Weekly Pulse, Aug 30-Sep 4: COVID Cases Still “Unacceptably High”—But Can We Trust a Rushed Vaccine?

For The Weekly Pulse (a revisit of an old Ms. column!), we’ve scoured the most trusted journalistic sources—and, of course, our Twitter feeds—to bring you this week’s most important news stories related to health and wellness.


In this edition of The Weekly Pulse, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic remains woefully insufficient; Sen. Cruz is “leading the charge on a Hail Mary plea” against medication abortion; House Dems are looking to challenge Hyde; and your weekly COVID-19 updates.

Trump’s Handling of Pandemic Still Woefully Insufficient

+ Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good news to share on the coronavirus front. At the Republican National Convention last week, the pandemic was barely mentioned and when it was, it was discussed as if it was over. 

To state the obvious—it’s not over. We’re still experiencing approximately 1,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 daily. Dr. Anthony Fauci called 40,000 new cases per day an “unacceptably high” number: “We’ve got to get it down, I’d like to see it 10,000 or less, hopefully less.”

Weekly Pulse, Aug 30-Sep 4: COVID Cases Still "Unacceptably High"—But Can We Trust a Rushed Vaccine?
Achieving herd immunity naturally would lead to an estimated 2 million deaths in the U.S. (ILO.org)

+ The president’s current strategy to address the pandemic seems to be to wait for a vaccine—which, sadly is a better strategy than waiting for herd immunity via infection. Even in the best case scenario, we’re still likely months away from the vaccine. Dr. Fauci’s best guess is that a vaccine could be ready as soon as the end of the year or early 2021.

However, the Trump administration is reportedly pushing the FDA to approve a vaccine sooner. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has sent documents to U.S. states and territories outlining protocols to prepare for potential vaccine distribution in late October or early November—not coincidentally, just in time for Election Day.

Public health experts are worried Trump will pressure the FDA to approve a vaccine before it has been proven to be safe and effective. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, claims he will not succumb to political pressure to approve a vaccine before it’s ready.  Still, Hahn is the person who approved hydroxychloroquine—which was touted as a cure by the president before sufficient research had been done—for emergency use authorization against COVID-19, which was later revoked.

Weekly Pulse, Aug 30-Sep 4: COVID Cases Still "Unacceptably High"—But Can We Trust a Rushed Vaccine?
The Trump administration is reportedly pushing the FDA to approve a vaccine sooner than usual—not coincidentally, just in time for Election Day. (Nenad Stojkovic / Flickr)

+ At the same time, the White House refuses to join a global initiative called the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) because it is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO). Back in July, the administration officially sent a letter notifying the WHO of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the organization due to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Around 170 countries are currently in talks to join COVAX, which aims to “accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.” 

The Trump Administration’s decision is self-defeating for a variety of reasons—including the fact that the U.S.’s economic recovery depends on a global economic recovery that can only be facilitated by a vaccine. 

In the worst-case scenario, the U.S. could be left without a vaccine if none of our own vaccine candidates are proven to be safe and effective. The decision also creates disruptions in the global supply chain that will be needed to manufacture the vaccine. 


Here at Ms., our team is continuing to report through this global health crisis—doing what we can to keep you informed and up-to-date on some of the most underreported issues of this pandemic. We ask that you consider supporting our work to bring you substantive, unique reporting—we can’t do it without you. Support our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Repro Rundown

+ Senator Ted Cruz is “leading the charge on a Hail Mary plea” to get the FDA to take mifepristone—a pill used to induce abortions—off of the U.S. market, claiming (without evidence) it’s an “imminent hazard to public health.”

In reality, the abortion pill causes less maternal deaths than live birth (nearly 28 times over). This should be particularly interesting to Sen. Ted Cruz, as it is more dangerous to give birth in Texas than in the rest of the majority of the developed world.

Weekly Pulse, Aug 30-Sep 4: COVID Cases Still "Unacceptably High"—But Can We Trust a Rushed Vaccine?
The senators’ request is likely to go unfulfilled, because medication abortion is both widespread and has been found to be overwhelmingly safe. (Matt Johnson + Robin Marty / Flickr)

+ Beginning next year, top House Democrats say that they plan to “challenge the status quo” by removing support for the Hyde Amendment—a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. This has the potential to “spark one of the most significant changes in abortion policy in decades.”

According to Rp. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland):

“It’s an issue of racial justice and it’s an issue of discrimination against low-income women, women of color, women who don’t have access to what middle- and upper-income women have in terms of the choice to have an abortion.”

+ On Monday, abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging a new law out of Tennessee requiring women undergoing drug-induced abortions be informed the procedure can be reversed or halted halfway. Dangerously, medical groups say the claim isn’t backed up by science and there is little information about the reversal procedure’s safety. The law focuses on banning abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and those found in violation face felony charges and up to six years in prison.

+ Texas is proposing to cut almost $4 million in funding from programs offering low income-residents access to contraceptive and breast and cervical cancer screenings. However, the state promises it will find a way to leave a “robustly funded program that discourages women from having abortions” intact. 

According to Kami Geoffray, CEO of Every Body Texas, whose organization supports women’s health providers that contract with the state:

“It’s … concerning that this is the area that is first to be targeted when the state is looking for cost savings because the reality is it’s going to be short-term cost savings. We’re going to have more costs down the road with increased STIs, increased cancer diagnoses that went too long because people weren’t able to get screened. We’re going to have unplanned pregnancies as a result of not being able to access the contraceptive care people want and need.”

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About and

Corinne Ahrens is an undergraduate student at American University studying Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as well as Political Science with a specialization in Gender, Race, and Politics. Corinne has been writing for Ms. since October 2019 and is a Ms. Editorial and Social Media intern. She is also working as the Digital Campaign Communications Director for "Vote No On 1 Louisiana"—a campaign to defeat the predatory "No Right to Abortion" amendment.
Giselle Hengst recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in Women's & Gender Studies and Medicine, Health, & Society. She is currently an editorial and social media intern at Ms. magazine.