Economist Paul Krugman: 'Prospect of’ a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon — but we must avoid ‘mass casualties’ in the meantime

Economist Paul Krugman: 'Prospect of’ a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon — but we must avoid ‘mass casualties’ in the meantime
Guests attend the Fall Garden Tours Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to surge in the United States as well as Europe, some badly-needed good news came this week: Pfizer has been testing a COVID-19 vaccine that prevented more than 90% of infections in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading immunologist and member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force in the White House, applauded the news — telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on November 9, that a different COVID-19 vaccine (one being developed by Moderna) also looks quite promising. Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a Twitter thread published this week, also hailed the possibility of a widely-available COVID-19 vaccine as "great" news but cautioned that the U.S. is not out of the woods just yet.

Krugman, in his thread, noted that according to Pfizer, its COVID-19 vaccine "might be available for widespread distribution by" the "3rd quarter" of 2021.

"That's great," Krugman writes. "But it's also 8 months away."

As of Wednesday morning, November 11, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide — according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — and over 239,800 people in the United States. And many medical experts fear that the worst might be yet to come this winter.

Krugman warns that COVID-19 could kill a lot more people by the time a vaccine becomes widely available. The economist notes that in the U.S., "new cases have grown 3% *per day* over the past month" — and that a vaccine that becomes widely available in 2021's third quarter "won't control the current surge."

In the meantime, Krugman writes, Americans need to keep practicing "social distancing" — and there needs to be "massive relief payments" to Americans who have been battered economically by the pandemic. But the Times columnist says he is "worried" that Republicans will "sabotage" the United States' fight against COVID-19 from either an economic standpoint or a health standpoint. And Krugman recommends "mitigation measures to avoid mass casualties — and economic relief to get people through a very dark pandemic winter."

Krugman tweets, "The prospect of a vaccine DOES NOT mean that we can stop worrying about COVID-19….. we can have a catastrophe before help arrives."

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