INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive and secretary of Health and Human Services, played a crucial role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine after President Trump launched “Operation Warp Speed” in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic closed a large part of society.
Considered by many to be a modern scientific miracle: Getting this “Trump” vaccine from research, trials, and then into the arms of Americans curled up in a year (though based on decades of research), early 2021 will be considered the key to total reopening of the company. Now COVID is raging again in what is now called the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
in a New York Times op-ed Posted Tuesday, Azar writes: “I know the characteristics of vaccines intimately because, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, I oversaw their development, testing, approval and distribution from April 2020 to January this year. After leaving office, I watched with pride how vaccination rates increased during the first months of the year, and then, with dismay, how the daily number of vaccinations decreased.
“Among the many debatable issues surrounding COVID-19 there is an irrefutable fact: the coronavirus is not partisan,” Azar continued. “While vaccines have been questioned by politicians throughout their production and deployment, the fact that a person lives in a red or blue state does not influence the effectiveness of vaccines. They work incredibly well, and more than 160 million fully vaccinated Americans are proof. “
And then Azar throws the gauntlet at current officials: “If such skepticism is rooted in political misgivings, conspiracy theories, or a lack of accurate and timely information, there are still millions of Americans who are unwilling to take the simplest steps to put end to this pandemic. That makes it the responsibility of all leaders and health experts to be honest about how safe and effective vaccines are and to urge vaccination. “
Several days earlier, the representative of the United States, Jim Banks, had a different view of leadership. “I am a congressman, not a doctor or a pastor,” Banks told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. “My constituents don’t choose me to tell them what to do or to preach to them. It was a personal decision. “
As pandemic maps showed a steady invasion in recent weeks, the 3rd Congressional District ranks behind 44% of the fully vaccinated state: Allen County 43%, Huntington 42%, Noble 32%, Adams 28%, Whitley 39%, Wabash 35%, DeKalb 35%, Grant 34%, Steuben 40%, Kosciusko 33%, Wells 35%, Blackford 37%, Jay 30% and LaGrange 19%.
Banks’ “leadership” style contrasts with that of other Republicans, while debates at school board meetings rage in parts of the 3rd CD on revitalizing the politics of masking.
Governor Eric Holcomb told reporters last week: “I would recommend taking every safe step possible, imaginable and feasible to keep children in school. There are steps that schools can take, many are, as they have already said, about distancing, about masking. I want the EUA, the emergency use authorization, to become permanent. We have millions that have been treated, trials have been held … This must become permanent ”.
US Rep. Larry Bucshon told Fox59 last weekend: “I am concerned in Indiana because the vaccination rate is relatively low. I think at the national level it is around 58%. In Congress it exceeds 85%. In certain areas of the country it is high. The delta variant spreads faster. “
In May, Bucshon joined other “house doctors” in urging vaccination. “Getting the vaccine is the best way to end government restrictions on our freedoms,” said Bucshon, an Indiana Republican and cardiac surgeon who donned a white lab coat and stethoscope, when he spoke to the camera in a Facebook Video.
“‘I know the facts and I think it’s the right decision,’ Bucshon said. “Each vaccine was tested in tens of thousands of people. They cut the bureaucracy, not the corners. While I am a physician, I am also a Republican member of Congress and I fully respect that this is your decision with your physician. Talk to your doctor. “
In Bucshon’s eighth CD, vaccination rates are higher than the third, suggesting that even at the congressional level, leadership matters: Vanderburgh County 47%, Warrick 52%, Pike 47%, Perry 45%, Dubois 46%, Vigo 41%, Knox 40%, Posey 38%, Gibson 37%, Spencer 36%, Vermillion 37%, Daviess 26% and Martin 39%.
It is not about “preaching,” as Banks put it, but about acting as a reasoned conduit to get credible information out to voters. With so much at stake, with dozens of restaurants teetering on the brink again as the delta variant invades the unvaccinated; With school districts mired in uncertainty, it is up to the governor. Holcomb and other state leaders should consider PSA campaigns like Bucshon’s to get Hoosiersmen to talk to their doctors and get vaccinated.
Azar observes: “We did not predict the politicization of vaccines that has led so many Republicans to crack down. I’m glad former President Trump got vaccinated, but it would have been even better for him to have done it on national television so that his fans could see how confident he is in what is arguably one of his greatest accomplishments. ”
Azar adds, “The vaccines could be a victory lap for the Republican Party, and I call on all party leaders and conservatives to redouble their efforts to encourage vaccination.. “
The columnist is editor of Howey Politics Indiana at www.News Block.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.