Will people trust a COVID vaccine?

QUICK READ: Trust in government is at an all-time low and Trump is promoting bizarre off the wall conspiracy theories about COVID-19. When a vaccine is developed will the public trust that it’s “safe and effective”?

According to Pew Internet, “68% say it is very important to repair the public’s level of confidence in the federal government, and 58% say the same about improving confidence in fellow Americans”.

In her new book, “Good Enough for Government Work,” Amy Lerman argues that the U.S. government faces a massive public reputation crisis. “The tendency of Americans to associate ‘public’ with ineffective, inefficient, and low-quality services,” she writes, “is a central feature of our modern political culture.”

So will people trust the FDA to approve a “safe and effective” vaccine for COVID-19 when it’s developed?

The FDA’s approval process may favor drug companies over consumers — and FDA-approval does not guarantee safety. In fact, Big Pharma actually pays for the majority of drug safety reviews, provides the FDA with safety data for the review, and has the option to have drugs approved faster with fewer clinical trials. There is a potential gold mine for a company that gets FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine and that can lead to a lot of bad decisions.

Gallup poll found Americans view drugmakers more negatively than more than 20 other industries polled, including oil, banking, and the federal government, with pharma’s net favorability rating reaching an all-time low in the survey’s 19-year history. When new drugs started to get approval to treat COVID-19 people began to look to drug companies as saviors. However, that goodwill didn’t last long with a $600 million fine for Novartis and Gilead’s pricing of remdesivir.

This weekend I did a deep dive on social media on COVID-19 vaccines. The results were not good. Of course, there were the anti-vaxxers but even people who are in favor of vaccines said they are “concerned” about the side effects of a possible vaccine.

Then there is the cost. If, for example, a drug company charged $500 for the vaccine it could lead to $150 billion in profits. The drug industry has already put lobbyists in place to ensure the government doesn’t put price controls in place for a vaccine.

Finally, there is the politicization of the FDA. President Donald Trump kicked off the week with an early Monday morning storm of retweets, beginning with promoting a conspiracy theory from veteran game show host, conservative Chuck Woolery. Physicians and medical experts quickly stepped in to correct the record and to criticize the president for spreading false information about the deadly pandemic that has killed 140,000 Americans.

Claiming he is “sick of it,” the 79-year old Woolery tweeted that the “most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election.”

The stupidity of this statement will be discarded by educated and informed people but too many will agree with Trump and continue to see COVID-19 as a “democratic hoax”.

When a vaccine is finally developed you can guarantee a couple of things. First, the line to get vaccinated are going. to be huge and second the conspiracy theories that the vaccine doesn’t work are going to be everywhere. The FDA, physicians, insurers and drug companies are all going to have to work very hard to assure the public that the vaccine is “safe and effective”. The FDA needs to put politics aside and nit rush a vaccine to market without adequate testing.