A Discussion on the COVID-19 Vaccine with Congressman McCaul
In a recent interview published by the Houston Chronicle, Congressman Michael McCaul discusses why he will be getting the COVID-19 vaccine and his support for Operation Warp Speed.
This is the first time in history that we’ve gotten a vaccine so quickly. Did you do anything to encourage the expedited process? Tell us about your involvement and why you championed this cause.
I sent a letter in March to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar asking them about a plan to scale-up vaccine distribution, previewing the agency’s work for what was to become Operation Warp Speed. This pandemic has killed over one million people globally and cost Americans thousands of jobs, and I wanted to do something about it. In Phase I of COVID-19 relief, I voted for $8.3 billion to kick-start the COVID response, including the development of a vaccine. Before the pandemic, I had the foresight to advocate for increased funding for the National Institute of Health, which has played an instrumental part in combating this virus.
What was it like working with the medical community to bring this potentially lifesaving vaccine to the American people?
I think it’s truly remarkable how quickly this vaccine was safely and effectively manufactured and will soon be approved. In a matter of months, we were able to come up with not one, but three different promising COVID-19 vaccines. To put this into perspective, it took six years to approve a vaccine for Ebola. It is evident that Operation Warp Speed has been a complete success and I am proud to have supported funding that made the development of this vaccine possible.
You support a lot of causes that involve the medical world. You’re working to combat childhood cancer and the global AIDS crisis, for example. How did your involvement in the battle against COVID-19 compare to those experiences?
My work combating the global AIDS crisis and childhood cancer prepared me to address a life-threatening global issue, like COVID-19. I was able to advocate for NIH funding and make connections with key players at HHS and NIH prior to COVID-19 - which was very effective in understanding the resources available to help the American people defeat this virus.
There is a lot of apprehension surrounding the vaccine, especially because it was approved so quickly. In the past, we’ve seen devastating results to medical treatments that were pushed through too quickly. How can people trust that this vaccine is safe?
The Food and Drug Administration did not compromise safety in the process of developing an effective vaccine. I have talked to Secretary Azar regarding safety issues, and he has assured me that the vaccine is very safe.
I think understanding what is in the vaccine is also a comfort - so let’s discuss that for a moment. Unlike other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine is not cell-based, meaning it does not use an inactivated germ to help build antibodies, rather the vaccine uses mRNA to teach our cells how to make antibodies to fight off the virus. You can read more about how the vaccine works on CDC’s website too.
Should people who are low-risk for complications due to COVID-19 still get the shot?
For any health question you may have, I think it is first and foremost important to consult with your doctor. In my opinion, I do believe that it is safe for everyone to get the vaccine - but again if you have questions, I recommend consulting your doctor.