A SovereignPH.com EXCLUSIVE
A survey of Covid-19 implications from an international perspective
by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan
US spins an info(demic) war
Lawrence Delvin Romanoff, writing as Larry Romanoff for the Centre for Global Research on Globalization based in Montreal, a municipality of Quebec in Canada, is perhaps one of the most prolific writers covering Covid-19 from an investigative point of view based mostly on facts and science.
Starting January 25 with China’s New Coronavirus: An Examination of the Facts, Romanoff has written more than 20 articles on the subject matter.
In his late 70s, the Canadian was relatively unheard of until another article “China’s Coronavirus: A Shocking Update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?” was picked up by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry who has nearly half a million Twitter followers.
Quoting one Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, WSJ wrote “Beijing is seeking to sow doubt about the origins of the coronavirus as a way of distracting rising public anger over the outbreak.”
WSJ now disparages Romanoff, saying he produces essays that generally praise China and criticize the U.S., and that the website that published it calls itself an independent research and media organization. It didn’t respond to requests for comment.
It resorts to ad hominem tactics going for Romanoff’s jugular using innuendoes.
“Known as Larry,” WSJ now impugns, “Mr. Romanoff has long expressed affection for China, according to a review by the Journal of his published work. But before he began posting essays he had a multifarious background.
“In 1998, a court in Canada said Mr. Romanoff pleaded guilty to a scheme that involved selling used stamps as new ones to raise money for a Mother Teresa charity. The former advertising-firm owner subsequently registered a business in Calgary’s Chinatown and an internet site to sell recordings of a group of 7-year-old singers called the Bear Children’s Choir of Hong Kong. The website proclaimed their songs “the finest Chinese children’s music produced in the world today.”
“The author moved to Shanghai in the mid-2000s, according to his online postings, and converted the site to sell Chinese cigars and self-publish dozens of essays that generally took China’s side in global topics.
WSJ, just could not resist feigning Western political correctness, “On his site, which has since been taken down, Mr. Romanoff argued, for instance, that any shooting by the People’s Liberation Army during the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 was unrelated to pro-democracy student demonstrators, but rather in self-defense after ‘thugs’ and ‘anarchists’ attacked soldiers.”
Balancing polemics and solutions
Herman Tiu Laurel writing for SovereignPH.com describes the America, however, in fright and profit:
“Previous months of Covid-19 information splurge notwithstanding, America simply was neither listening nor preparing. When the first community infection was reported in early February, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) sent testing kits to labs across the US, but a glitch made it unusable… There’s so much backlog now…”
House Nancy Pelosi lashed out at President Donald Trump for his delayed response and criticized Trump’s anti-Covid emergency budget requests of $ 2.5-billion as “inadequate” and “anemic.”
The CDC expressed the same sentiment, fearing the “community spread of Covid-19 in the US and warned that disruptions could be “severe.” Despite these warnings, however, political infighting prevails.
Under Trump, it appears that an anti-science is sweeping DC.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the diagnostic tests and will control any new treatments for corona virus, has also shown vulnerabilities.
The agency recently indicated that it was looking into the possibility of prescribing the anti-malaria drug chloroquine for corona virus patients, even though there is no evidence it would work and there is some indication it could have serious side-effects.
The decision dismayed experts, given that Trump has personally pushed the unproven remedy on a whim. “We have the FDA bowing to political pressure and making decisions completely counter to modern science,” a former senior said.
Highly respected career civil servants, with impeccable scientific credentials, have struggled to get out in front of the president. Dr Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert who has become a rare trusted face in the administration amid the corona virus scourge, has also expressed his frustration.
When asked by a Science magazine writer, Jon Cohen, how Fauci could stand beside Trump at daily press briefings and listen to him misleading the American people with comments such as that the China travel ban had been a great success in blocking entry of the virus, the FDA head replied: “I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?”
Trump has designated himself a “wartime president.” But if the title bears any validity, his military tactics have been highly unconventional. He has exacerbated the problems encountered by federal agencies by playing musical chairs at the top of the corona virus force.
His cabinet has not been of any help. When asked about vaccines in a House hearing, Health Secretary Alez Azar said, “We can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest…” One news report commented, “… the new corona virus doesn’t care about profit margins… that attitude doesn’t just put the poor at risk… it puts everyone at risk.”
In America profit is first, before public welfare. Thank goodness that was and is not the case in China. Will America learn from China?
In a paradigm of global effort to solve a common problem, however, scientists of many nations are both collaborating and competing to find the vaccine for the Covid-19 disease in the fastest way possible.
Within hours of COVID 19 discovery, China was able to release the virus’ genetic code for sharing with the global scientific community. Unlike previous outbreaks where vaccines took years to develop, we have now report of Covid 19 vaccines that will be offered for human trials within months.
Race to the Vaccine
On March 27, the US Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) signed with Johnson & Johnson’s Pharmaceuticals arm Janssen, a $456 million order for a “new vaccine asset and $150 million “new anti-viral” for the 2019 novelle corona virus (Covid-19),” the largest reported amount spent on a vaccine project to date,
Johnson & Johnson will collaborate with ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) as announced last February. That work was built on previous contracts for developing countermeasures for other influenzas.
It forms part of a deal between the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson to co-invest $1 billion into vaccine research, development and clinical testing. The company says it now expects human clinical studies for its vaccine candidate to go ahead, at the latest by September 2020, anticipating the first batches of vaccine to be available for emergency use in early 2021.
Johnson & Johnson had earlier announced collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in developing potential preventive vaccine candidates for Covid-19 hoping to use the same technologies it used for developing vaccine candidates for Ebola, Zika and HIV.
Elsewhere, BARDA has said it’s working with another pharma company, Sanofi Pasteur, on a different kind of vaccine, an exact genetic match to proteins of the virus. As the Authority described “The protein’s DNA will be combined with DNA from a virus harmless to humans and used to rapidly produce large quantities of antigen, which stimulate the immune system to protect against the virus.”
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is now a Covid-19 patient, announced a record £210 million funding to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is supporting the development of vaccines to make them globally available and is seeking $2 billion to do so.
Elsewhere in the U.K., the University of Oxford announced last week that its researchers had started screening volunteers for an upcoming vaccine trial. Imperial College London has also announced work on a vaccine.
Others are ahead.
In mid-March, the first phase of a clinical trial has begun at the Kaiser Permanente Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington. The vaccine called mRNA-1273 was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) with Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna based in Cambridge, Massachussetts.
The open-label trial has enrolled 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks. The first participant received the investigational vaccine last March 15. The study is evaluating different doses of the experimental vaccine for safety and its ability to induce an immune response in participants. This is the first of multiple steps in the clinical trial process for evaluating the potential benefit of the vaccine.
This according to the World Health Organization, are the only two vaccines presently going through trials. The other is in China at the CanSino Biological and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.
China, again, might beat the US for solutions, this time for the almighty vaccine.
To be continued…
Ado Paglinawan is a daily commentator at Radyo Pilipinas1, and a regular columnist at the newest daily news website SovereignPH.com and its partner magazine The Sovereign. He is a former Philippine diplomat, serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York as press attaché, spokesman and special assistant to Ambassador Emmanuel N. Pelaez. He has served a strategic consultant to Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon and Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo. He studied for 1 5 years at San Beda College from grade 1 to 4th year college majoring in English and Philosophy, minor in political science and history. He is a veteran of the First Quarter Storm, participating as president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Ado has taken continuing studies in world politics and diplomacy, international public relations, information technology and remote sensing, and Eastern Christianity and Islamic studies, from various universities in Washington DC.