13 Politics and COVID-19 Vaccine Production

Zarionna Robinson

Introduction

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has affected different people in different ways. Businesses shut down, public school has come to a halt and many lives have been lost to the virus. Challenges to public health caused by COVID-19 also caused economic and social disruption. COVID-19 has shown just how unprepared the world was for a global pandemic. Not surprisingly, politicians worldwide, seeking to avoid damaging their reputations, have been withholding information regarding their response to the pandemic from the general public. The development of COVID-19 vaccines is an example. Contrasting techniques have been used during COVID-19 vaccine synthesis and testing in countries like the United States and Russia. Information is withheld from the general public and only provided to society when it benefits the political standing of certain politicians and parties.

Connection to STS Theory

Science and technology are applied throughout the entirety of a vaccine’s development. Vaccine manufacturing is one of many industries that are technologically driven. Scientists use technology to record data and synthesize versions of vaccines. Technology is also used to make changes to any defective vaccines in hopes of making them more effective. Scientific and technological advancements have revolutionized the field of medicine (Zalan). Without new technological developments being made in the medical field, a COVID-19 vaccine would take much longer to develop as well as be approved.

Combined with the wealth of knowledge compiled on the COVID-19 virus, science and technology can be used to address questions posed by the general public. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that science and technology are a critical tool in understanding and responding to developments around us (Persons 23-24). Science and technology, particularly in terms of vaccine development will have a major impact on our society. They are also inspiring innovations in other parts of the medical sector. As a result, policy makes have paid a lot of attention the them, and vaccine technology is highly regulated.

Finding an Efficient COVID-19 Vaccine

To understand the role of politics in the process of finding a COVID-19 vaccine you first must understand what goes into creating a vaccine. Many Americans believe that the COVID-19 vaccine approval process is driven not by science but politics instead. This theory was tested in a survey conducted by a panel of medical doctors. There has been tremendous interest in the development of a vaccine as the total toll of lives lost has approached and surpassed more than half a million worldwide. Many countries have attempted to create a COVID-19 vaccine and the results look promising (Haass). According to the study conducted by Stat, a major American health news website and Harris Poll during the summer of 2020, a concern for Americans was that the Trump administration may give the green light a vaccine prematurely. (Silverman). In order to help prevent this from happening vaccine development has to follow a general cycle. At first, small groups of people receive trial vaccines. The clinical studies then expand and the vaccine is given to a larger group people who possess characteristics that make them more likely to contract Coronavirus. After these steps are approved and achieve favorable results the vaccine will be distributed to large numbers of people. Formal ongoing studies are sometimes continued in order to maintain the drug’s efficiency and accuracy.

The picture above depicts the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is where vaccines go to be tested for effectivity and efficiency.

Vaccine synthesis has always been and will remain one of the most challenging industries. The most basic manufacturing steps essential to generate vaccines that are safe, efficient, and provide consistent results can be a difficult task to complete (Plotkin et al). Anything can affect the outcome of a vaccine given that there are infinite combinations of could be used to create it. To add to the complexity, failure to manage risks can lead to costly product recalls and worse.  This would impact national public health negatively (Plotkin et al.). Lack of supply can lead to a disturbance in the routine of product creation.

Rules and regulations change frequently and focus and enforcement varies. Regulatory and other licensing requirements across each country are well documented. The requirements of some countries may be similar while others will have adjusted to suit their own personal standards. Regardless, if a manufacturer would like their product to be available in a multitude of countries it would have to meet each individual county’s requirements (Plotkin et al.). Manufacturing facilities are subject to unannounced routine inspections to review maintenance, system quality, and performance of the process.

The United States Approach to Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine

President Donald Trump, along with Vice President Mike Pence played down the seriousness of the Coronavirus until they were able to spin vaccine production in a way that made them more appealing before the 2020 presidential election. The United States President and Vice President knew how dangerous the coronavirus could have become on January 28th but did not inform the people of the nation until March 13th (K. Harris). They wasted valuable time trying to convince the public that the virus was not dangerous. The time would have been spent more wisely making the public aware and preparing to combat the virus. This may have resulted in a smaller death toll across the United States. After this fact was exposed by Bob Woodward, the President excused his actions by saying he wanted the public to “remain calm” (Harris & Pence). Unfortunately, choosing not to make the public aware in the first place caused the general public to react in the exact opposite way. Also, he began to misinform American citizens by saying things like masks don’t work or the virus could not affect children or young adults. We now know both of these statements to be false as mask prevention techniques have helped to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases. Also, children have died after contracting the virus.

image
The image (above) shows President Donald Trump aside from Vice President Mike Pence, both of who have been accused of neglecting to inform the general public of the danger of the COVID-19 virus.

As it is an election year, President Donald Trump and Vice President  Mike Pence constantly talk about Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s effort to develop a vaccine. Pence said that under President Donald Trump, Operation Warp Speed will have literally tens of millions of vaccine doses ready before the year’s end (Harris & Pence). However, in the months leading up to the election vaccine production was a topic on which the general public could not ask a question and get a straight answer. It had not been Pence or Trump’s concern whether or not American citizens were up to date with information regarding the progression or regression of a vaccine. They felt that bringing more attention to Operation Warp Speed right before the election would boost their political standing. Citizens are expected to ignore all the negative things that have happened while Trump has been in office. Trump and Pence appear to promise solutions for all of America’s problems and think that saying these will help them get reelected.

Russia’s Approach to Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine

President Vladimir Putin saw the potential to boost his reputation by having Russia become the first country to approve a vaccine. He rushed scientists through safety procedures and even approved the vaccine before phase three trials, where it is tested on a large number of people. Putin used his country’s citizens as guinea pigs in his efforts to make Russia the first country to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. On August 11th, 2020 he achieved this goal. The vaccine was named Sputnik V, which seemed fitting as the effort to find a vaccine was treated like the space race in Russia. Many Russian citizens took the vaccine after hearing of its approval and endorsement by their president. Unfortunately, according to reporting by independent journalists in Russia one in seven people reported side effects such as muscle spasms and occasional increase in body temperature (“1 in 7“).

The picture (above) is representative of Sputnik V, the Coronavirus vaccine that has been developed, tested, and distributed among humans in Russia.

As noted earlier, Sputnik V had not even started phase 3 trials when it was approved. Nor had any result on earlier stage trials been published. As the second wave of COVID-19 approaches Sputnik V is far from being widely available to the general public. There were concerns that the fast-track approval of the vaccine before larger safety and efficiency trials had been completed would be dangerous. People who received the vaccine don’t know if they will be protected until they encounter the virus, or if they will suffer serious medical complications as a result of the vaccine. At that point, it may be too late to reverse the vaccine’s effects. The vaccine had not been fully authorized by international bodies or tested enough to say with confidence that it is effective and safe to receive. This particular version of Sputnik V is no longer available for public usage (Burki).

President Vladimir Putin used his government’s citizens to gain power and prestige and Russia became the first country to release a vaccine. However, this was because vaccine approval was rushed. Many Russian citizens are left clueless as to how the vaccine will perform in the short term and long term. It is evident that the wellbeing and overall health of the Russians were not accounted for, and people’s lives have been endangered after they accepted Sputnik V. Being named the first country to approve a vaccine gave bragging rights to President Vladimir Putin and boosted his overall political standing. It would have continued to benefit him if his shortcomings had not caught up to him.

The Importance of Political Awareness and Educating Yourself

At a young age, it is difficult to become curious about politics. Political education is basically nonexistent in schools until you reach the college level. This is where the problem lies. Even if a kid does become interested in politics for the moment, this does not mean that that interest will always remain. Education breeds interest, or the lack thereof, but interest will not always result in education. After a few months, people will go back to their normal lives, caring less about what’s going on in the world of politics. Though this is not the case for all, it may very well be for many people. Teaching politics will spark interest among younger generations and broaden their perception.

Politics is all around us and affect almost every aspect of daily life (Dolen). Since we know that the government impacts individual choices that we make, why not take the time to understand how political processes work? Moving forward, citizens should be made aware of life-changing events that would affect their personal lives. If they are not properly informed government officials meant to protect them, people should research topics amongst themselves to stay current. By researching on your own, you can make the smartest decision for yourself and your family. You would not have to rely on information solely based on the fact that you heard it from a person of authority.

Conclusion

Coronavirus has affected daily life in many different ways. It has slowed down the economy by forcing businesses to shut down and put a halt to the education system to name a few. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been claimed by the virus as well. The approach to vaccine synthesis has been addressed differently in various parts of the earth. However, there is one obvious factor that has played a major role in decisions being made. Money, power, and respect all have a role in the decision-making processes of people in authority. Regardless of how it would affect the people, politics has played an important role in the amount of information the general public has been receiving with regard to COVID-19.  People in authoritative positions have been withholding information.

References

Burki, Talha Khan. “The Russian Vaccine for COVID-19.” The Lancet, 4. Sep. 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30402-1/fulltext.

Dolen, Jonathan. “3 Reasons You Should Care About Politics and Government.” Grantham University Blog, 19 Jan. 2015, https://www.grantham.edu/blog/3-reasons-you-should-care-about-politics-and-government/.

Haass Richard. “The Politics of a COVID-19 Vaccine.” Project Syndicate, 14 Jul. 2020, www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/politics-of-covid19-vaccine-by-richard-n-haass-2.

Harris, Kamala, and Mike Pence. “Kamala Harris & Mike Pence 2020 Vice Presidential Debate Transcript.” 2020 Vice Presidential Debate. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. 7 Oct. 2020, www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/kamala-harris-mike-pence-2020-vice-presidential-debate-transcript.

“1 in 7 Russian Coronavirus Vaccine Volunteers Report Side Effects.” The Moscow Times, 15 Sep. 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/09/15/1-in-7-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-volunteers-report-side-effects-a71444.

Persons, Timothy. “The Return of SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT FOR CONGRESS.” Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 37, no. 1, 2020, pp. 23-25, EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=146169740.

Plotkin, Stanley, et al. “The Complexity and Cost of Vaccine Manufacturing – an Overview.” Vaccine, vol. 35, no. 33, 2017, pp. 4064-4071. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.06.003.

Silverman, Ed. “Most Americans See Politics Driving Covid-19 Vaccine Approval Process.” STAT, 31 Aug. 2020, www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2020/08/31/most-americans-believe-the-covid-19-vaccine-approval-process-is-driven-by-politics-not-science/.

Zalan, Kara. “Get Out of the Way of Medical Progress: Public policy needs to adapt to the growing speed of medical advances.” U.S. News, 12 Dec. 2013, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/12/12/regulations-and-outdated-laws-are-slowing-down-medical-advances.

Images

“bottle, coronavirus, COVID-19, cure, experiment, needle, SARS-CoV-2, syringe, vaccine, treatment” by Bicanski is in the Public Domain

“File:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Main entrance.JPG” by Daniel Mayer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“File:200525-D-FW736-1011 (49934666613).jpg” is licensed under CC BY 4.0

License

Share This Book