A COVID-19 test on Vice President Kamala Harris came back positive. In its simplest form, this seems inconsequential.
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In spite of that, the White House managed to raise eyebrows by announcing her treatment – particularly since she will be the next president.
The press secretary for Harris announced on Tuesday that the veep took an antiviral medication that should only be prescribed to those at high risk.
This announcement created questions about how serious Harris’ condition is and how it will affect her at the White House, if at all.
The Los Angeles Times notes that this shouldn’t be a big deal, as Harris is not among high-risk groups.
“Harris, 57, has been vaccinated and boosted twice. The shots greatly diminish the chances of her becoming seriously ill. When former President Trump, 75, was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October 2020, he was at much higher risk, given his age and the lack of available vaccines,” said the report.
Overall, Harris appeared to be doing well, considering that officials said he presented no symptoms. Kirsten Allen, Harris’ press secretary, said she “will isolate and continue to work from the Vice President’s residence” while she is ill.
“The Vice President will return to the White House when she tests negative,” Allen added.
The following was also posted by Allen on Tuesday, though:
“Today, after consultation with her physicians, the Vice President was prescribed and has taken Paxlovid,” Allen declared.
Today, after consultation with her physicians, the Vice President was prescribed and has taken Paxlovid.
— Kirsten Allen (@KirstenAllen46) April 26, 2022
Paxlovid is a brand name of a Pfizer-manufactured antiviral medication that consists of “nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets, co-packaged for oral use,” according to the FDA website.
In December, it was granted emergency use authorization – but there’s a catch.
Emergency use authorizations are intended for persons “with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death,” the FDA says on its website.
Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who regularly criticizes the Biden administration’s handling of the Coronavirus, noted that this was unusual:
“Surprised to learn that Kamala Harris who is asymptomatic, healthy, and quadruple vaccinated is getting Paxlovid, a drug reserved for high-risk patients per the FDA label,” he posted on Twitter.
Surprised to learn that Kamala Harris who is asymptomatic, healthy, and quadruple vaccinated is getting Paxlovid, a drug reserved for high-risk patients per the FDA label.
— Marty Makary MD, MPH (@MartyMakary) April 27, 2022
The reasons for this prescription may have more to do with politics than medicine. Arielle Mitropoulos of ABC News noted that Harris’ prescription of Paxlovid “comes as the administration announces new actions to increase access to the drug.”
The Vice President's press secretary confirms that Harris is taking Paxlovid.
Her prescription for Paxlovid comes as the administration announces new actions to increase access to the drug. https://t.co/HJ2HDcAL0x
— Arielle Mitropoulos (@AMitrops) April 27, 2022
“The vice president’s diagnosis and treatment plan occurred on the same day as the administration announced that tens of thousands of pharmacies would be able this week to order Paxlovid, and that the government was launching new ‘test-to-treat’ locations where Americans could take a test and, if positive, be immediately prescribed and given the antiviral treatment,” according to a Bloomberg report.
Still, the prescription calls into question a number of issues the White House likely doesn’t want to be discussed.
The Los Angeles Times continued, “White House officials, who have signaled that they expect Biden will catch the virus, did not respond to questions about whether the president would take additional precautions in light of the vice president’s positive test.”
According to the Times, Harris’ diagnosis of COVID “could create governing concerns given that Harris is the first in the line of presidential succession to Biden, 79.”
A 79-year-old is highly susceptible to COVID, a disease that is especially deadly for the elderly. Obviously, following Harris and Biden, Nancy Pelosi, the 82-year-old House Speaker, would be next in line to become POTUS.
After that will be the president pro tempore of the Senate; at the moment that is Senator Patrick Leahy, the 80-year-old Democrat who officiated the second impeachment trial of Trump and has also been in the news for health issues.
Immediately following is Secretary of State Antony Blinken, followed by the rest of the cabinet secretaries according to the order in which their departments were established.
Although a person’s age and health is always a sensitive matter, it’s safe to say that the pool of those who can potentially advance to the presidency isn’t particularly strong at this moment in time for the United States – As well as unappealing to conservatives.
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Like most people who test positive for COVID in the vast majority of cases, Harris is likely to return to work soon, although this still raises the question of what would happen if the president and vice president both had COVID at the same time.
Having said that, the decision to write her a prescription for Paxlovid presents either one of two options.
Either the WH is lying and Harris’ condition is not asymptomatic, or she and the admin have not revealed all of her known risk factors. Secondly, it appears that the vice president is being used by the administration in order to promote its intention to expand Paxlovid use beyond what the FDA’s emergency authorization permits.
Regardless, it’s a very bad sign, whether for Harris herself or for the administration’s willingness to politically influence medical decision-making.