CDC Director Rochelle Walensky praised the “extraordinary” efforts the CDC took to ensure it delivered 550 million vaccine doses around the country within the first year of the pandemic. However, she admits that perhaps the overwhelming “optimism” the center had about the vaccines’ ability to quickly end the pandemic was a bit hasty.
At a Glance
- CDC Director Walensky Spoke in Washington about the challenges of the COVID vaccine rollout.
- Walensky believes the center mislead the public about long-term effectiveness with “too much optimism and too little caution.”
- In the future, the CDC should take a stronger role in educating about the nuances of science, according to the director.
CDC’s Walensky Says She Failed to Explain that ‘Science is Not Immediate’
As Rochelle Walensky shared at The University of Washington, the vaccine rollouts created a surge of hopefulness for the world. At the time, the three major brands were proving to be “95% effective.” And people believed the shots were the answer to the pandemic woes.
But in light of the good news, the CDC failed to communicate all of the unknowns. Experts didn’t explain how immunity can wane, or fade. Nor did they warn the public that other variants could diminish vaccine effectiveness.
“Many of us wanted to say, ‘OK, this is our ticket out. Yeah, we’re done.’ So, I think we had perhaps too little caution and too much optimism for some good things that came our way,” she explained. “I think all of us wanted this to be done.”
Strikingly frank answer from CDC director Walensky on them being too bullish on vaccines early on— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 4, 2022
“Nobody said ‘waning’ when this vaccine is going to work, ‘oh well maybe it’ll wear off.’ Nobody said ‘well, what if…it’s not as potent against the next variant’”
H/t @adamcancryn pic.twitter.com/yPj2VKKfj4
To make the public better understand future vaccines, Walensky hopes that the CDC will do a better job at teaching the public that science is not always clear-cut, especially in the early stages. But most importantly, she wants people to understand that health guidance is always based on what’s known at the time. And that knowledge is always changing.
“We’ve always said, ‘We are going to lead with science.’ That is entirely true, but I think the public heard that as science is foolproof, science is black and white. Science is immediate and we get the answer. And then we make the decision based on the answer.”
But as Walensky stressed, “science is gray. And it “is not always immediate.”
“Sometimes, it takes months or years to actually find out the answer,” she continued. “But you have to make decisions in a pandemic before you have that answer.”