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Capital City Sunday: Vaccine rush, task force on race and policing & ballot delay

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Cap City Guests 9-11-2020

MADISON (WKOW) --- As pharmaceutical companies race to finish COVID-19 vaccine trials, some people are beginning to grow skeptical about getting vaccinated because of concerns the timeline is being influenced political pressure.

In the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, two thirds of registered voters say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine, while a third said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health chief medical officer, said his biggest concern is that political influence could discourage people from trusting a safe and accurate vaccine when it’s available to the public.

“If it does come out earlier than expected we do worry people might not believe public health experts because there was this notion that its rushed because of political reasons,” said Pothof. 

Drugmakers are attemping to reassure the public on a coronavirus vaccine after nine drug companies signed a pledge to uphold high ethical standards, stating they will “only submit a vaccine for approval after demonstrating safe and effective trials that meet the requirement of an expert.”

This announcement comes after AstraZeneca’s phase three trial on a COVID-19 vaccine was put on hold after a participant suffered a spinal cord  issue. 

Pothof, who himself took AstraZeneca, praised the drug company's decision to put the trial on hold and said these types of delays are common.

“(Their decision) tells me they are really concerned about safety and it gives them some credibility that if in the end, this trial works out that they did actually take the actions that they needed to take,” said Pothof.

UW-Madison COVID-19 Surge

When asked about the recent surge of cases in Dane County that health officials are linking to the UW-Madison campus, Pothof believes students shouldn’t leave campus and supports the administration's decision to quarantine students at the dorms for 14 days.

“If we get to a point where we have to send students home we want to make sure they don't infect those communities they go back too,” said Pothof.

“I believe the better option is probably to quarantine them before sending them out to communities across the country.”

Absentee Ballots On Hold

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ordered that no absentee ballots be mailed until it gives the go-ahead or makes any future ruling about who should be on the ballot.

The order Thursday came in a lawsuit filed by Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins who asked the state’s highest court to take up his challenge of a Wisconsin Elections Commission decision keeping him off the ballot.

UW-Madison Political Science Professor Howard Schweber called the decision detrimental to the integrity of our election.

"I think we now predict an unprecedented level of chaos in this election, there will be it is almost with certainty there will be thousands if not a tens of thousands of ballots that won't be mail-in or counted," said Schweber.

This decision comes a week before the election officials planned to send out absentee ballots to voters and as of Friday WEC said at least 2.3 million ballots have already been printed.

Schweber believes this is an attempt to cause chaos in our election system less than two months from election day.

"We have a State Supreme Court quite deliberately creating massive chaos effectively as the election is already underway."

Task Force on Race and Policing 

The co-chairs of a new task force are promising to put their political differences aside to find common ground on a package of bills to address the justice system and racial disparities.

Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) will co-chair the new Speaker’s Task Force on racial disparities with Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna).

Stubbs said she’s ready to have a seat at the table and believes this task force will follow through on its promise to pass proposals to reform police departments and find solutions to end racial disparities. 

“I’m not going to change my belief systems or my values," said Rep. Stubbs. "I'm going to make sure we come out with bills that are comprehensive that make sense and really start to address the daunting disparities that exist.”

When asked how the Democrats will advance her policies that were rejected by Republicans during the Governor’s special session on police reform, Stubbs said she believes pressure from black leaders, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Wisconsin sports teams will be a game-changer.

“I believe it’s the pressure from the outside and I think the death of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake has put us in a different place.”

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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