That the Trump administration did little or nothing to prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic is a recurring and false criticism. Commentary in today’s Wall Street Journal describes proactive measures the administration took to prepare for vaccine development months before the Wuhan virus became known.
To overcome the problem of under-investment in rapidly produced vaccines, [the president’s Council of Economic Advisors] proposed public investment in public-private research-and-development partnerships to promote vaccine innovation (“push” incentives) and preferential government purchase of vaccines produced domestically from those partnerships (“pull” incentives). On Sept. 19, a few days after the CEA issued its report, the president signed Executive Order 13887, which created several initiatives to modernize flu-vaccine production, including evaluation of “incentives for the development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and public-private partnerships.”
The report and the order focused on improving vaccine production for influenza; a novel virus is a surprise by definition. Yet when Covid-19 appeared a few months later, the administration expeditiously applied the report’s lessons on the value of public-private partnerships to speed vaccine innovation and production. On March 30, less than three weeks after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, the federal government began investing with private vaccine developers. Operation Warp Speed provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and a partnership between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to develop vaccines and provide 100 million doses by January 2021 of each one that is approved, which the government will distribute free of charge. Similar arrangements were made later with Novarex, partners Pfizer and BioNTech, and partners Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. Contracts have also been signed to step up manufacturing of vaccine vials and syringes.
Considering that vaccines are the single most powerful intervention the public health system can bring to bear in a pandemic, I’d say the anti-Trump criticism is debunked.