By Alex Azar
Mr. Azar was secretary of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump. He oversaw Operation Warp Speed, the program to expedite Covid-19 vaccines.
Among the many debatable issues around Covid-19 is one unassailable fact: The coronavirus is nonpartisan. It makes no judgment about one’s political leanings. The vaccines that were developed to fight this virus have no political bias, either.
And yet the reluctance and even refusal of many Americans — including many of my fellow conservatives and Republicans — to get a Covid-19 vaccine is a frustrating irony for those of us who worked to expedite these vaccines. While the vaccines have had doubts cast upon them by politicians throughout their production and rollout, whether a person lives in a red or a blue state has no bearing on the vaccines’ efficacy. They work incredibly well, and more than 160 million fully vaccinated Americans are proof.
Whether such skepticism is rooted in political misgivings, conspiracy theories or lack of accurate and timely information, there are still millions of Americans unwilling to take the simplest of steps to end this pandemic. That makes it incumbent upon all leaders and health experts to be honest about how safe and effective the vaccines are and urge vaccination.
I know the vaccines’ features intimately because as secretary of Health and Human Services, I oversaw their development, testing, approval and distribution from April of 2020 until January of this year. After leaving office, I watched with pride as vaccination rates rose through the early months of the year, and then with dismay as the daily number of vaccinations declined.
Any claims that the vaccines are unsafe or ineffective, or that corners were cut are not true. Americans should understand that the process by which our team helped expedite these vaccines was called Operation Warp Speed for good reason. With the numbers of cases and deaths climbing in April of 2020 and the economy contracting, we had no time to lose. Masks and social distancing could offer only so much protection. Lockdowns, which devastated economies around the world, could only forestall the virus’s inevitable spread.
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