One of Biden’s top COVID advisors believes vaccine critics ‘quietly’ got jabbed on the side
David Kessler wasn't one of the people wheeled out in front of the press pack every day during the pandemic.
If he was on-screen, the White House's Chief Science Officer for the COVID-19 Response Team was often speaking to President Biden in a desperate bid to get the nation's response right "the first time".
When he got the call from the President's team in mid-2020 to help strategize a response to the strange and terrifying new disease, the former FDA commissioner believed he "wasn't good at it". Three years on he said he still feels that way, despite the fact that 269 million people have had at least one shot of a vaccine.
And even those who spread doubt about the jab rollout are likely to be among the 81% of the population who have had it, Kessler believes.
Speaking to Politico from his home in Maryland, the former head of Operation Warp Speed said: "The fact is, 226 million people got the primary series. Push comes to shove, many of those who are being critical of vaccines, I think quietly they’ve gotten the vaccine."
Having taken on Warp Speed after it was created under the Trump administration, Kessler also cautioned against those who confused a questioning mindset with undermining basic facts. Or, as he sees it: "Creating enough doubt so people go, well, maybe I don’t need to do this."
He added: "I’ve lived this before. In 1952, with the first data that smoking caused cancer. The mantra of the industry was, “not proven, not proven, not proven.” It created enough doubt that it gave people a crutch who didn’t want to quit. It gave them a reason to continue to smoke.
"These vaccines are not perfect. But certainly, if you’re over 50, if you have any risk factors, the benefit/risk [ratio] is just overwhelming. So yes, ask questions. But please make sure that people who need this, whose lives are really at risk, take advantage of a very important potentially lifesaving tool."
He added that disinformation would be the next frontier to battle, as the "virus is not done with us yet".
Kessler's Tucker Carlson regret
Although happy to have served out of the limelight, Kessler did reveal he had one regret: not sitting down with Fox News host Tucker Carlson to attempt to find some "common ground".
Carlson has long criticized the vaccine rollout, calling it "unethical" and "immoral" as well as peddling unfounded claims that vaccines are linked to cardiac arrest.
Kessler added opening communication between vaccine skeptics and the scientific community is core to America's "greatness", as it is a country built of people who "know how to solve problems together."
There's more work to do
That problem-solving may well need to be aimed at a next-generation vaccine, Kessler hinted. Time and again COVID has proved it can mutate –the latest strain, dubbed 'Kraken', is the most transmissible yet with a study warning it could spawn other immune-evasive mutations.
As well as needing to provide a level of protection against future strains Kessler added that they needed to be affordable.
President Biden announced at the end of January that the public health emergency would end in May, thus reducing some levels of government support. Among the measures will be the end of free at-home tests and hospitals not getting any extra cash for treating COVID patients.
The cost of getting vaccinated is also expected to rocket once the government stops forking out for them.
Pfizer said in October 2022 that it plans to sell the Covid vaccine it developed with BioNTech at $110 to $130 per dose for teens and adults once government funding runs out.
Kessler, who began serving the Oval Office under President George H.W. Bush at the FDA, announced his retirement at the start of this year.
He finished by saying there's a lot of work left to be done on COVID and that the road will be far from easy, but offered some optimism in that it was a "once-in-a-century" pandemic.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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