“Politicians should rely exclusively on those with actual expertise in the mass distribution of vaccines — scientists, vaccine manufacturers, research companies, equipment suppliers, the military — for the answers. Our health is all that matters here, not which politician or which political party gets the credit or blame. For the sake of our country and its people, the politicians need to keep the politics out of this.”
Gee. Where have we heard that before?
Oh yeah. It’s what we wrote in our editorial just five days ago regarding the politicization of the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.
Turns out, the politicians weren’t listening.
On Tuesday, we criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for departing from his legitimate criticisms about the distribution of the vaccine and taking direct public shots at the Trump administration for being untrustworthy.
Insulting Trump always results in a return volley, and Cuomo knows it. Yet he talked on.
Friday afternoon, the president hit the ball back, taking shots at Cuomo and announcing that the vaccine would not be made available to New York until Cuomo authorizes it.
One can interpret the president’s comments a couple of ways.
One way, of course, is that it’s a political escalation of Trump’s and Cuomo’s bitter relationship, potentially coming at the expense of the health of New Yorkers who need and want an effective vaccine.
The governor has said in the past that he’s worried that any vaccine, rushed through by the Trump administration for political reasons, might not be safe.
He’s also been critical of the administration’s plan for distribution, largely through hospitals and private pharmacy chains, fearing it might exclude vulnerable populations such as the poor and immigrants who might not have access to a Walgreens or CVS store.
New York isn’t the only state that’s expressed concerns about the vaccine or about the federal government’s plans to distribute it. And New York is not the only state or jurisdiction planning on conducting its own independent review.
California, Michigan and West Virginia are among at least seven states that have announced they’re convening their own advisory groups, or putting health professionals on the task, or simply monitoring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s review of the vaccine. It’s the prudent thing to do.
But Trump didn’t mention those other states or their reviews during his press conference Friday.
Singling out New York for doing what other states are also doing is purely retaliation by Trump for the governor’s targeted criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID response.
But there is another way to look at this. And that is that the president said nothing different or contrary to what Cuomo himself has been saying all along — that New York is planning its own independent review of the vaccine before authorizing its distribution.
When the state is ready for it, Trump said Friday, Cuomo will have to let the federal government know.
Assuming the president keeps his word to distribute the vaccine to New York once the state has completed its review, what did the president say that was all that inflammatory?
The difference here is that Trump singled out Cuomo and New York for a punitive response.
Our healthcare workers, elderly and other vulnerable populations shouldn’t be subject to anyone’s political blackmail, real or implied.
This is exactly the kind of thing we warned about when we urged politicians not to politicize the distribution of the vaccine.
The Cuomo-Trump feud, and the tumultuous and uncertain nature of the transition from the Trump administration to the new Biden administration, makes cooperation on approval and distribution of a vaccine a challenge, but not impossible.
As we said last week, the approval and distribution process should be undertaken by health professionals.
State and federal officials conducting reviews of the vaccine and distribution methods across the country need to share their information and concerns.
And federal officials need to coordinate with, not compete with, their counterparts in all 50 states plus territories on how best to get the vaccines and treatments to the people who most need it, in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
Political partisanship and personal feuds have no place in this discussion. This is life and death.
Both Gov. Cuomo and President Trump need to stand down from their inflammatory rhetoric and let the professionals do what’s best for all Americans, regardless of where they live.