Biden breaks away from Trump turmoil to invoke ‘wartime’ Covid response

By - World Healthcare Journal

Biden breaks away from Trump turmoil to invoke ‘wartime’ Covid response

While many may feel that ‘normal service’ has been resumed in the White House, there are still unprecedented challenges facing the still new administration.

Within days of his inauguration, president Biden embarked on a markedly different policy and rhetorical approach to that of his predecessor in dealing with the onslaught of Covid-19. Although the United States has only four per cent of the world’s population, by the end of January it had 25 per cent of global Covid-19 cases and 20 per cent of deaths.

Nearly 600,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, more than during the second world war. Instead of downplaying the danger and side-lining experts, President Biden has taken a more technocratic, objective approach to pandemic policy – and unsurprisingly it is working.

Rather than depoliticizing many failures to governors at the state level, President Biden has worked to co-ordinate a more centralized, federal approach to reducing the US case rate. Biden’s ‘National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic preparedness’ included requirements for masks on interstate transport, creation of a national testing board, and mandatory quarantines for international travelers arriving in the United States.

Perhaps the starkest contrast to President Trump has been in Biden’s discourse. Biden has effectively communicated the way in which US citizens should act in the pandemic. When a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) spokesperson acknowledged in late February 2020 that disruptions to daily life could be “severe,” the agency (and it’s expertise) was brushed aside by President Trump for political purposes, this led to crucial lifesaving scientific information for the public being largely ignored.

With President Biden’s more technocratic, scientific approach, health officials have been provided with the independence to effectively communicate critical advice to the American public on pandemic preparedness. Unlike his predecessor, President Biden has consistently supported the advice of Dr. Fauci for example, creating a more co-ordinated information campaign.

However, it is likely to take much more than just a new president to rebuild trust in the institutions damaged so significantly by Trump’s chaotic style and rhetoric.

A national vaccine push 

The Biden Harris administrations’ more inclusive rhetoric has undoubtedly played a significant role in building trust between minority groups and government

The US vaccine rollout has also been a marked success. President Biden pledged to deliver 200 million Covid vaccinations in 100 days and the country hit that goal with a week to spare. There has been fierce debate between Trump administration alumni and the White House over who is responsible for the rollout’s success.

Where the Trump administration can perhaps take credit for most of the manufacturing and initial distribution of the vaccines, President Biden’s use of the Federal Emergency Management Act and utilization of sports arenas as mass vaccination sites has created a significant step change in the rate of vaccine uptake. Furthermore, the Biden Harris administrations’ more inclusive rhetoric has undoubtedly played a significant role in building trust between minority groups and government to the end of reducing vaccine hesitancy.

The President has announced more than $130 million in funding to improve vaccine education and information and reduce health disparities. Funding will support policies such as developing and disseminating accessible educational materials and toolkits; identifying barriers to vaccine uptake and opportunities for improving vaccination availability, accessibility, and acceptability; identifying and equipping trusted influential messengers through efforts like the Covid-19 Community Corps; and building partnerships between vaccination providers and the community to increase opportunities for vaccination.

Despite this laudable policy change, recent data suggests Biden is still on course to miss the July vaccination target with 78 per cent of unvaccinated adults still stating it was unlikely they would ever take the vaccine. Biden may yet have to tackle the hugely problematic issue of either rejecting American citizen’s ‘freedom’ or risk not achieving herd immunity due to a lower take up. This could potentially pose the most significant pandemic challenge to Biden since his inauguration – balancing the individual freedom of choice with the overarching health of the nation, an American policy dilemma perhaps answered by John Stuart Mill’s principle of harm.

Rebuilding trust around the world 

On the international stage, President Biden is also making significant progress in uncovering the truth behind the origin of Covid-19. Indeed, it is puzzling as to why, after one of the greatest disasters in living memory, the international community is still yet to know where Covid-19 originated. With the wet market ‘theory’ likely to be false, it is becoming more plausible that Covid-19 may have leaked accidentally from a laboratory.

Rather than hurling baseless, and arguably prejudice accusations at China, Biden has tasked the intelligence community with preparing “a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of Covid-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident”.

This could bring the world closer to objectively uncovering the origin of the disease. Knowing how the virus emerged aids policy makers to devise ways to prevent a recurrence or another pandemic, and it will shed light on the viral evolution that scientists must grapple with if they are to combat the emergence of new variants. It is welcome that the Biden administration is once again making the US a respected global leader by objectively uncovering the origins of a virus that has so far taken the lives of 3.7 million people.

Biden’s effort to restore faith In the US as a reputable global leader will be put to the test this weekend at the G7 summit in Cornwall. Fundamental issues to address include vaccine nationalism, patent disagreements, new covid variants and the link between environmental catastrophe and healthcare policy in the longer term. President Biden has made great progress in tackling Covid-19 domestically, and his promise of donating 500 million Pfizer jabs to the developing world is welcome, but with a virus that holds no regard for communities and borders, he must face up to the stark reality that his leadership is needed on the international arena more than ever.

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