I am not weighing in politically on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan—you may believe it’s going well or you may believe it’s going poorly. But one thing abundantly clear to me is that the White House is creating daily COVID headlines to distract from the coverage.
On Monday August 16, a video of Afghanis running with a U.S. Air Force plane went viral, triggering sharp bipartisan criticism.
Later that day the White House leak to the New York Times and Washington Post plans to announce vaccine boosters for every American, despite zero clinical evidence that boosters reduce severe illness.
Each news outlet ran the story which got a lot of attention. Public health officials and their surrogates fell in line and took to the airwaves the next day to explain why boosters will be necessary.
Colleges like Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania followed with their own announcement that they may require all students to receive a booster shot.
By Wednesday, the wall-to-wall Afghanistan coverage was unrelenting. In response, President Biden gave a speech from the White House to recommend boosters and threatening states over child mask mandates. The president did not mention Afghanistan or take any questions.
The U.S. surgeon general followed with a media tour from the White House, explaining on most major networks why all Americans should get a booster, but not anytime soon—after September 20.
I’m not alone in asking where is the science to show declining efficacy of the vaccines against severe disease. Many medical experts are aghast as how, out of the blue, vaccine boosters were sternly and universally recommended regardless of age or natural immunity.
The White House’s booster recommendation bypassed the usual FDA and CDC ACIP guidance processes. Imagine the outcry if President Trump did such a thing.
By Thursday, the Biden White House, fending off intense criticism over Afghanistan, hit the nuclear button. They leaked to the media that 9 months after COVID vaccines were granted an emergency use authorization, full approval would suddenly be imminent, re-igniting vaccines mandate debates.
That same day, the CDC suddenly issued new guidance for travel that became a news headline on NBC Nightly News and other programs.
By Friday more specifics of the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccines were made public, pointing to Monday as the day it would happen. This kind of forecasting by the FDA is highly unconventional.
This FDA, under the leadership of Dr. Janet Woodcock and Peter Marks, has been the most political FDA in U.S. history. Over 363 million vaccines doses have been administered with an impeccable safety profile, yet the FDA failed to issue full-approval of the vaccines for nearly nine months, fueling vaccine hesitancy.
The procrastination in issuing full-approval, along with the mismanaged and prolonged J&J pause, has been a catastrophic for public confidence in the vaccine. For months, unvaccinated Americans desperately needed to hear that the COVID vaccines have the full faith and seal of nation’s drug safety regulatory agency.
Monday’s full approval should have happened before the delta wave. Leaking that FDA approval would be imminent 3 days after the viral video of the Afghan airport is curious.
Manufacturing news to distract political opponents through the media is nothing new. Both political parties have done it. But medical recommendations should be exempt from these partisan games of public manipulation. Medical professionals have a tremendous heritage of taking care of anyone in need regardless of politics—a heritage I’m proud of.
In my opinion, right now we should not be arguing over recommending universal boosters in late September or masking healthy 2-year-olds, we should all come together to be singularly focused on the task of encouraging non-immune adults to get vaccinated.
The use of medical recommendations as a smoke bomb from other political problems is an unprecedented violation of the public trust in the medical profession.
Please stop playing politics with COVID.