, Typhoid, Polio, Measles, Tuberculoses, Shingles, Cholera, Diphtheria, etc.  There will always be some who react negatively to a vaccine or any medication, for that matter, but the odds favoring a positive outcome are overwhelming.  Would anti-vaxers even refuse and deny to their children a vaccine, someday, proven to protect them from cancer?

Two former federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bureaucrats, Marianne Gruber and Phil Krause, recently claimed COVID booster shots are unneeded by Americans and that the vaccine should, instead, be sent to other nations.  They had earlier protested Trump’s efforts to expedite FDA approval of the COVID vaccines.  Gov. Polis has condemned this duo.  “We can all celebrate the news that (they) have left the FDA in disgrace,” he declared.  “They have blood on their hands and there are thousands of Americans that are dead today because of their delays on the booster shot.”  The U.S. has spent billions to develop, produce and dispense the vaccines, with millions of doses already sent overseas.  Rightfully, our people should be first in line.

To understand the mentality of the FDA and its customary foot-dragging in approving new drugs, one needs to recall the 1960’s Thalidomide scandal in Europe.  Thalidomide was discovered as the unintended cause of deformed babies born to European mothers who had taken it during their pregnancies.  In the U.S., Thalidomide had been kept off the market pending approval by the FDA.  Dr Frances O. Kelsey, in particular, got the credit for that and was presented with a gold medal by President Kennedy for Distinguished Government Service.  You might say she became the patron saint of FDA delay.

It’s commendable that conscientious FDA scientists take reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of the American public, but the residual effect of the Kelsey Syndrome, to this day, has been a predictable tendency toward unreasonable risk-aversion.  FDA bureaucrats consider their personal risk when approving new drugs for public release.  If a drug turns out to be another Thalidomide, people will suffer or die, as will your career.  If you hold the drug back, people who could have been saved by it may suffer or die, but they won’t be known to the public, nor will you.

The ongoing consequence of this is that new drugs that prove to be greatly beneficial can take a decade or more to come to market.  This drives up the costs to pharmaceutical companies of developing these drugs, which runs into many billions.  These costs are inevitably passed on to consumers, governments and taxpayers.

Thanks to the Trump administration, the FDA’s expedited approval of COVID vaccines saved lives, reduced sickness and restored trillions of dollars to the economy.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.

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