How does medicine become politicized during a pandemic?


Cullen Davis, Staff Columnist

In three short years, the Trump Administration has reduced the role of science in federal policy-making while terminating medical research projects worldwide. Politicians and supporters have now stepped up with claims that scientists and trained professionals “don’t know what they are talking about.”

President Donald J. Trump and his political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of science in what many consider “common sense” in regulation decisions, and threatened researchers not to speak publicly. In San Francisco, Calif., a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women stalled after federal funding suddenly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided conversance in defending invasive insects disbanded.

“The disregard for expertise in the federal government is worse than it’s ever been,” said Michael Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change at Columbia University.

In a joint effort between the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund and Columbia University, Silencing Science tracks and records the governments’ attempt to restrict or prohibit scientific and medical research, education, discussion, or publication of scientific and medical information since the November 2016 election. The tracking site has now recorded over 200 reports of the Trump Administration to restrict or misuse science since 2017 alone.

During this pandemic it has been clear that it is what politicians say over actual science. The clear elephant in the room is that Trump is on the ropes in his efforts to get re-elected come November 2020. He has lost the support of key members in the Republican party, divided his military supporters, and faltered his views on the nation. Trump has nothing to push his campaign but a promise of combating the COVID-19 pandemic; however, he uses lies and hoaxes about the medical field and community to promote this. With that being said, experts and citizens are fearful of political intervention in the coming months and the trust that the government will maintain a balance of speed and regulation.

Trump has diminished the conclusions of scientists in formulating policy, maintained suspicion of expert knowledge, and put his political instincts ahead of facts, all in the name of trying to push out a vaccine to salvage his campaign hopes.

“I look forward to having a big and important second win. This one should be a lot easier as our poll numbers are rising fast, the economy is getting better, vaccines and therapeutics will soon be on the way,” Trump stated in a tweet.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the more visible medical experts in the Trump administration, Trump is “downplaying the warning of the experts.” Health and the medical field should not be decided and acted on by politicians. When you are ill or suffering from medical issues, who do you call? A licensed doctor or a politician? Yet, today we’re being told by politicians that science and trained professionals are wrong. Trump and his administration have marginalized key scientists, disbanded expert advisory boards, and suppressed findings that are clearly dangerous to our nation’s health. Health should be led and directed by the professionals, and it needs to stay that way.