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#TestAndTrace EVERYWHERE NOW 🐇+ Your Authors @Noahpinion Bloomberg Opinion writer. Writes about economics, tweets about rabbits. Doesn't actually look like William Butler Yeats. May. 07, 2020 3 min read + Your Authors

1/OK, just for fun, let's try to predict how Kushner's vaccine effort will go.

The most likely result is that, like the coronavirus task force, it gets quietly shelved after some ineffectual flailing. But what if it doesn't? 

2/What Kushner is going to do first is to call up a bunch of companies and say "Who can get me a vaccine before the end of the year?"

Most companies are (wisely) going to say that they can't do this. But maybe a couple will decide that it's worth it to say "Sure, we can."

3/Sucking up to the Trump administration might reap huge financial rewards. Trump would certainly lean on the FDA to issue a quick EUA no matter how effective or safe the vaccine was. And he'd use his bully pulpit to ensure widespread adoption. So the $$$ rewards here are huge.

4/The risk here is that this company's vaccine either doesn't work well, kills a bunch of people, or both.

Basically, a worse version of what happened when Ford rushed out a swine flu vaccine in 1976. 

5/So there's huge adverse selection going on here. To take Kushner up on his offer, a company will have to be willing to risk being the one to either deliver an ineffectual vaccine, or kill a bunch of people.

This selects for the most unscrupulous company.

6/So say Kushner finds a company that doesn't care if it fucks up, picks up the phone, and tells Trump that This Is Our Guy.

Do they wait to start hawking the vaccine? No. They do it right away.

7/Since the vast majority of vaccines (like drugs) fail in trials, the likeliest outcome is that this vaccine fails trials. Scientists and honest researchers at the company know this, and tell the media. Pretty soon, people will know this thing doesn't really work.

8/But Trump already picked his horse. He can't back down now. He'll say the trials are working, and that we can proceed without more rounds of trials. (At this point Kushner has faded into the background).

A giant partisan shouting match ensues.

9/The vaccine becomes the new HCQ. Fox News hosts and legions of social media shouters swear up and down that it works. CNN and MSNBC anchors and scientists swear it's snake oil. The NYT writes that opinions differ.

10/Under tremendous public scrutiny, and realizing that their punishment could come too swiftly for them to abscond with the money if things go wrong, the unscrupulous company meekly agrees to another round of trials. Trump grumbles but says OK.

11/The vaccine fails the new round of trials despite frantic phone calls from Trump people to fudge the results, and like HCQ, gets quietly shelved. Trump claims he never put all his money on this one vaccine, and touts the others still in development.

12/Meanwhile, more scrupulous companies toil onward, blessedly free from Trumpian attention. The only damage they suffer is a slight diversion of attention and resources (to the unscrupulous company).

When Trump's horse fails, he'll tout these other companies.

13/This is the second-best scenario (the best being that Jared flails for a bit and then his task force gets quietly shelved).

Then there's the bad scenario -- the unscrupulous company's bad vaccine actually passes first-round trials, and Trump allows it to skip other rounds.

14/In this bad scenario, Democrats will be justifiably suspicious of the vaccine (and be tarred as antivaxxers), whereas Republicans will vocally support it (but some will refrain from getting it, out of prudence). A massive uncontrolled vaccine trial ensues.

15/In the very worst-case scenario, lots of Trump believers take a bad vaccine and either die or aren't immunized and catch coronavirus, while everyone else prudently holds back. Eventually Germany makes a working vaccine and saves us.

16/Thus, let us hope that Kushner's vaccine task force doesn't get far. The quicker it goes away and lets our companies and our FDA do what they know they need to do, the better.


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