Trump’s exploitation of the myth

What is convalescent plasma? In a nutshell, it’s a therapy that uses the blood plasma of victims of a specific pathogen to fight the pathogen in others. The antibodies that are created to fight the pathogen in existing victims are separated and “purified” and intravenously dripped into the bodies of new patients.

Specifically, coronavirus patients can use plasmas created in this way from other coronavirus patients. The antibodies in the plasma will aid in helping them fight coronavirus. It’s an old treatment protocol that has been used with some success for other things. While it has some early but slight statistical merit for coronavirus, it is far from a cure.

Convalescent plasma is frequently overhyped in movies as a saving miracle, where the hero is immune from a deadly disease and his blood is used to save the world. This dramatic device can be found in the 1971 movie “The Omega Man,” for instance.

No one doubts that Donald Trump needs a coronavirus vaccine and he needs to take credit for it. So Trump’s latest announcement, that convalescent plasma is the new answer to all our coronavirus woes, is hardly surprising. I’m quite certain he wouldn’t bother with it in a post-election world, particularly in one where he’d won the election. But he needs a miracle cure, not for us but for him. He’s behind in the polls, and, judging from the increasingly shrill tenor of his tweets of late, he knows it.

Naturally, Trump’s Sunday night “historic announcement against the China Virus, that will save countless lives,” isn’t news at all to healthcare professionals. It’s old hat. In any case, Trump to the contrary, convalescent plasma for coronavirus hasn’t had an “incredible rate of success.” It’s had a modest one in a study that is flawed because it didn’t employ a control group. In any case it’s being brought in by the FDA as an EAU, that is, an emergency use authorization.

(As a side note, Trump, who is clearly in cognitive decline, once again employed a trick that is becoming more and more familiar. When he stumbled, hesitatingly, over the phrase, “emergency use authorization,” he repeated it, saying, “emergency use authorization is such a powerful term.” This kind of weak non sequitur is employed by Trump more and more frequently as an excuse to give him a second chance to say a phrase or word so he can prove that he knows how.)

All this said, it’s important to note that there is probably no great danger in rushing approval for a known therapy with a known but modest track record and enlisting it against coronavirus. Americans are dying at the rate of more than a thousand a day, and we need all the help we can get. But that is very different from rushing a new vaccine into use, and should Trump manage to use his misbegotten authority for that, it could mean the deaths of tens of thousands of more americans.

Put in dry statistical terms, a vaccine that is potentially fatal in one tenth of one percent of Americans could result in the deaths of more than a quarter of a million Americans if it is hastily rushed through for approval. Trump would, of course, happily sacrifice that many Americans lives to get re-elected.

Trump will never admit that there simply may not be a vaccine for coronavirus. If there is, the world record for discovery and approval of a vaccine is on the order of four or five years. If a coronavirus vaccine candidate should be discovered, that world record will probably be surpassed. But it will be surpassed modestly, not breathtakingly. Protocols must be observed or significant numbers of lives could be lost. The rules established by the FDA aren’t there so they can be a pain in the backside, they exist to protect us. Again, since Trump doesn’t care about American lives, he excoriates the FDA by equating them with the “Deep State.”

As I write this, more than 180,000 American lives have been lost to coronavirus. The vast majority of those lost lives are the fault of the president of the United States and no one else. Had he not called the pandemic a hoax, had he not belittled the wearing of masks, had he not claimed that coronavirus would disappear by an Easter that has long come and gone, many of those Americans would still be alive.

And if you remember we are talking about actual human beings here, and not dry statistics, you’ll realize that each of those human beings on average affected ten others by their deaths. We are talking about 1.8 million lives permanently devastated by this monster usurping the Oval Office.

It is now more than five months since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a worldwide pandemic, and Trump still hasn’t created an overall unifying American program to combat it. He hasn’t bothered because he can’t be bothered. He prefers to play golf.

There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to occupy the office of the president of the United States, this has been another of them. For our lives, our futures and our collective sanity, vote Biden and Harris on November third. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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