Vaccine rhetoric

US election, Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump (Photo: IANS)

It is deeply unfortunate for the United States of America, which has stumbled in its half-baked efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, that the prospect of a vaccine has emerged as a point of rhetorical contestation less than two months before the presidential election on 3 November. Donald Trump has accused the Democrats of “disparaging the vaccine for political gain”.

The possible antidote has emerged as a contest to score brownie points as the President has repeatedly stressed that the vaccine will be available before the first vote is cast. Is human suffering an issue of lesser moment in the electoral construct? The argument against the vaccine, articulated by the Democrats, has been binned by Mr Trump as “so dangerous for our country”.

The President has clearly countered his opponents a day after Senator Kamala Harris, the vice-presidential nominee of the Democrats, said she would not trust the President’s word on getting the vaccine. The issue has pitted the Republicans against Democrats ever so forcefully. Joe Biden has amplified Harris’ comments after he was asked if he would get a vaccine for Covid.


Mr Biden said he would take a vaccine, but wants to see what the scientists have to say. In the context of the vaccine, he has dwelt on Mr Trump’s penchant to be economical with the truth. “I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it.” He was, however, emphatic on the point that now is the time when America needs a vaccine. It is a measure of the political importance of the antidote that the vaccine yo-yo was played out as three of the candidates fanned out across the country on Labour Day, the traditional start of the two-month race towards the White House.

While Mrs Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence campaigned in Wisconsin, Mr Biden proceeded to Pennsylvania, and Mr Trump called a media conference that was riveted to the vaccine. Mrs Harris was emphatic that she would not trust a coronavirus vaccine if one were ready at the end of the year because “there’s very little that we can trust… come out of Donald Trump’s mouth”.

She argued that scientists would be muzzled because Mr Trump is focused on getting re-elected. Mr Trump has dismissed her comments as “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric”. Regretfully, both sides of the fence appear to be impervious to hideous reality ~ Covid19 has killed 190,000 Americans and afflicted more than 6 million, going by the data advanced by Johns Hopkins University.

Both sides are holding up the vaccine or its absence as a symbol of political gain, however spurious. In an unprecedented move, obliquely debunking the President’s rhetoric, chief executives of nine American pharma companies affirmed they would not seek regulatory approval before efficacy of vaccine candidates were conclusively established in Phase 3 trials, a time frame that may not match the President’s grand claim of having a vaccine ready by October.