Vaccines’ Last Hurdle: Central Planners

Urgently needed drugs developed under Operation Warp Speed are at the mercy of officials working at “bureaucrat speed.”

I rarely like the titles that editors choose for my op/eds and articles. But this title that my Hoover editor chose is way better than mine.

Here are the first three paragraphs of “Vaccines’ Last Hurdle: Central Planners,” Defining Ideas, December 4, 2020:

First, the good news. We now appear to have at least two viable vaccines with high efficacy in preventing the awful disease known as COVID-19. On November 9, Pfizer/BioNTech announced that the efficacy of its vaccine exceeds 90 percent. On November 16, Moderna announced that its vaccine’s efficacy exceeds 94.5 percent. Take that, Pfizer! Seriously, though, both announcements are great news. Let’s put those percentages in perspective. I get a flu vaccine every year without fail. Is that because the vaccine is 90 percent effective? No. At best, it’s 60 percent effective, and its effectiveness is often well below 50 percent.

There’s even more good news. Even when the vaccines don’t prevent COVID-19, they make it substantially less severe. For example, in a study of thirty thousand volunteers for the Moderna test, of the eleven cases in people who got the vaccine, no case was severe, versus thirty severe cases for people who received the placebo. It’s risky to generalize from a sample size of thirty thousand, but still, the numbers are extremely encouraging. There’s also good news for us elderly. I was talking with a healthy seventy-seven-year-old woman at pickleball last week who was delighted that she, as an elderly person, would be one of the first to get it. I just turned seventy and my wife is seventy-one, and so presumably we will be on the priority list.

But the bad news for people who live in California is that California’s state government will slow things down. This might happen in New York and in some other states also. Let’s start by focusing on California, the state I know best. California’s government will slow things down in two ways: one is intentional and the other is unintentional.

Read the whole thing.

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