Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has recently expressed concerns that the Trump administration will rush a coronavirus vaccine before it’s safe in the hopes of helping the president’s re-election chances.
Now conservatives are trying to paint her as an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist.
Asked on CNN about whether she’d trust a vaccine rolled out by the Trump administration, Harris said, “I think that we have learned since this pandemic started, but really before that, that there’s very little that we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.”
Pressed further, Harris reiterated that she doesn’t trust Trump and would have to examine the evidence and consult credible experts before deciding whether to take the vaccine.
“I trust Dr. [Anthony] Fauci,” she also said.
Conservatives seized on Harris’s middle-of-the-road comments. Republican columnist Marc Thiessen called them “shameful.” “Dangerously irresponsible,” the Washington Examiner said of what they called her “anti-vaccine flirtation.” The New York Post complained that she and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden “need to quit playing politics” on the issue.
Major Republicans have echoed the bad-faith smear.
President Donald Trump, who was a major proponent of the debunked theory that vaccines caused autism, also tried to score points on the issue. On Monday, Politico reported that he’d claimed that Harris was trying to sabotage public faith in the vaccine.
“That’s so bad for this country. So bad for the world to even say that,” Trump said.
The problem with these allegations is that both experts and the president’s own public statements and actions confirm that there is cause for concern.
Trump has made no secret of the fact that he’s tying the development of a coronavirus vaccine to his re-election.
Since March, Trump has tweeted about the vaccine 14 times, repeatedly claiming that it will be available in the near future.
In August, Trump alleged that the “deep state” at his own Food and Drug Administration was conspiring to delay vaccine trials to hurt his chances in November.
His administration also named the vaccine development initiative “Operation Warp Speed.”
Trump recently suggested that it will be available before the election.
At a press briefing this weekend, he said, “We’re gonna have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about.”
This has scientists and other experts, including people working on the vaccine, fearing that the government will circumvent the testing process in the hopes of helping Trump in November.
Last month, Dr. Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told the New York Times that many involved with the process are afraid that the administration will roll out a vaccine before it’s been thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy.
“They are really worried about that,” he said. “And they should be.”
Recently, both Harris and Biden echoed similar concerns.
“President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence see a COVID-19 vaccine as a political tool,” they said in a campaign statement.
“We see it as a product of science and research. Its timing, approval, and distribution should be without regard to political calculation.”