“We’ve also reengaged with the World Health Organization. That way we can build better global preparedness to counter Covid-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.” So began a statement by believer-in-science Joe Biden designed to show that that not everything he does is simply the opposite of what Donald Trump did.
The only problem with the plan is that WHO badly mangled its handling of COVID-19. An official with the group told the press in April of last year that she had correctly suspected human-to-human transmission in the virus from the start despite WHO’s official position, which had been to echo Chinese denials. WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “ignored the warnings on behalf of China and continued for weeks to regurgitate Chinese Communist Party propaganda about the virus.” Worse still, “Dr. Tedros,” who was heavily backed by China during his pursuit of the directorship, had been accused back in 2017 of covering up pandemics,” according to the New York Times.
But Biden’s reason for re-joining with WHO — to help us deal with future pandemics — also funs afoul of the science. Surely his crackerjack science advisers are aware that the vaccine developed to combat COVID-19 represents a critical breakthrough in virology. mRNA vaccines, as the New York Times Magazine reported last April in an article titled “How Scientists Could Stop the Next Pandemic Before It Starts,” work “by exploiting messenger RNA — a kind of courier that communicates the genetic instructions for making proteins — to drive an immune response”:
The advantages of mRNA vaccines are potentially enormous, in part because they can be made very quickly (one month instead of six for a known strain; two to three months for a novel virus) but also because they can be made on a vast scale (billions of doses, compared with the 100,000 doses that were needed for the Ebola epidemic). They’re extremely adaptable too: If a researcher can develop a platform that works with this coronavirus, it’s easy to redesign it for the next one. (One mRNA start-up, Moderna, set a drug-industry record by creating a prospective Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, in just 42 days, using the virus’s genetic sequence. The drug is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials to be safety-tested on healthy volunteers.) And while no mRNA vaccines have yet received F.D.A. approval, Covid-19 will almost certainly change that.
This new generation of vaccine could very well spell an end to pandemics altogether.
Since the Times article appeared, several mRNA vaccines have won FDA approval and are currently being administered to the U.S. population. Is Biden unaware of all of this?