Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for Covid on Tuesday, and Politico wants to know why she is receiving top-of-the-line health care to treat it. Yesterday’s “West Wing Playbook” newsletter dedicated many paragraphs to pondering medical ethics and why Harris is taking Paxlovid, a highly effective new retroviral medication for Covid-19. But a good answer is only six words long: BECAUSE SHE IS THE VICE PRESIDENT!
Harris is the next in line to run the most powerful country in the world. She is also infected with a virus that can cause short and longterm illness, even in people who are healthy and vaccinated. So why wouldn’t she and her doctors take all possible precautions? Paxlovid is available with a prescription from a doctor for those at high risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19. Is the vice president an obese, diabetic octogenarian? No, but neither is she a 25-year-old athlete. Most importantly, she needs to be able to run the country at a moment’s notice.
Still, Politico wants to know “Why did Kamala take the Pfizer pill?” even though she is, as far as we know, asymptomatic. The newsletter quotes doctors who question the prescription:
“Why,” asked JONATHAN REINER, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, “would you give Paxlovid to someone without symptoms?”
Um, perhaps because she is the vice president?
Politico also contrasts Harris’ speedy access to Paxlovid with the difficulty many ordinary Americans have had accessing it:
…medical ethicists argued that the moral rationalization for giving Harris the medication only underscores how unfair the system is.
“It’s what I make of the American health care system—better to be rich and connected,” said ARTHUR CAPLAN, a New York University professor of medical ethics.
Harris’ speedy access to Paxlovid sharply contrasts with the rest of the country’s ability to get it. The sheer logistics of finagling a prescription, and then finding the pills within days of symptom onset, has complicated the drug’s rollout after it was first authorized in December.
Yes, some people still have trouble getting Paxlovid. Yes, health care is better for the rich. Does that mean the vice president should not receive high-quality medical care? No—because she is the vice president.
The newsletter did also quote Céline Gounder, a doctor who advised President Joe Biden’s transition team on Covid-19. Grounder, a practicing physician and epidemiologist, pointed out that Harris does indeed qualify for Paxlovid and that sometimes world leaders get good medical care for a reason. “It’s about what’s best for the nation,” she said.
That is the correct answer. Why are we even questioning this?