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There’s no vaccine yet. But there’s a political fight over it.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Democrats are fighting over which side is more garishly politicizing the race to find a coronavirus vaccine.

Is it him pressuring drugmakers and federal agencies to begin mass coronavirus immunizations before November’s election, or Democrats sowing doubt about the safety of a vaccine produced on that timeline? The answer may affect the way some voters view Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the stretch run before Election Day.

Polls have consistently shown that most Americans don’t trust what Trump says about the coronavirus or how he’s handled the response to it. He may not need to reverse those sentiments to win, but it would sure help. And while Trump has come up short of swearing a blood oath to deliver the vaccine on a particular date, the allure of citing dates before the election is obvious.

“What I said is ‘by the end of the year,'” Trump said Monday at the White House. “But I think it could even be sooner than that. It could be during the month of October, actually. Could be before November.”

Sept. 9, 202009:19

All at once, he acknowledged the potential political benefit of delivering a vaccine right before the election and denied that self-interest played any role in his thinking.

“With somebody else, maybe they would say it politically, but I’m saying it in terms of this is what we need,” Trump said. “If we get the vaccine early, that’s a great thing, whether it’s politics or not. Now, do benefits inure if you’re able to get something years ahead of schedule? I guess maybe they do.”

Outside Washington, Republicans say there’s big political value to the president if a vaccine is available before voters go to the polls.

“A vaccine before the election will absolutely move the needle,” Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr said in a text exchange with NBC News. “Whether or not people will take it, just the notion that there is a timeline to ending this pandemic would shift the national conversation.”

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has advised states to be ready to distribute a vaccine widely by Nov. 1, two days before the election. Trump’s critics say he is publicly leaning on scientists and regulators to work backward from that deadline, rather than following through on all the steps needed to ensure that any vaccine given to patients is effective and safe.

“The authorization or approval of any COVID-19 vaccine must be guided by science and data, not politics,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said in a statement to NBC News Tuesday. “If the president continues to politicize the vaccine review process, it could put lives at risk — both because it could result in the premature release of a vaccine that could pose health risks to Americans, and because it could undermine public confidence in a vaccine, resulting in fewer Americans getting a vaccine even if it is safe and effective.”

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said at a Senate health panel hearing Wednesday that federal agencies are consolidating elements of the process that can be expedited without compromising safety. He said the freezing of one trial in England this week is a “concrete example” of how a safety issue can stall progress. And, he noted, the decision to load doses of potential vaccines for distribution before it’s known whether they work means hundreds of millions of dollars could be wasted.

He made a simple argument for moving quickly, even at the cost of wasted money: “People are dying.”

Sept. 8, 202002:16

Adams acknowledged the challenging optics. “We have a once-in-a-century global pandemic superimposed over a presidential election,” Adams said Wednesday when asked about public hesitancy concerning a vaccine. He sought to assure senators that “there has been no politicization of the vaccine process whatsoever.”

Trump and officials on his campaign say that it’s Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who are dangerously discrediting a vaccine before it’s available. Harris has said that she wouldn’t trust a vaccine on Trump’s word and would listen to medical experts.

Democrats read polls and calendars, too. They know that Trump’s credibility numbers are soft, particularly when it comes to his handling of the coronavirus, and they know that a vaccine showing up two days before the election could reverse those numbers quickly — unless the public doesn’t trust that the vaccine has been properly vetted.

By Election Day — whether or not a vaccine has been delivered — it is likely that few voters will base their choice on what the candidates said in September.

But AstraZeneca provided a reminder Tuesday that science doesn’t always bow to politics. The drug company announced it was pausing a vaccine trial to review whether a patient illness arose from the vaccine or another factor.

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Showdown on Parliament Hill pushes tension between science, politics into the spotlight – Global News

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

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Read more:
O’Toole blasts Liberals, praises Alberta’s pandemic response at UCP AGM

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

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A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.






2:07
Tories want Liberals’ pandemic response investigated


Tories want Liberals’ pandemic response investigated

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

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But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

Read more:
Liberals will not view second Conservative committee motion as confidence vote

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.


Click to play video 'Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation'



1:50
Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation


Singh says NDP doesn’t want ‘witch hunt’ with WE Charity investigation

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

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Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

READ MORE: Liberals survive confidence vote, avert imminent election with NDP help

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election'



1:25
Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election


Coronavirus: Trudeau defends making Tory committee motion a confidence vote, risking election

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

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“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Humboldt Journal

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

article continues below

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Yorkton This Week

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

article continues below

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

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