News Story

Vaccine May Be Years Away; So May Be End Of Whitmer’s State Of Emergency

Prominent health policy group warns against depending on a quick vaccine fix

The Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research stated July 20 that the earliest a COVID-19 vaccine may be widely available is the summer of 2022.

“Don’t rely on a vaccine; it’s still a long way off,” read an op-ed published by the Goodman Institute, which was penned by Hoover Institution researcher David Henderson and Charles Hooper, pharmaceutical company consultant and president of Objective Insights. “The fastest vaccine development in history was four years for Merck’s MumpsVax in the 1960s. Even if a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 could be developed in half that time, we are still looking at the summer of 2022 before the vaccine would be developed, approved, manufactured, and distributed for widespread use.”

This scenario could heighten concerns among Michigan residents about what’s in store for this state given the extraordinary emergency powers Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has exercised under a 1945 law that specifies no limit on how long she may retain them, and requires no legislative approval.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of health care providers and facilities harmed by Whitmer’s unilateral governance raises these issues and will be heard before the Michigan Supreme Court on Sept. 2. The larger issue raised by the case is how a law that sidelines the legislature for months and potentially years on end squares with the state constitution's establishment of a government comprised of three coequal branches (legislative, executive and judicial) with separate powers.

The aggrieved health care providers are being represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which noted that Whitmer’s criteria for when the state will be allowed to reopen point to a final post-pandemic “sixth phase” that only comes when a vaccine is available.

“And Michigan will not reach the sixth ‘Post-pandemic’ phase anytime soon,” the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s brief to the Supreme Court stated. “From the Governor’s perspective, Michigan enters that phase only once the state has achieved ‘sufficient community immunity’ and there is ‘high uptake of an effective therapy or vaccine.’ Phase 6 could be years down the road.”

“The Michigan Constitution cannot simply be put on the shelf for several years and then dusted off when the epidemic is over,” the brief stated. “The Constitution does not permit the executive to rule the State for years to come, through emergency decree.”

To date, Whitmer has not offered any specific criteria on what would cause her to end state of emergency she declared. Whitmer’s executive orders make mention of a vaccine.

“There is currently no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment for this disease,” the executive orders noted.

Among other consequences, the governor has said she probably won’t allow sports stadiums to be filled until a vaccine is found.

“COVID-19 is still very present. We know that having a lot of people inside in close vicinity to one another is how COVID-19 spreads and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Whitmer said in June, according to MIRS. “Filling a stadium again probably won’t happen until we have a vaccine and that's going to be a while.”

If it took four years to find a vaccine for COVID-19, that would mean it may be until 2024 before people could fill up the stands at college football games, college basketball games or Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers games.

The state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, suggested in a May 26 press conference that low levels of new COVID-19 cases are not enough to overcome the administration’s hesitation to allow the state to reopen.

“As we slowly reopen the economy, it will be important for us to monitor data, to make sure we are testing sufficiently and to make sure we are swiftly responding to and containing any outbreaks,” Khaldun said on May 26. “Even if cases are low in an area, it does not mean that all of the risk is gone.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.