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In September 2019, 2020 Dr. Joel Zinberg, a member of the Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors and an associate professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of medicine in New York wrote an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal recently (you can get a pdf here) describing how well the Trump administration was prepared for a possible pandemic.  Here are excerpts:

  • The report detailed the large health and economic losses that could happen from flu pandemic.  It discussed how the lack of private market incentives had led to under-investment in developing and using innovative technologies that can quickly product vaccines.
  • The problem is there is no incentive to develop vaccines for viruses that may never develop.  i.e. there is greater social return from innovative vaccines than private return to developers.
  • They proposed “public investment in public-private research and development partnerships to promote vaccine innovation and preferential government purchase of vaccines produced domestically from those partnerships.  On September 19, just 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 development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and private partnerships.
  • “Less than three weeks after the WHO declared a pandemic, the federal government began investing with private vaccine developers.”
  • The result is that, whereas normal vaccines take years and billions of dollars to develop, within seven months multiple vaccines are in advanced clinical trials.

He concludes with this important paragraph:

“CEA new that while pandemics are rare and unpredictable, sooner or later we would face the need for rapid vaccine production with profound impact on the nation’s health.  The cost from Covid from reduced economic activity is estimated at $15 billion a day.  Even though the pandemic came quicker than anyone imagined, the country and the administration were prepared to apply the CEA report’s lessons.  new vaccines are being developed at previously unimaginable speed.”

My opinion is that those who say Trump was unprepared are ignorant of the facts at best or liars at worst.

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