Andrew Cuomo Says NY Officials Will Do Separate Review of Any COVID-19 Vaccine

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By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Andrew Cuomo has been given kudos for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inappropriately so.

Now, why do I say this?

Consider the death counts. Hong Kong, a city of roughly 7 million people, one of the most densely populated in the world, and close to the Wuhan epicentre of COVID-19, has due to its excellent policies and health care, is only showing 104 deaths as of today. No typo.

Whereas New York, of which Cuomo is governor, has to this day suffered 32,696 deaths, and New York City, which holds a population of 8 million, making it about the same size as Hong Kong, has seen 23,875 deaths.

I’ve written about this comparison extensively, often drawing on the insights of Dr. Sarah Borwein, a Hong Kong based doctor with extensive experience going back to at least to SARS outbreak; see here; here; here; here; here; here; here; and here.)

When faced with this comparison, there’s no way I would call NY’s relative performance – for which Cuomo is trying to claim credit – good. And I will continue to hammer the point every time I see Cuomo trying to take a victory lap for New York state or city’s COVID-19 performance. It has been highly deficient, and only seems good in comparison to Trump. But is that any comparison?

Now, onto the latest controversy. Using his credit, Cuomo has jumped into the fraught debate over premature emerge of a vaccine, without sufficient design and testing. Everyone knows Trump is counting on an October surprise in the form of a vaccine to goose his re-election chances.  And thus, we’re all primed to be rightfully skeptical of any vaccine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might put forward, maybe any day now.

Enter stage left, Cuomo. According to the FT:

The governor of New York has become the latest figure to cast doubt on the Trump administration’s process to authorise a coronavirus vaccine, saying his state would do a separate review because he “does not trust the federal government”.

Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday his officials would review any vaccine licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration, warning that the federal process had become too politicised.

Mr Cuomo said: “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend [a vaccine] to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion.”

Now, state governors such as Cuomo enjoy no regulatory approval over vaccines. But Cuomo seems to have found a loophole and has appointed a 16-member panel to decide on logistics of how a vaccine would be distributed in New York. This ability would extend to go slow on distributing any vaccine it thought unsafe. So as a New Yorker, I might not, after all, have access to that first vaccine that is made available.

Over to the FT again:

Donald Trump, the US president, has said he expects a vaccine to be ready “within weeks”, while Stephen Hahn, the head of the FDA, has said he is willing to grant emergency authorisation even before the final phase of clinical trials.

This has led Democrats such as Mr Cuomo to warn that Mr Trump is pushing his appointees to rush out a vaccine before one has been proved to be both safe and effective. Mr Trump’s advisers reportedly call the idea of securing a vaccine approval before November’s election the “holy grail”.

The political fallout has found its way to ordinary Americans, only half of whom now would take any vaccine approved before the election, according to the Pew Research Center, as reported by the FT.

Although I won’t be taking a coronavirus vaccine anytime soon – even if I qualify to receive one – I think we are entering dangerous territory if state governors appropriate authority to involve themselves in the process of vaccine approval.

But I suppose that neither is the president supposed to get involved directly in such decisions either. I mean, that is why separate regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, exist.

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  1. safe territory

    What does ‘dangerous territory’ mean that we’re supposedly entering by state level officials double checking vaccine decisions? The dangerous territory is the state of not trusting the federal government. The state government’s response doesn’t seem to add much danger to my mind, whether I trust Cuomo or not.

    1. mike

      More Trump Derangement Syndrome. Cuomo won’t distribute an FDA approved vaccine because he doesn’t trust the Federal Government…. really? or Cuomo is willing to sacrifice the lives of even more of his constituents than he already has because he doesn’t want Trump to get credit for a vaccine. I thought the anti vax-ers were a fringe, low information, trump voting group…. I guess it also includes the most senior of Democrat politicians.

      1. Samuel Conner

        I feel confident that AC is grand-standing; that seems to play well on TV. But concern that the vaccine evaluation process, which is under the control of agencies of the Executive Branch, and so is certainly amenable to influence from the top, might be being excessively influenced by political considerations, to the ultimate detriment of public health, does not strike me as at all “deranged”.

  2. Starry Gordon

    Mr. Cuomo, like Mr. Trump, has had to deal with a people of whom a great many are too cool for school. The difference between the two is that Mr. Cuomo, in his cloddish, clunky way, seems to understand when he has gone wrong, backs up, and tries to do it right, at least in this case. It is true it is not normally the business of a state government to test and approve vaccines, but these are not normal times, are they?

  3. Samuel Conner

    Me thinks that, as a matter of DJT’s political self interest, it might have been wiser to be publicly low-key about an early vaccine, while pushing hard behind the scenes. “Exceeding expectations” seems to be more important than the absolute level of achievement.

    It all looks a bit incoherent, though doubtless there is a coherence in terms of perceived political interest. The public disdain for masking seems to have been driven by political considerations. Now the push to be able to say a vaccine is “available”, which I feel confident will be combined with a libertarian attitude toward whether anyone actually takes it; again it’s about political advantage rather than public health.

    This is, IMO, DJT’s version of WJC’s “permanent campaign”. Only this time the stakes are higher in the short term.

  4. notabanker

    Who here would trust any US government agency to certify a vaccine for COVID? I sure don’t. When the European’s and Asian’s have it figured out (both, not either), fine, but until then forget it.

  5. Synoia

    How can one trust the FDA, NIH or CDC, to name but a few Federal Agencies, when all are subject to Presidential pressure?

    The US appears hopelessly corrupt, with multiple hidden agenda from may sectors of Government who do not seem to realize they have no accountability to the general US public; and Trump reminds me of the historical anecdotes of the Roman Emperor Nero.

    We might as well have Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or William Tubman of Liberia as president.

  6. DSB

    An overall nice post, thank you. However, the comment “… and only seems good in comparison to Trump. But is that any comparison?” lets Cuomo off the hook. In fact the per capita deaths in New York state are almost 3 times (2.75 to be exact) worse than that for the United States as a whole. [It is worse even if you exclude NYC.]

    On top of that, New York state experienced a loss of employment far greater than most any other state. The recovery in employment has lagged almost all other states.

    When you look at New York state it is hard to see Cuomo’s handling of C-19 as anything but an unsurpassed disaster. Completely unworthy of anything resembling praise.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I was not aware of this fact. So one doesn’t have to look as far afield as Hong Kong to assess Cuomo’s record in negative comparative contact, but even when measured against a pan-US baseline, his record is not so hot. Thanks for drawing this information to my attention.

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