Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”

Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about the Covid-19 vaccine?

A. The development of the Covid-19 vaccine was rushed, and some safety tests and clinical trials were skipped.
B. There have not been any reports of major health complications, illnesses, or deaths related to the injection of the Covid-19 vaccine since it was approved for use.
C. There have been some problems with the vaccine rollout.

Let’s take these statements one at a time:

A. Lie! The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines developed under President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed were indeed brought to market quickly. Yet, the rapid pace of development wasn’t because safety tests or clinical trials were skipped. Under normal circumstances, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires safety testing to be done sequentially, meaning one test must be completed before the other begins. Under Operation Warp Speed, the FDA allowed tests to be conducted concurrently, which means safety testing was completed faster than usual. The FDA, however, still required the pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials to assess safety and effectiveness. In addition to the trials, FDA scientists and independent science and medical professionals evaluated multiple government and independent studies on the two approved vaccines to ensure the vaccine’s safety, purity, and potency. 

B. Truth! To date, there are no reports of major health complications, illnesses, or deaths attributed to the Covid-19 vaccine. While there have been some reports of mild side effects post injection (aches, pains, headaches, and some other mild reported discomfort), as well as a handful of mild allergic reactions (which are typical in most vaccines), there have not been any major, life threatening complications reported. Last month, the media reported that a nurse fainted shortly after receiving the vaccine, causing some to doubt the vaccine’s safety. It was later determined that the nurse suffers from a fainting condition that her reaction was to the pain of the injection, not the vaccine. 

C. Truth! Despite having 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine available, only around a half million Americans have been vaccinated to date. Some commentators demanded that the president fix the problem. The main problem surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, however, isn’t lack of central, federal control; it’s too much. 

When the Covid-19 vaccines (both Pfizer and Moderna) were approved, the federal government made it available for purchase only by state agencies (as opposed to individual doctors, medical practices, and hospitals).

Instead of having a variety of ways to get the shot, Americans have to rely on state governments to get it out to the public. Some states have banned certain medical professionals from providing the shot. Other states have created regulations on how and who administers the vaccine, requiring certain specialized credentials. Other states are requiring complicated certification processes for recipients as well. For instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is requiring vaccine providers to certify that those getting the injection qualify for it under state rules, which means that there is more paperwork to complete before the shot can be given (these delays have even led to some vaccine doses being thrown out). 

Governor Cuomo also signed an executive order levying a $1 million fine on vaccine providers if they allow someone to skip the line, which one could argue makes the certification process more important than the actual dosing of patients. All of these state-based regulations have created logjams and delays that make widespread immunization an even more distant reality. 

To remedy this, the federal government should allow doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals to purchase the vaccine independently. And the president  should encourage governors to scrap the red tape that is causing delays. The Trump Administration is already planning to do this, by reallocating more vaccines to states that have done a better, faster, more efficient job at their initial rollout.