Although President Donald Trump failed miserably in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, dismissing its significance and lying about its severity, perhaps the best thing he did during his four-year term as president was that he later ramped up the government’s effort to get an effective vaccine for this deadly coronavirus to the public. He happened by the formation of Operation Warp Speed. Through it, the federal government spent billions of dollars, and the result was by far the fastest development ever of a vaccine for a deadly disease. On average, it takes about ten years for the U.S. medical community to develop a vaccine. And sometimes it never accomplishes the heroic feat.
For example, the HIV/AIDS pandemic first became known to U.S. health authorities in 1981. As I state in my book, Moses Predicted COVID-19 (2020; p. 24), “The CDC says 16 million people have died from AIDS worldwide and 50 million people currently have HIV.” Many billions of dollars have been spent in the U.S. alone since 1981 to try to develop a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, and it still has not happened. So, Operation Warp Speed is to be highly commended for its efforts in getting very effective COVID-19 vaccines in such a short period of time, which was only a little more than a year. So far, the FDA has approved only three that have been developed by pharmaceuticals, all three of which happened to be U.S. corporations: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Especially those by Pfizer and Moderna, which are based on the new methodology of messenger RNA, have been very effective in keeping infected people out of hospitals and dying.
Gus Perna was the Chief Operation Officer of Operation Warp Speed, which the Biden Administration recently rebranded as Countermeasures Acceleration Group. Now retired, Perna was chosen to head up OWS because he was a former four-star general in the U.S. Army who was a logistics expert in getting military equipment to Army troops. Perna kept a very low-profile of himself during his directing of Operation Warp Speed.
Perna recently was interviewed by Politico Magazine‘s Kathy Gilsinan, and that interview was published today. In it, Perna says he feels quite proud about the job that he and his approximately 100 OWS staff did in making the vaccines available to the American public and the speed with which they did so. He says his only significant regret doesn’t have anything to do with the mission of OWS, which is that the American public was ill prepared for the vaccines. He says, “The great team that I had working with me . . . we were all focused on the delivery and distribution of the vaccine. That was our primary effort. It expanded from there. We had to do a lot of work to help expand manufacturing, to help sustain the supply chain.”
Gilsinan then asked Perna, “tell me about what you think should have been done differently, by you or anybody else?”
Perna answered, “What I get frustrated on was: Where was the long-term strategy for getting people ready to start taking the vaccine? . . . The vaccine’s safe and effective. We didn’t cut any corners. The vaccine, it’s going to save lives. Where was that strategy? That was not a part of the OWS portfolio. It’s a personal choice to get the vaccine or not. But where was the presentation to inform everybody, so that they could make the best decision? Where was the responsibility to not let this get politicized? Where was the access to knowledge that everybody could listen to, question, read more about, . . . Where was all that? It just didn’t exist. That’s the frustration I’m talking about.”
It is interesting that Perna came from such a different environment, from the military, to solving a civic problem. In the U.S. military, there is no choice available about taking vaccinations. You either take them, and there can be many, or you are ejected from the military. There can be no other way. Such decisions must be based on the overall good of the military. Thus, you can’t have a few soldiers refusing to get a vaccine shot and thereby endanger the health of the rest of the troops. You can’t run a military that way.
But not so with our democracy. People have the freedom to choose to get the shot or not. It’s their choice. Thus, in the military, Perna was not faced with this situation. But he admitted that early during his mission as COO of OWS, he worried about whether or not the public would get the COVID shot.
When Joe Biden became president, his first main goal was for the American adult population to achieve at least 70% vaccination protection from COVID-19 within a year. Actually, that was almost achieved. However, it was only one shot. Lots of Americans have had one COVID shot, but no others. The original program was to get two shots, spaced apart by a few weeks. But when the more contagious Omicron variant became more prevalent than the more deadly Delta variant, lots of people who got the first shot or even the second shot did not get the booster that was later recommended due to Omicron. So, to date, slightly less than 50% of the American adult population is “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19.
But getting back to Mr. Perna’s frustration, U.S. authorities really dropped the ball about educating the public about COVID vaccinations. And here’s why. They could have sought after experts on U.S. history of vaccinations and learned that there was nothing new about people deciding against getting this vaccination. That has happened before in our society. But there is one thing that has made it worse than before. We now have so much access to media, especially the social media of the internet. And people are getting their information about all kinds of things in life from people who are not experts, rather, a lot of people who have some axe to grind with disinformation. Furthermore, with our two-party political system, which I don’t think is serving us very well anymore, COVID vaccinations have become such a politicized issue. But it has been done by one party–the Republican Party. So many Republican voters have been against getting a COVID vaccination. I’ve got them in my family. They constantly watch Fox News on television, and in doing so they became anti-COVID vaccination. Such a shame.
President Donald Trump is Republican. For a while he catered to these people who spread disinformation about COVID vaccines. But then he eventually got the vaccination himself, and without at first telling the public. Eventually, he advised people to get the shot. But it took him a while. It was a reflection of his political strategy, in which he based such decisions on what was best for his political career rather than what was best for the health of the American public. Such a shame. At least he eventually corrected that. But there had to have been many people for whom his change in message was too late. That is, they died unnecessarily of COVID because their politics caused them to not get the shot. Such a tragedy.