Gerald Ford Rushed Out a Vaccine. It Was a FiascoRoundup
tags: public health, pandemics, Vaccination, pharmaceuticals, swine flu
Mr. Perlstein is the author of Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980.
Last week, news arrived that President Trump had lurched into what may be his most reckless obsession yet: His administration would probably seek an “emergency use authorization” for a Covid-19 vaccine long before some scientists believe it would be safe to do so.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services immediately addressed the obvious suspicion: “Talk of an ‘October surprise’”— an attempt to manufacture good news just before the November election — “is a lurid Resistance fantasy.”
As he does often, however, the president proudly admitted to the exact thing his underling insisted was inconceivable.
“The deep state, or whoever, over at the F.D.A.,” he tweeted recently at Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, “is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after Nov. 3. Must focus on speed and saving lives!”
History offers Mr. Trump a cautionary tale. In February 1976, hundreds of soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J., contracted a new strain of the H1N1 virus that seemed to be a descendant of the one responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed at least 50 million people worldwide and possibly as many as 100 million.
Back in those days, the World Health Organization twice a year convened a panel of experts to determine which strains of influenza should be included in that year’s flu shots, then provided the necessary “seed virus” to manufacturers. President Gerald Ford, however, decided to leapfrog the protocol in the face of the news out of Fort Dix.
It was, after all, an election year, and Mr. Ford, who had risen to the presidency upon Richard Nixon’s resignation 19 months earlier, was seeking his first full term.
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