“A Quagmire Very Similar to Vietnam”: Could Trump Rush a COVID Vaccine to Reverse His Political Spiral?

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The first-pitch fiasco was hardly the primary time Donald Trump’s ego has dominated his dealings with Dr. Anthony Fauci. For weeks now the president, angered by the physician’s good press and by his reliance on precise science to battle COVID-19, has been attempting to undermine Fauci’s credibility. The relationship reached a farcical low level final week when Fauci threw a (wild) ceremonial first pitch earlier than a Washington Nationals recreation. Trump then falsely claimed he’d be climbing the mound previous to a Yankees recreation in August, bewildering the Yankees, who had floated the thought however had by no means nailed down a date. This newest conflict was innocent. The subsequent may have a lot increased stakes.

Trailing badly in most polls, Trump is more and more banking on a preelection medical miracle. On Monday the president traveled to North Carolina to tout the progress towards a COVID vaccine being made at one of many labs backed by billions in federal “Operation Warp Speed” cash. The political hassle, for Trump, is that every one the reasonable analysis, approval, and large-scale manufacturing timelines stretch into at the least early 2021. Two drug firms, Moderna and Pfizer, are the furthest alongside within the course of and have simply begun trials that can final into the autumn; essentially the most optimistic projections see outcomes arriving in November. The presidential election is November 3.

“Everyone wants a vaccine as soon as possible,” one Democratic strategist says. “But the preliminary findings have been very positive, and the process has been so expedited, I’m concerned the Trump administration may try to jam through a vaccine before it’s ready.” Anthony Scaramucci, the financier who was briefly Trump’s White House communications director, nonetheless talks with many well-connected Republicans.“Hyper Drive or Hyper Speed or Warp Speed, whatever he’s calling it—I think he’s hoping that he can make some kind of announcement in September and that he can deploy the vaccine in October, November, December,” Scaramucci tells me. And what if a vaccine isn’t utterly prepared earlier than Election Day—may Trump announce one anyway? “It’s possible,” he says.

Trump is at his core a salesman, and one who has by no means let the absence of a tangible, certifiable product stand in the best way of his pitch. This is a person who floated the opportunity of injecting bleach as a treatment for coronavirus, and who has just lately returned to selling hydroxychloroquine fantasies on Twitter. Fauci has been deft in flattening earlier Trump fictions, and he’s impressively diplomatic in contemplating what could lie forward. “Anybody that says the vaccine [now being tested] is going to be effective has never developed a vaccine,” Fauci informed me. “But in my 36 years of experience in doing this, I can say that I have cautious optimism. If the infection rate stays as high as it is, we should be able to get an answer as to whether the vaccine works and is safe probably by sometime in November, early December. And it might even be earlier. So we’re hoping that by the beginning of 2021, there will be [a] vaccine available to distribute.” What would he do if there’s strain to approve a vaccine earlier than the election that Fauci will not be 100% positive is efficient? “Whether or not something gets approved, that’s going to be up to the FDA,” he says. “I would hope—hope—and I think I have good reason to hope—that the FDA will use scientific evaluation and scientific principles, and will not be influenced by any political considerations. I don’t expect pressure to be applied.”

One doable shortcut is an emergency approval: The FDA may endorse a promising vaccine for distribution even whereas trials proceed. How quickly may that occur? “You know, it’s tough to say. I don’t want to guess,” Fauci says, his tone going steely. “Because if I give a month, then all of a sudden it gets linked to the election. And then I become the talking point, and I’m not going to do that. It could happen in 2020, certainly.”



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