While it may be difficult to find a White House staffer who hasn’t at least been exposed to the COVID-19 virus — if not actually having contracted the disease already — The New York Times is reporting that those people who work closely with the lame-duck president will be in the first group of people to receive the newly approved vaccine developed by Pfizer.
The move is likely to be controversial, not just because, having rejected the pharmaceutical giant’s offer to purchase additional doses of the vaccine in a timely fashion, the Trump administration finds itself with not enough to go around to cover even a sizeable fraction of the U.S. population, but because the Trump administration personnel — who have only 38 days left before Joe Biden takes over and literally cleans house at the COVID hotspot that the executive mansion has become under the negligent president — are being prioritized over high-risk essential workers in healthcare who arguably have a more crucial role in halting the pandemic than the White House workers.
According to Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times:
“The goal of distributing the vaccine inside the West Wing is to prevent additional government officials from falling ill in the final weeks of the Trump administration. The hope is to eventually distribute the vaccine to everyone who works in the White House, but will begin with some of the most senior people who work around the president, one of the people said.”
While the number of doses diverted to the Trump administration is still undetermined, the defeated president has already faced heavy criticism for having had access to experimental treatments generally unavailable to the public at large when Trump himself contracted the virus back in early October.
Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was given the same scarce treatment using monoclonal antibodies to fight the coronavirus as his employer and was criticized for his privileged access to drugs that are being carefully rationed due to their limited availability.
Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado, told The Times recently that giving the powerful and politically connected access to treatments unavailable to others was patently unfair and explained why Colorado is using a lottery system to determine who can be given the antibodies.
“That’s one of the reasons why we decided that we would allocate this only through the state and only through this random allocation process,” Dr. Wynia said, “so that no one could get a leg up by virtue of their special connections.”
With Pfizer manufacturing their vaccine as quickly as they possibly can, the allocation of the inoculations will be limited to high-risk populations and special needs patients for the foreseeable future, at least until another vaccine is officially approved and the most vulnerable are protected.
With Trump’s inexplicable rejection of Pfizer’s no-risk offer of additional doses, the pharmaceutical manufacturer has committed its output after the initial delivery to the U.S. government to overseas customers and won’t be able to deliver additional inventory until early summer according to media reports.
The selfishness of Donald Trump knows no bounds. Even with less than a month of working days left in his term, if one counts the days lost to the holiday season, he still clings to the fantasy that his White House staffers are essential workers at a time when his sole focus seems to be spending every waking moment in denial of his historic loss and finding new ways to undermine the results of the election.
Despite the questionable ethics of putting his staff at the front of the vaccination queue, one supposes that substituting a placebo for the vaccines headed to the White House would be an even greater ethical breach.
One can fantasize though, can’t one?
Original reporting by Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.