Opinion | Alex Azar: Americans Need to Get a Covid-19 Vaccine

Some who are reluctant to get vaccinated point out that the vaccines are under emergency approval rather than full approval. It is important for Democratic and Republican leaders to state clearly and repeatedly that the FDA holds these vaccines to such high standards that the only real difference is having full approval steps like analysis of longer-term safety and efficacy data and inspection required by production facilities. Hundreds of millions of doses of these vaccines have been administered to Americans over the past year, giving us some of the most robust evidence of their safety and effectiveness in practice that we have ever had for new vaccines. The vast majority of adverse events with the vaccines occur in the first 42 days or so.

The current and past leadership of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – both parties – are unanimous in encouraging all eligible Americans to take the vaccines. Political, public health, and thought leaders need to educate about the benefits of the vaccine, not educate or preach about the benefits of the vaccine. This information must come from respected and trustworthy figures in the various hesitant communities.

We didn’t reach our stretch target of producing 300 million doses by January, but we hedged our bets by investing in a portfolio of vaccines and had tens of millions of doses of vaccine in production by the end of January. Many governors were able to start general vaccination programs by March, and we had a surplus of vaccines by the end of the second quarter.

As I think about it, we could have better reminded the media and the public about what could go wrong with vaccine design and manufacture. We should also have explained more clearly the operational complexities that would come with a major expansion of sales.

We could have done more to combat hesitant vaccination. In the beginning we focused heavily on the groups that we thought were the most hesitant. We required that all clinical trials include a diverse, representative sample of participants, and the Department of Health and Human Services funded the efforts of the Morehouse School of Medicine, a network of national, state, territorial, tribal, and local organizations to coordinate to achieve trustworthy information for racial and ethnic minorities.

But we did not predict the politicization of vaccines, which has drawn so many Republicans to reluctance. According to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in mid-July, 43 percent of Republicans said they weren’t vaccinated and definitely or probably weren’t vaccinated, up from 10 percent of Democrats. Glad former President Donald Trump was vaccinated, but it would have been even better for him to have done it on national television so his followers could see how much confidence and confidence he has in what is arguably his greatest achievement.

The vaccines could be a victory round for the Republican Party, and I urge all party leaders and Conservatives to promote vaccination. Party leaders like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis make it clear that vaccines save lives. Fox News’ Sean Hannity now urges viewers to “take Covid seriously”. Louisiana rep Steve Scalise shared a photo of himself recently vaccinated. I ask for more of this from trustworthy voices on the right.

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