One of the best pieces of news in this miserable year is that vaccines to fight the pandemic are being developed, tested, and readied for distribution. President Trump, in what are apparently the waning days of his administration, could provide a great public service if he were to join forces with Joe Biden to fully endorse their use.
To many, vaccines are an incalculable benefit. They remember how the Salk and Sabine vaccinations practically eliminated polio, as well as how vaccines have conquered smallpox. They see vaccines as the most effective means to combat our current pandemic.
But too many oppose the distribution of vaccines or at least say they won’t take them. They charge that:
- Vaccines cause autism, despite the fact that the one article claiming a link between vaccines and autism has been discredited;
- Vaccines are being developed solely to enrich the pharmaceutical companies making them;
- Vaccines are the means by which Bill Gates or George Soros seeks to control us;
- Rejecting vaccines is the most effective way to assert the principle of “My body, my choice” (a view I fully endorse, as long as the only person effected by a choice is the one making it);
- Etc., etc., etc.
Now, no vaccine should be distributed to the public unless and until it’s met all relevant health and safety standards for its use. Nobody should be required to take a vaccine if he has a medical condition which would increase rather than decrease the danger the vaccine presents to him. And nobody should be held down and physically injected with a vaccine against his will. But the vaccine must be widely distributed and accepted if it is to be effective, and it may be necessary to require certificates of vaccination to fly on airplanes, attend schools, or otherwise participate in activities involving other people at close quarters. Those who choose not to take vaccines may have to endure some degree of exclusion and quarantine, depending on the degree to which their refusal to take a vaccine endangers the lives of others.
And here’s where President Trump can play a profoundly beneficial role. He may have lost the popular vote in the recent election, but he still won 70,000,000 votes anyway. He retains a large and loyal following. He should use his ongoing influence to persuade his followers to take the vaccine. Indeed, he should offer clear, plain, unambiguous and full-throated endorsements of their use.
Of course, there’s a risk. Many millions of Americans may not trust the vaccines, especially since they’ve all been developed during Trump’s administration, and several have been the product of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. No less a person than Kamala Harris has expressed reluctance to take a vaccine so produced, although she has expressed a willingness to take one after it’s been adequately tested.
So Joe Biden must get on board too. Together, Trump and Biden should forcefully advocate the taking of the vaccines once they’ve met all necessary health and safety tests.
This course of action may well be too difficult to pursue. Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the election results, and what is probably a great deal of personal animosity between the two candidates, may well present barriers to any bipartisan approach to vaccination promotion.
Nonetheless, if we are to overcome and survive the pandemic, the vaccines must be distributed and administered as rapidly as safety permits. Whatever obstacles to bipartisanship must be overcome. It’s literally a matter of life and death.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.