Operation Warp Speed x Scientists, a zero-sum trust game

This morning Time Magazine printed a largely reasonable article entitled “Too Many Americans Still Mistrust the COVID-19 Vaccines. Here’s Why.”

I say “reasonable” because the writer,  Jeffrey Kluger, recognizes that many, many people who aren’t in a rush to be vaccinated are clear-thinking, rational individuals with a routine appraisal of reality.

He understands that not all who refuse vaccines are kooks.

According to a December survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center, nearly 40% of Americans say they will definitely not or probably not get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. Gallup polls put the number at 37%.

But most people in the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy camp are more rational, more measured—informed enough not to believe the crazy talk, but worried enough not to want to be at the head of the line for a new vaccine. “For first responders and for older people with underlying conditions it’s a godsend,” says Padgett. “But I do believe this was rushed. I’m reasonably healthy. Six months to a year just to get more data on it is what I’d need to be vaccinated.”

Scientists who lasciviously purvey the virtues of vaccines dependably point out that mRNA vaccines have been in development for a decade so the Moderna and Pfizer offerings are not out-of-the-blue rushed products. Understandable but unconvincing. The COVID-19 vaccine campaign is tinged with that uneasy hue of rushed and half-assed. It’s obvious the normal cost/benefit paradigm that shapes vaccine development was tossed out the window in order to bring the vaccines to market with such brevity, development history or not.

In this case, the benefit (putting an end to the rampaging virus responsible for much death and disease and destruction of the economy) dictates that the unknown cost (the stark possibility that a largely virgin technology might result in long-term unforeseen “issues” across a large population), is “worth it.” Ultimately, the driver is money. Saving of human life may just be an auspicious benefit, but the motivation is the profit which pharmaceuticals will reap, and the revenue which elites will stop bleeding once industry and the economy resume post-COVID normalcy.  A bit cynical, yes, but “Operation War Speed” and its impatient adherents do not bolster confidence.

We are in a situation where the scientists are pushing their proud achievement and the government exploits said achievement by hacking the very science responsible for it. Ensuing is a chaotic frenzy to push shit out while plutocratic distrust remains the only sensible reaction on the part of critical thinkers.

Moncef Slaoui from Operation Warp Speed, similarly to Dr. Fauci, has hinted that he is changing his pandemic tune. From Face the Nation:

DR. SLAOUI: So give them- well, it is- we- I’m- I’m going to tell you the alternative in one second. Just let me finish the point I’m making, which is we always said that these vaccines will be developed on the basis of science and all decisions will be made transparently on the basis of data. Changing the decisions made, the choices made, which was to give two doses of vaccine, the second dose gives you 10 times higher immune response than the first dose, without any data I think would not be responsible. Here is the alternative. We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half of the dose to people between the ages of 18 and 55, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have. We know it induces identical immune response to the hundred microgram dose and therefore we are in discussion with Moderna and with the FDA. Of course, ultimately it will be an FDA decision to accelerate —

Ah, so one of Trump’s viral henchmen thinks a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine would work just fine for certain population groups, thus we can safely double the doses available to the general public. What could possibly go wrong with this. Instinctively it sounds like bad science; like rushed science. And indeed, the FDA is leery. (Apologies for paywalled link)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration delivered a clear rebuke to health officials attempting to alter the timing and dosage of COVID-19 vaccines: Don’t mess with our guidelines.

The agency, in a statement late Monday, urged that vaccines be given according to how the FDA has authorized them after a key U.S. official proposed cutting dosage levels for Moderna Inc.’s shot as a way to immunize more people. Governments and health officials have also considered extending the length of time between doses or mixing and matching vaccines.

“Suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said. He warned that such changes may not guarantee the high level of protection observed in the clinical trials, running a “significant risk” of endangering public health and undermining vaccination efforts.

The concluding paragraph of the Time story:

Another truth, of course, is that for now, in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, masking and social distancing remain the best methods for protecting ourselves and others—and they will be part of our lives for at least many months to come. But slowly, over time, the vaccines will eliminate that need. What’s required now is trust in the power of the shots or, as Stanford puts it, in “faith and facts over fear.” Pandemics eventually stop raging. It’s vaccines that hasten that end game—and save millions of lives in the process.

“Faith and facts?”

Faith is unfounded trust and facts are unmonetized trust.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments