Want a booster shot to beef up your COVID vaccinations? You’ll have to cool your heels a while longer.
The nation is still reportedly at least a week away from beginning widespread distribution of a booster by drug maker Pfizer. Moderna’s version likely won’t come until after that.
What’s been holding it back even as the delta variant surges? Our drug regulator in chief, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its approval is needed, and it isn’t inclined to move quickly. Were it not for the overly contemplative nature of the agency, a booster arguably could have been available even before now. Granted, Rome wasn’t built in a day — but the ancient Romans were greased lightning compared with the FDA.
So, how did our nation manage to roll out the original round of COVID-19 vaccines in record time over half a year ago?
Simple. Donald Trump made it happen.
You read that right; Trump delivered. The former president — pilloried by the political left and widely chided in the national press all last year for his approach to the pandemic — was in fact responsible for convening the experts and getting them to move ahead at warp speed. The effort was even dubbed, “Operation Warp Speed.”
Don’t just take it from us. Colorado’s reputedly liberal chief exec, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, made the same point at a press briefing this week on how the state will handle booster shot distribution once it begins. As reported in Tuesday’s Gazette, Polis chided the FDA for its foot dragging and praised the Republican former president for his pivotal role in developing and expediting the vaccine. He even urged the Biden administration to follow Trump’s example.
“There’s a lot that President Trump got wrong about the pandemic but there’s also something very important he got right, and what he got right about the pandemic was Operation Warp Speed,” Polis said. “The FDA would have sat on and delayed the life-saving vaccine for many more months at the cost tens or hundreds of thousands of American lives had he not acted to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork and make the life-saving vaccine available quicker.’
“This is a moment where similar leadership is needed by the Biden administration to make sure that the FDA does not succeed in using ivory tower circular reasoning to further delay the life-saving booster.”
The Trump administration’s role last year in cutting federal red tape and accelerating the vaccine’s development was detailed in a report in January by our news affiliate, The Washington Examiner:
“Upon the announcement of its inception (in May), the Trump administration aimed ‘to have substantial quantities of a safe and effective vaccine available for Americans by January 2021,’ ” the Examiner reported. The Trump White House met its deadline, as the Examiner observed: “At the time of this writing, two vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, 36 million doses have been distributed, and more than 16 million shots have already been administered in the weeks since the effort began.”
The Examiner called Operation Warp Speed “a rare bright spot, serving as a key receptacle for investment and coordination between the pharmaceutical companies racing to produce the vaccine and the federal government aiming to get jabs in the arm.”
The program, considered a latter-day Manhattan Project, was empowered with three components that made a big difference: taxpayer investment in manufacturing and clinical trials as an alternative to approaching a risk-averse private sector at the time; choosing pharmaceutical companies that had the ability to deliver effective results by the first half of 2021, and a military-style logistics operation to distribute the vaccine. The upshot of all of which was that Operation Warp Speed lived up to its name.
Polis’ impatience with the snail’s pace of the federal bureaucracy is no surprise given his own extraordinary success in the private sector as an online business innovator. It probably also explains his admiration for a Trump administration initiative in which government, for a change, modeled business behavior at its best. It got things done fast and done right by collaborating with the private sector.
Polis is also right in recommending Trump’s model to President Biden as his administration now gets to oversee the mass distribution of the COVID vaccine booster. Maybe the governor even had a chance to convey that to the president one-on-one during Biden’s Wednesday visit to our state. We can only hope.