On Sunday, The Washington Post Editorial Board published a brief piece blasting Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for waging a political war against mRNA COVID-19 vaccines despite their overwhelming success at saving lives as well as their proven track record for safety.
"DeSantis last week demanded a grand jury investigate 'criminal or wrongful activity in Florida' involving the 'development, promotion and distribution' of coronavirus vaccines. As public opinion shows vaccine hesitancy is growing, Mr. DeSantis’s move is not only absurd but also dangerous," the Board wrote.
"Vaccines work. A mathematical model, based on country-level data, found they directly saved some 15.5 million lives worldwide in the first year they were available, and millions more indirectly," the editors said, adding that "the speed with which mRNA vaccines reached people was a spectacular scientific achievement, given the history of vaccine development. Three decades of research has yet to produce a viable vaccine to prevent or treat HIV/AIDS."
And while there have been some unanticipated setbacks – like the need for periodic boosters to offset waning immunity – the Board stressed that overall, the inoculations have been a net positive for the population that chose to get the jabs.
"Vaccines remain a bulwark against severe illness, hospitalization and death," the paper's leaders said. "Adults who received the latest booster shots cut their risk of having to visit an emergency room or being hospitalized by 50 percent or more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Dec. 16."
The editors also tore into DeSantis for instigating public skepticism about vaccines – and science in general – as part of his presumed strategy to challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination:
He has taken it a step further with a petition to the Florida Supreme Court seeking empanelment of a statewide grand jury — which in Florida can carry out broader investigations of government — on vaccines. In a crude appeal to the anti-vaccine movement, Mr. DeSantis’s petition darkly implies that public reassurances of vaccine efficacy were driven by 'financial gain.'
The Board further noted that this kind of deceptive messaging has had a devasting impact:
Professor Peter Hotez, who co-led development of a vaccine for low- and middle-income countries at the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has pointed out that some 200,000 Americans 'needlessly lost their lives in the last half of 2021 and into early 2022 because they refused a coronavirus vaccine during our terrible Delta wave.
The Board's conclusion was thusly unambiguous.
"A scientific achievement so overwhelmingly beneficial to humanity ought not be forsaken in the interest of scoring political points," it stated in its closing remarks. "The truth is as simple as this: Vaccines save lives."