As COVID-19 vaccinations rise and the coronavirus falls, give credit to Donald Trump

President Joe Biden needs to be a little more magnanimous. Granted, that could be politically challenging given that the person Biden is short-shrifting is his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who was charitable to no one. But the nation is on the cusp of something truly historic.

Daily COVID-19 vaccinations are about 2.5 million and rising. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen. The end of a national nightmare that has claimed nearly 543,000 American lives might be in sight. 

It will be a defining moment for Biden when and if the crisis ends. And the truth will be that he didn’t do it alone.

If vaccines didn’t already exist

Biden and his team moved with remarkable speed in days to secure hundreds of millions of doses and get them disseminated to ever larger numbers of people. None of that would have been possible if the vaccines didn’t already exist.

The lightning speed at which they were created was on Trump’s watch. The fastest turnaround for a new vaccine before that — from research and development to clinical trials to regulatory approval — was in the 1960s, for the mumps, and that took four years. 

From start to finish, the first COVID-19 vaccine was produced in eight months.

Biden often likes to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt in promising Americans he’ll always given them the facts “straight from the shoulder.” But since taking office, he has never really acknowledged the Trump administration’s considerable accomplishment.

President Joe Biden visits a COVID-19 vaccination site in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

A few days after taking office, Biden offered some weak-tea recognition to “everyone involved in this vaccine effort and the prior administration and the science community and the medical sphere.” And that was only in the context of complaining that the vaccine program Trump left was in “worse shape than we anticipated or expected.” 

Vice President Kamala Harris went even further, asserting that “we’re starting from scratch,” a remark that earned a ding from The Washington Post fact-checker. The truth is that when Trump left office, the weekly vaccination average was nearly a million doses per day, which Biden promptly set as his first-100-days goal.

Operation Warp Speed

Under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, longstanding research on vaccine development — including some exciting new science on using messenger RNA to train the immune system to block a virus — was turbocharged with a $14 billion federal investment to insulate six vaccine makers from financial risk. 

For all his anti-science divisiveness, Trump proved keen on throwing large sums of money at a possible solution. And it worked. By December, emergency-use authorizations had been granted for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While Pfizer didn’t take federal research-and-development funding, it was guaranteed $2 billion in vaccine sales. Moderna’s efforts would have taken far longer without a $4.1 billion U.S. investment. 

None of this excuses Trump’s considerable failures in responding to the pandemic. There were his early deceptions about the severity of it and the botched creation and dissemination of tests. His administration tossed out an urgent-response playbook from the previous administration. He mocked the wearing of masks, agitated against states for following medical guidelines and undermined public health agencies for their thorough drug and vaccine reviews. And, oh yes, he suggested looking into snake-oil remedies like injecting people with bleach. 

‘Help is Here’ tour

But the truth — straight from the shoulder — is that when this virus finally abates because of vaccinations, it will be to the credit of two presidents.

Does President Biden need to declare a national holiday for his predecessor? 

No.

It would be fair and honest at some point, and in keeping with Biden’s image as a straight shooter, to simply acknowledge Trump’s singular vaccine success.

A good time might be during Biden’s rolling “Help is Here” tour as he extolls the benefits of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. 

Trump’s self-aggrandizing character would never allow him to share credit with anyone. But Biden would be the bigger man for doing so.

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