The idea of getting vaccinated for the coronavirus has become a divisive issue in recent months. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans that say they would definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine recently dropped from 72% back in May to 51% in September.
With President Trump hoping to get a vaccine before the Nov. 3rd election, many people on all sides of the political aisle have become increasingly worried that the federal government may rush the process for political reasons. The U.S. also has a significant population that’s generally opposed to the idea of getting vaccinated against anything from measles to chickenpox, especially if these drugs are coming from the government.
With six major possible vaccines moving through the clinical trial phase, we should know whether these drugs work in just a few weeks or months. That’s according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. He recently told CBS News that he hopes to have more concrete information on the efficacy of these drugs by the end of the year. He also said he has “strong confidence” in the safety of any drug that gets approved by the Food and Drug Administration. If they are approved, Fauci says they will likely be available by April of 2021.
Now, several state governors, including Gov. Newsom from California, have said that they will independently review these vaccinations before releasing them to the public, adding another layer of protection for patients and consumers. While experts say this could encourage more people to get the vaccine, it could also add another layer of bureaucracy that could slow down the process.
State Governors Speak Up
The coronavirus pandemic has been uneven across the country. Coastal states like New York and California have been ravaged by the deadly disease for months, while more rural states have imposed little to no safety restrictions. NY and CA are also the two largest states in the union with liberal constituents that have little faith in the U.S. President, especially after months of touting unproven treatment techniques.
This has undermined confidence in the American medical system, including the FDA and CDC, which could make it harder to vaccinate the general population. The latest statistics from the Pew Research Center and other news outlets that show declining support for a COVID-19 has experts worried.
That’s why both New York and California have decided to set up their own independent review boards for testing any COVID-19 vaccine that’s been approved by the FDA. These boards will include public health experts from each respective state.
During a recent press conference, Newsom said, “Of course, we don’t take anyone’s word for it. We will do our own independently reviewed process with our world-class experts that just happen to live here in the state of California.”
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with the National Governors Association, recently published a list of questions for the federal government on the effective implementation of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. This comes just a week after the federal government imposed a strict deadline for every state in the union to submit a framework for how they plan on distributing the vaccine to the local population. While this is just a template for vaccination, many states have said they still need more information from the federal government before they can start planning effectively. For example, the list of questions includes:
- How will the vaccine be allocated to states? What formula will be used?
- How will the vaccine be distributed? What mechanism will the federal government use?
- How will funding/reimbursement for vaccines be handled?
- How will vaccine administration costs be covered for people who are uninsured?
Additional Safety Measure or Bureaucratic Mess?
Public policy experts are divided over the idea of having each state independently review a possible vaccine for COVID-19.
LaVonna B. Lewis, a professor of public policy with an emphasis on healthcare at the USC Sol Price School, says she’s still on the fence. “To assume that people will just automatically shake off all of the misinformation that has been part of this process and all the viciousness that has been part of this process and just stand in line and take the vaccine, I think is unrealistic.”
Lewis says we all need to work together to restore faith in the American medical system. The issue often comes down to who’s delivering the message.
“Trusted agents make a difference,” Lewis said. “If I don’t trust the messenger, then it’s very difficult for me to believe the message.” That means politics could come into play, whether we like it or not.
Now that we’re in the middle of a contentious election, we need both Democrats and Republicans to get on board with a plan to distribute a vaccine for COVID-19, but the parties can’t seem to agree on pretty much anything.
To Each Their Own
Throughout the pandemic, the Trump Administration has largely left the states to their own devices as they impose their own safety guidelines. The government may use a similar approach for distributing the vaccine, which means each state will need to find a way to make sure the drug first gets to those who need it most.
Every state is different, which could add confusion to the process. Getting the drug to low-income patients, first-responders, and those with pre-existing health conditions continues to be the chief priority when formulating these plans.
Having each state independently review any drug for COVID-19 that gets approved by the FDA could slow down the vaccination process, but states haven’t received a lot of support from the federal government thus far, so they are planning to go it alone.