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Essay: Role of the American Government & Politics in Covid-19 vaccine rollout

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Role of the American Government

An article by The Washington Post dated December 30, 2020, reported that vaccine shots were taking long to reach the masses. In Milwaukee for example, the article points out that 500 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were “intentionally” stored improperly, leading to them being discarded. According to the report, the Covid-19 vaccination rollout was off to a slow start.

The article paints a bleak picture of how the vaccination efforts were being handled by the then administration, and highlights the ineffectiveness of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative created by the Trump administration to mass produce vaccines and distribute them effectively.

In contrast, an article by Fox News published on December 28, 2020, presents a completely different perspective to the vaccine rollout efforts that were made by the Trump administration. According to Adm. Giroir, the then Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, gave an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, stating that they expected to distribute 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2020.

The article by the Washington Post was quite critical of the then administration, it tries to express bleakness in the situation, as opposed to the article by Fox News, a conservative leaning media source which tries to bring some hope as expressed by Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir.

The reporting styles in these articles clearly demonstrate the sources’ political preferences.
It is difficult however, as an individual to form an independent opinion as news is provided by sources that are biased in their reporting.

Keywords: vaccine shots, Operation Warp Speed, mass produced vaccines

Congress and Presidency

An article published by the liberal leaning media source, NPR dated January 12, 2021, reported that the Trump administration announced that they had been making several big changes to its COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy in a bid to get more Americans vaccinated in a speedy fashion. The government requested that states open vaccinations to the most vulnerable people, i.e., those who are 65 years and older and those with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

Another change that the Trump administration made in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was to change how vaccine doses were distributed; they stated that the vaccines would be dispersed to states based on the number of seniors who lived there, and by the speed at which the vaccine was being administered. The Trump administration also encouraged states to expand vaccination to more venues.

Dr. Kelly Moore, the deputy director of the nonprofit advocacy group, the Immunization Action Coalition, argued that the move by the Trump administration to expand eligibility to those over 65 years old seemed well intentioned, but it was incredibly confusing when the eligibility kept getting switched up every few days, disrupting the implementation of the vaccination programs.

In a press conference, the Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar blamed the hitches in the vaccine rollout on the states, citing that,” Some states’ heavy-handed micromanagement of this process has stood in the way of vaccines reaching a broader swath of the vulnerable population more quickly.”

Jen Kates, the director of global health and HIV policy and the Kaiser Family Foundation, stated that the country had been in a labyrinth of different stages of rollout and different policies, which posed a danger in making people who were willing to get vaccinated to get frustrated and give up altogether.

Fox News, a conservative news media, presented a much more optimistic take of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by the Trump administration in an article published on September 16, 2020. The article claimed that the vaccinations would gradually start among some segments of the population such as the healthcare workers and other essential workers and the vulnerable, and eventually the distribution would be ramped up to all those who want it.

The first thing that jumps out to me as a reader is that both articles are in support of the efforts that have been put forward by the government to vaccinate Americans against Coronavirus. This is not a surprise to me as the COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone, regardless of their political views. There has been a huge effort to eradicate the virus and both the republican and democratic administrations have shown great interest in the health and wellbeing of Americans.

The above articles were both written at around the same time, during the Trump era, and they seem to agree upon one thing, that speed is essential in getting the vaccine to the masses, and that the most vulnerable in the population be vaccinated first. The other issue that both articles seem to agree upon is that the vaccine be made free for all Americans. The difference, however, is in the style of reporting. Again, we see the left leaning media source painting a critical picture of the vaccine rollout efforts, pointing out the confusion and inefficiency of the efforts of the Republican administration in vaccinating Americans. Fox News on the other hand, presents a much more positive perspective of the vaccination efforts, stating that Americans would receive the vaccine as soon as possible.

Keywords: underlying health conditions, nonprofit advocacy group, vaccination programs,

Bureaucracy and Judiciary

An article titled “An Anti-Bureaucracy Vaccine, Please” published on January 12, 2021 by the conservative media WSJ, it was revealed that one of the reasons why the vaccine rollout was slow is because there had been vaccine doses being held back for because of bureaucratic and political reasons. New York is reported to be one of the worst as they created a complex formula for ranking health-care workers based on underlying health conditions, age, occupation, and hospital department, among other things. There was a lot of surplus vaccine vials in hospitals because many health-care workers declined to be vaccinated. Because of this, many doses went to waste and hundreds were left unopened on shelves. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, after being embarrassed by the press, expanded eligibility to seniors, public safety officers, teachers and other school staff, child-care workers, grocery store workers, people living and working in homeless shelters and transit workers.

In contrast, an article published by NPR, reported that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in West Virginia was seeing much better success than any other state in the nation. West Virginia had been charting its own path to vaccine distribution. Instead of signing on with a federal program partnering with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities, West Virginia took charge of delivering its vaccine supply to 250 pharmacies — most of which are small, independent stores. Gretchen Garofoli, a pharmacist, was of the opinion that relying on big chains to get the shots to long term care facilities was not going to work for West Virginia because there are a lot of independent pharmacies in the more rural communities.

West Virginia chose to chart its own path to vaccine distribution, free from the government interference and eligibility rules. West Virginia was the only state that did not sign on with a federal program to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities. This meant that many people got vaccinated and there was no wastage in the vaccine vials.

Both articles highlight what happens when bureaucracy and too much political interference occurs.

Keywords: expanded eligibility, public safety officers, independent pharmacies, assisted living facilities

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

In another article by Fox News, a conservative leaning source titled, “Cuomo’s vaccine passport policies ‘absurd,’ a ‘violation of civil liberties”, Tammy Bruce, a Fox News pundit, states that the policy enacted by the New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, segregates people based on medical procedures.

She also pointed out the distrust that the African Americans have of government-orchestrated medical procedures, referring to the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” that was conducted between the 1930s and 1970s. She compared. Governor Cuomo’s new policy to forcing unvaccinated Americans to “the back of the bus”, a reference to the way African Americans were forced to sit in the back of the public transit.

Tammy Bruce vehemently opposes the idea of compulsory vaccines and calls it a violation of civil liberties.

Both the conservative and liberal leaning sources talk about civil rights and liberties being violated by forcing people to take a vaccine that they do not want to take. I personally feel that the vaccine should be optional and the choice to take it should be left upon the individual and their healthcare provider.

Keywords: civil rights, civil liberties, vaccination, covid-19, coronavirus, vaccine passports

Role of Politics

According to an article by the New York Times published on April 6, 2021, President Biden urged governors to open Covid-19 vaccinations to all adults within two weeks in a bid to reach a target previously set for the beginning of May. For the country to reach herd immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, suggests that at least 75 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated.

Proof of vaccination is now being taken more seriously in some states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York introduced the Excelsoir Pass, a proof of vaccination using a smartphone. Things look quite different in conservative leaning states; however, the Republican governor of Texas Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, signed an executive order preventing state agencies and many businesses from mandating covid vaccines.

In a poll released by Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post, more than a third of the country has little confidence in the vaccines; they feel that they have not been adequately tested for safety and effectiveness. Despite the reluctance in many Americans to get vaccinated, people are still congregating in high numbers and are not practicing social distancing.

A recent article written by Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax Media Inc, a conservative leaning source, is congratulating President Joe Biden and his administration for the huge efforts they have made in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. President Biden inherited an effective vaccine from President Donald Trump, they claim, and that President Biden “took it into his arms and ran with it”.

President Biden’s approval numbers have been quite high, despite the current polarized climate we are in. Newsmax seems to be for vaccination of the masses and agree that the vaccines are safe and effective. There have been less recorded covid-related deaths since the vaccine rollout, and many medical experts also support the vaccine. Ruddy reports that he himself is also vaccinated, he got the Pfizer vaccine. He believes that had the vaccine been available earlier, many lives would have been saved.

After examining both articles from the conservative and the liberal sources, I feel that even though they are fundamentally politically opposite, when it comes to the health and wellbeing of the nation, they find a common ground and support the efforts of the government ensuring the safety of all the Americans.

Keywords: vaccine, Pfizer, vaccination passport, social distancing, governor, Excelsoir Pass

References:

Stanley-Becker, I. (2020, December 30). Shots are slow to reach arms as Trump administration leaves final steps of mass vaccination to beleaguered states. The Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/12/30/covid-vaccine-delay/

Rivas, K. (2020, December 28). US COVID-19 vaccinations likely to fall short of 20M end of year goal. FoxNews
https://www.foxnews.com/health/us-coronavirus-vaccinations-failing-20-million-goal

Huang, P. (2021, January 12). Trump Administration Urges States To Open COVID-19 vaccination. NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/12/956017635/trump-administration
-change-covid-19-vaccination-guidance-to-speed-up-rollout

Blitzer, R. (2021, September 16) Federal government unveils plans to make coronavirus vaccine free for all Americans. FoxNews
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/government-coronavirus-vaccine-plan-free-for-all-americans

The Editorial Board, (2021, January 12) An Anti-Bureaucracy Vaccine, Please. The Wall Street Journal
https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-anti-bureaucracy-vaccine-please-11610494704

Noguchi, Y. (2021, January 7) Why West Virginia’s Winning The Race To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Into Arm. NPR
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/07/954409347/why-west-virginias-winning the-race-to-get-covid-19-vaccine-into-arms

Creitz, C. (2021, May 11) Cuomo’s vaccine passport policies ‘absurd,’ a ‘violation of civil liberties,’ says Tammy Bruce. FoxNews
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/bruce-andrew-cuomo-backdooring-vaccine-passports-by-segregating-unvaccinated-sports-fans-to-back-of-the-bus

Luthi, S. (2020, December 5) Vaccine opponents rebrand as rollout of Covid-19 shots looms. Politico
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/05/covid-19-anti-vaxxers-442984

Ruddy, C. (2021, July 20) Ruddy: Biden’s Good Job on the Vaccine. Newsmax
https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/Vaccine-Operation-Warp-Speed-President-Biden/2021/07/20/id/1029248/

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