We’ve been waiting for vaccines.

“We” in this case being, in effect, the entire world.

And the vaccines, of course, are those that researchers have been working on — feverishly, it is fair, if perhaps inelegant, to say — to give humans some measure of protection against coronavirus.

And yet not even something as potentially beneficial as these vaccines is immune to the insidious infection of politics.

Earlier this week there was a flurry of media reports about an Aug. 27 letter from Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to governors that asked them to try to be ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 1.

Redfield’s letter did not state that a vaccine would be widely available on that date. Another CDC document noted that a limited number of doses might be available by early November, with much larger numbers of doses arriving in 2021.

But rather than modest optimism, which you might reasonably have expected, this news also generated cynicism. An Associated Press story quoted Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert, who said he’s worried that the CDC letter constitutes an “October surprise” — a term denoting an effort by a presidential candidate to garner votes with a revelation not long before the election. In this case the implication is that President Trump is trying to hoodwink voters with a hollow promise about a vaccine.

But let’s consider the alternatives. Would you prefer that the CDC intentionally delay efforts to prepare for vaccinations merely to avoid the appearance of political motivations? What might the reaction be if it turned out that the Trump administration dallied, and we weren’t prepared, as a nation, to distribute the vaccine as rapidly as we could have? Moreover, if a vaccine isn’t available, even in a very limited way, by Nov. 1, then it seems likely that this particular October surprise would help Joe Biden more than it would Donald Trump.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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