On Unity: Key Learnings from Virtual Event: Vaccine Hesitancy: The Politics of Public Health in Tennessee

Paul Mango

From Paul Mango:

"Sometime the American people confuse new information with misinformation. What we knew in January and February of 2020 is radically different about this [COVID-19] virus than what we know today." 

- Paul Mango, former deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in the Trump Administration (2018-2021), where he managed Operation Warp Speed 

Friends and fellow citizens,  

Between the viral school board meeting proposing a mask mandate in Williamson County and the Governor's decision this week to allow students to opt-out of wearing masks, Tennessee continues to be ground zero for the COVID-19 philosophy wars. As the latest variant has swept the nation, it is more vital than ever to have fact-based public health solutions that are never political.  

As we learned during this week's virtual experience: Vaccine Hesitancy: The Politics of Public Health in Tennessee, there are many political and ideological challenges behind vaccine hesitancy in not only Tennessee but the entire country. Panelists Alex Jahangir, M.D., MMHC,Paul Mango, and Phil Roe, M.D., answered some of the country's most pressing questions such as the safety behind the development of the vaccines, the broader issue of misinformation in our society, and the obstacle misinformation has created in building trust among society to get vaccinated.   

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways came from Paul Mango, former deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in the Trump Administration (2018-2021), where he managed Operation Warp Speed. He explained how the COVID-19 vaccines had more clinical trial participants than previous vaccines, with the FDA requiring at least 30,000 participants as opposed to the 20,000 required with vaccine trials in the past. With the three main vaccines we have in the U.S., each company surpassed the number of clinical trial participants required. Mango also discussed how typical vaccine trials side effects occur within 42 days after vaccination. Out of an abundance of caution for the COVID-19 vaccine trials, the FDA increased the time requirement to 60 days after the second shot. Essentially, the FDA actually slowed down the approval process and made it harder on the companies applying to look out for the American people. According to all three panelists, no part of the trial process was expedited - the only part of the process that was expedited was in the manufacturing phase to get people the vaccine as quickly as possible.  

All three panelists provided important takeaways based in facts and evidence. A link to the recording is available here. We also invite you to visit the following websites for additional updates and answers to the latest COVID-19 questions - Getvaccineanswers.org and Vaccines.gov 

We hope you find the information from the virtual discussion as valuable as we did.  


Gray Sasser  

Executive Director  
The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy