SOUTH BEND – The Trump vaccine is amazing, developed more quickly and with more effectiveness than once thought possible, already saving hundreds of thousands of lives here and around the world.
 
The former president’s Operation Warp Speed for vaccine development deserves praise from all in this divided land, including from Democratic critics who scoffed at the name and warned that Trump could be dangerously rushing development to save his faltering reelection bid. So, give Trump some credit.
 
But wait. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t boast about the speed and effectiveness of the Trump vaccine or urge unvaccinated Americans to take the life-saving shots. On Saturday at a MAGA rally in Alabama, Trump was booed when he mentioned the vaccine. “And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You’ve got to do what you have to do,” Trump said. “But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.” Some boos rang out from the crowd, who were largely maskless. “No, that’s OK. That’s all right. You got your freedoms.”
 
And in a strange twist, vaccination rates are much lower in states Trump won than in states he lost. The result is that the new wave of a stronger virus variant is striking harder, hospitalizing more and killing more in those Trump states, states where conspiracy theories about the Trump vaccine abound.
 
OK, naming the vaccine after Trump is a stretch. But not entirely. Health and science experts in his administration – even though he often showed disdain for them – do deserve credit for pursuing vaccine development at warp speed. And he didn’t get in the way to stop them. Trump supporters now refusing to take the vaccine could be less hesitant if it were more directly connected with him.
 
And what if Trump had won reelection? He no doubt would be hailing the vaccine as “the most effective the world has ever seen” and proclaim how “everybody knows that I successfully stopped the pandemic.” More of the loyal Trumpsters would be vaccinated.
 
There also could have been some negative impact on the vaccination rollout. Joe Biden deserves credit for the speedy rollout, taking federal responsibilities of the type Trump refused to take in responding as the virus spread. The rollout still would have come, though slower – much, much slower – if a reelected President Trump appointed a loyalist like Rudy Giuliani or the My Pillow guy to run it.
 
Why is Trump, concerned about his legacy and eying another presidential bid, not boasting about his role in warp speed development of an effective vaccine? The answer appears to be that once Biden became president, Trump wanted no role in helping the new administration or even in acknowledging that there is a new administration. He also was bitter that Warp Speed wasn’t speedier, getting the vaccine out to Americans before the presidential election.
 
On Nov. 9, 2020, just six days after the election, Pfizer announced that its vaccine was 90% effective in trials and could be headed for emergency use authorization by the FDA. Trump responded with a tweet: “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!”
 
He was bitter, however, that the news didn’t come before the election. He soon was tweeting his conspiracy theory that Pfizer, the FDA and Democrats delayed the development news because they “didn’t want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election.”
 
Thus, despite the successful Warp Speed, Trump can’t look favorably on the vaccine because it came too late to help him win reelection. Whether an election-eve announcement would have swung the election is far from certain. Voter views on Trump’s handling of the pandemic had pretty firmly set in and were negative.
 
As the new virus variant sweeps through states with low vaccination rates and threatens impact nationally, more of the skeptical, now seeing the rise of hospitalizations and deaths, are going for shots. There are sad stories of some waiting too long and wishing they hadn’t as they fight for their lies.
 
Even more of the reluctant could look favorably on the Trump vaccine if seeing need for the protection so that they’ll be around to vote for Trump in 2024. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics for the South Bend Tribune.