VP Pence irresponsible with coronavirus response

March 6, 2020

Vice President Pence’s history in dealing with health outbreaks proves nothing more than that he is largely unfit to deal with the potentially disastrous spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the United States. Pence’s consistent stance of conservatism often serves as a blockade to effective avenues of prevention and containment. As Indiana faced an HIV outbreak from 2013 to 2017, Pence’s values and consequent mishandling deterred reasonable measures and prolonged the spread of HIV in sparsely populated southern Indiana. 

While experts throughout 2013 continued to support needle exchange programs in order to lessen risk of HIV spread amongst intravenous drug users, Pence refused to install such protocols until 2015, and even went as far as to support bills prohibiting such needle exchanges. He furthered support of a federal ban on needle exchange and continued endorsement of Indiana’s prohibition on needle exchanges. Pence’s policies in contradiction to the idea of expansion of Planned Parenthood also reduced the amount of facilities that could engage in prevention of an HIV outbreak despite the obvious fatality and strain on health services that would occur with the spread of HIV. Pence’s signing of bills that increased criminalization of possession of needles further institutionalized stigmatization of drug users and consequently encouraged needle-sharing. According to Politico’s own research, 127 HIV infections could have been prevented in a region of Indiana that was calculated to have had a higher HIV incidence than “any country in sub-Saharan Africa” directly due to the Pence administration’s inaction. Evidently, Pence allowed for his own political conservative agenda to take precedence over a potential outbreak,which should come as a warning sign in how he will respond to the spread of the coronavirus in the United states. 

Besides Pence’s track record of failure to respond rapidly and efficiently to health concerns, his current plan in dealing with the coronavirus holds various issues. Pence has ordered that any information in the form of a public statement must first receive clearance from his office. Such a mandate has caused widespread concern over a possible lack of government transparency during a period in which the public should be vigilant and aware. History informs us that a lack of communication between government and people holds the power to an even more serious outbreak as with the SARS pandemic in China. Given the hyper-political atmosphere of the capitol, it is reasonable to assume that such stress concerning public information regarding the coronavirus is due to the current administration’s need to consolidate power and control. The coronavirus extends beyond a political issue when its effects are able to widely damage economic stability and public health. 

Ultimately, the health of the United States requires a leadership that is not political, nor with potential to hold ulterior political motives, instead we need progressive scientific and health-oriented officials to produce fast and efficient methods of coronavirus screening. Pence’s role in prolonging Indiana’s HIV outbreak as well as his stance on overly-controlling information ought to be considered a marker for his inability to put health over his regressive and revisionist political agenda.

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