For much of the past year, the mainstream media was eager to claim that America was “number one” when it came to COVID-19–number one in cases, and number one in deaths. Often, this was dubious reporting based upon dubious statistics, but the data allowed the media to portray Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic as a global failure.
Yet turning on CNN or MSNBC today reveals networks that have suddenly lost their appetite for statistical coverage of the pandemic, as the United States takes the lead in another way. America is now first in the number of vaccines distributed, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all shots globally. We are also first in mitigating economic damage among developed countries, and soon, we will be the first to have fully reopened.
To cover these stories, the media would have to admit that in many ways, the United States has weathered the pandemic far better than other nations–and more difficult still, they would have to concede that President Trump outperformed virtually every other world leader in responding to COVID-19.
Last year, when President Trump announced Operation Warp Speed, his ambitious program to develop and manufacture vaccines approximately four times faster than ever before, foreign leaders and the mainstream media either scoffed or recoiled in horror. The very name, “Warp Speed” was taken from Star Trek. They likely believed that international cooperation, and leaving vaccine development to the “experts” would be a better course. Trump’s plan involved spending billions of dollars to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines that at the time were not yet proven to work, rather than waiting to see which would be effective. Democrats and their allies in the media never tired of noting that vaccines took years to develop, and that COVID lockdowns might last until 2023.
In last year’s presidential debates, both the moderators and Vice President Biden publicly cast doubt on the prospects for a vaccine.
In the September 29 debate, host Chris Wallace challenged the President’s claim that vaccinations would begin by the end of the year. He asked:
“President Trump, you have repeatedly either contradicted or been at odds with some of your government’s own top scientists. The week before last, the Head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Redfield, said it would be summer before the vaccine would become generally available to the public. You said that he was confused and mistaken. Those were your two words. But Dr. Slaoui, the head of your Operation Warp Speed, has said exactly the same thing. Are they both wrong?”
Vice President Biden then piled on: “So here’s the deal. This man is talking about a vaccine. Every serious company is talking about maybe having a vaccine done by the end of the year, but the distribution of that vaccine will not occur until sometime beginning of the middle of next year to get it out, if we get the vaccine.” A similar exchange occurred in the October 22 debate, with both Biden and moderator Kristen Welker again leaving viewers with the clear impression that the President’s claim of an imminent vaccine was a fantasy.
Yet just a few months into 2021, Trump’s critics are not laughing anymore. In fact, President Biden is now seeking to take credit for the very program he had disparaged. He recently increased his pre-inauguration pledge to deliver 100 million shots to Americans in his first 100 days, revising it upward to 200 million. Far from finding “a mess” when he took office, Biden clearly discovered that the Trump Administration left the country in far better shape than he ever wanted the American people to know.
The achievements of Operation Warp Speed are even more impressive when America’s success is contrasted with the near total failure of much of the rest of the world to either secure vaccine doses, or to deliver the ones they possess to their citizens.
With the notable exceptions of Israel–which approached the pandemic as a national security issue–and the United Kingdom, which mostly copied President Trump’s approach of buying doses early, global vaccination efforts have collapsed into mutual recriminations.
Russia and China, which trumpeted their early vaccine developments in the summer of 2020, have utterly failed to supply their own citizens with doses of their purported product–much less the countries which naively took Moscow and Beijing up on offers to provide them with shots. Canada and Mexico have been reduced to begging the United States for handouts, while India has banned exports.
Worst performing is the European Union. Angered by an interview in early 2020 when President Trump suggested that the U.S. should buy the rights to a vaccine under development by a German company, CureVac, Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed the European Union to assume responsibility for a coordinated vaccine requisition effort throughout the continent. In contrast to the approach of the United States and the United Kingdom which she derided as populist, throwing money at every potential vaccine in sight, the European effort would be collective.
In other words, the EU would study potential vaccines carefully and secure the best deal for their populations while ensuring distribution was equal. And on that measure at least, they have succeeded. As of March 30th, France, Germany, Sweden, and Italy have all distributed 16 shots per 100 citizens, a remarkably equitable outcome. Those numbers, however, pale in comparison to the achievement of the United States, which has already distributed 45 shots per 100 citizens.
And while the United States still has tens of millions of doses of additional yet-to-be approved vaccines sitting in storage–a legacy of President Trump’s decision to stockpile vaccines early–the European Union is struggling to source supply. The Europeans are now threatening to ban exports of vaccines to the United Kingdom, or in fact to any country with a higher vaccination rate than Europe, while at the same time European leaders have indulged in attacks on the companies producing vaccines. At best, it is estimated that such an export ban might allow Europe to open vaccinations to all adults by the end of August. Biden has pledged to do so by May 1st, and many states have already done so, with Florida announcing it will make vaccines available to all by April 5th.
Even out of office, President Trump continues to confound his critics and their predictions of disaster. America is once again the envy of the world, and it is thanks to Operation Warp Speed.
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