Impeached President Donald Trump is pushing health officials to speed up the timeline for a coronavirus vaccine in order to have it ready this fall. Administration sources tell The Washington Post that his “goal is to instill confidence among voters that the virus can be tamed and the economy fully reopened under Trump’s stewardship.” In other words, he wants to look like a president solving a crisis ahead of the election.
It’s sure as hell not about saving lives. If that mattered to him, we wouldn’t be in a vicious resurgence of the disease. If saving lives mattered to him he wouldn’t be risking thousands of his own supporters by having his rally in Tulsa this weekend. If saving lives was what it was about, there would be adequate PPE for every essential worker and we’d still all be home, financially and physically secure. But it’s not about saving lives—not even down to the damned least thing he could have done: putting on a goddamned mask on television, in front of the nation. If he’d done that, who knows how many lives would have been saved.
Anyway, back to the dirt spilled to the Post. Last month, two senior White House officials say, Trump met with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper about the vaccine project, which they are insanely calling Operation Warp Speed. In this meeting, “Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline. […] Trump wants some people to be able to get the vaccine sooner than the end of the year to demonstrate an end to the pandemic is within reach, according to those officials and two others.” It’s not clear who the “some people,” other than him and Ivanka, are. If health officials are allowed a say, it will be the elderly and frontline essential workers, but health officials care about saving lives. In reality it would definitely be Trump’s buddies who get a vaccine first—if they would be willing to take it.
That’s another big issue here: The majority of people who have seen Trump’s response to the crisis thus far would not trust a rushed vaccine. Which means that even if a vaccine is rushed out, it will probably do little to help Trump’s prospects in November.
In terms of the ‘saving lives’ part of the deal, pumping all these resources into getting something, anything out the door this fall could hamper getting an effective vaccine developed. A botched effort could be downright dangerous to the people who get the vaccine and create more distrust for the next one that might come out. It would also, obviously, allow the coronavirus to keep sweeping through vulnerable populations unchecked. All of which compounds the basic issue: Trump doesn’t give a damn about saving lives. He just wants to stay in power.