CNN medical analyst and former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said Thursday that the Biden administration’s “overly cautious” approach to the coronavirus pandemic is having a “very damaging” effect on demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“With his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Biden missed his biggest opportunity to reduce vaccine hesitancy,” she wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “The problem wasn’t the content of his speech — it was the setting.”
Dr. Wen lamented that Mr. Biden, who is fully vaccinated, gave his speech in front of only 200 socially distanced and masked attendees in the House chamber built for 1,600 people.
“As the president spoke, the vice president and speaker of the House sat behind him, both clad in masks,” she wrote. “If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was six months ago, before Americans had access to safe, highly effective vaccines.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t know that the vaccines are so effective by looking at the CDC’s overly-cautious guidelines,” she continued. “Already, a very damaging narrative is taking hold: If the vaccines are so effective, then why so many precautions for the fully vaccinated? What’s the point of getting inoculated if not much changes?”
Dr. Wen warned Mr. Biden against “over-correcting” on his coronavirus approach in order to differentiate himself from his Republican predecessor, former President Trump.
“Over-correction has a price; at best, it makes public health measures seem performative rather than science-based,” Dr. Wen wrote. “At worst, it calls vaccine efficacy into question.”
She suggested so-called vaccine passports as a possible solution to promoting vaccine effectiveness while allowing the country to reopen large public events.
“The CDC needs to urgently change its recommendations to clearly distinguish between events in which anyone can attend and events that allow only those fully vaccinated,” she wrote. “Proof of vaccination would allow concerts, theaters and virtually all businesses back at full capacity. This has been key to Israel’s health and economic recovery, and it has served as a powerful incentive to vaccination there.”
“Imagine if Wednesday’s joint session had required that all attendees be fully vaccinated,” she continued. “Those who were not vaccinated were not welcome. But those permitted in could walk into the room, take off their mask, sit next to one another, and listen to a presidential address — just as they did in 2019. The science shows that could have been done. It would have sent an unequivocal message that vaccines are safe, effective and the key to ending the pandemic. Instead, the American people got a different message, one that could impede the nation’s vaccine progress at a time when we can least afford it.”