WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence became the most senior US official to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday during a live TV event to reassure Americans that the shot is safe. He celebrated the milestone as “a medical miracle” that could eventually contain the raging pandemic.
Remarkably, the victory round is missing: President Donald Trump, who has remained largely out of sight for five days in the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history.
Pence, meanwhile, has taken on an increasingly prominent role in highlighting the safety and efficacy of the injections, including a tour of a vaccine manufacturing facility this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell both said on Thursday that they will be vaccinated in the coming days. President-elect Joe Biden expects to get his shot next week.
‘I didn’t feel anything. Good job, ”Pence told the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center technicians who administered his Pfizer-BioNTech injection early Friday morning. Pence did not flinch during the quick shot, as did his wife, Karen, or Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who also received footage on the White House television program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“Hope is coming,” Pence said later. “The American people can rely on it: We will have one and maybe two safe vaccines within hours,” he added, referring to the expected FDA approval of a second vaccine by Moderna.
He did not respond to shouted questions about why the president was not headlining a similar event.
Adams, who is black, stressed the “importance of representation” in reaching out to communities at risk and encouraged Americans to avoid misinformation surrounding the vaccines.
Five days after the start of the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history, Trump has been largely absent from the bid to sell the American public whose hope will be an important part of his legacy. He has not held any public events to trumpet the rollout. He has not been vaccinated himself. And he’s tweeted about the recording less than a handful of times.
Trump’s relative silence comes as he continues to brave his defeat in the November 3 election and embraces increasingly extreme attempts to overthrow the will of the people. He has pushed aside the plans of aides who wanted him to become the public face of the vaccination campaign, avoid visits to labs and manufacturing facilities to thank employees, or host efforts to build public confidence in the shot, according to people familiar with the conversations.
The sheepish approach was surprising, especially for a president who is rarely shy about taking credit, said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown Law professor who focuses on public health.
“The president’s relatively low profile of the COVID response since the election is curious and runs counter to Mr. Trump’s own interests,” he said. Gostin, who has criticized Trump’s past handling of the pandemic, said he “deserves a lot of credit” for Operation Warp Speed and bet on two vaccines that use breakthrough mRNA technology..
“He has shown leadership in vaccine development and should be proud to publicly show his confidence in COVID vaccines,” he said.
Trump appeared at a White House “summit” last week ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine. That event included an introductory video highlighting previous comments from those – including top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci – who doubted a recording would be ready this year.
Trump “will continue to update the country in a variety of ways, while giving medical professionals and hardworking OWS employees the space to do their jobs and save lives,” said Brian Morgenstern, deputy press secretary for the White House.
But many Trump aides are amazed at his low profile now that the vaccine is actually being injected. They see it as a missed opportunity for the president, who will leave office at noon on January 20, to claim credit for overseeing the rapid development and deployment of the vaccine that is expected to finally contain the virus that is more than 310,000 Americans killed. .
Trump himself has tried to minimize the credit of his successor, Biden, who will lead most of the nationwide injection campaign next year.
“Don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccines,” Trump told reporters. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines, because the vaccines were me, and I’ve pushed people harder than ever before.”
Despite Trump’s claims, FDA scientists were the ones who got the idea for Operation Warp Speed, the White House-backed effort that manufactures millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, while they are still being evaluated. And much of the foundation for the recordings has been laid over the past decade, including research on messenger RNA, or mRNA, used in the vaccines developed by both Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer developed its vaccine outside of Operation Warp Speed, but is working with the federal government for manufacturing and distribution.
Trump’s restrained approach could have implications for public health. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC News this week that 75% to 85% of the country must be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” adding to the vaccine safety awareness campaign. becomes more urgent. .
A survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about half of Americans want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Another quarter of the audience is not sure, while the remaining quarter says they are not interested. Some are just against vaccines in general. Others are concerned that the injections have been rushed and want to see how the rollout goes.
Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October, has yet to indicate when and if he will receive the shot.
According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there isn’t enough information yet to determine whether those who have had COVID-19, such as Trump, should receive the vaccine. Still, Fauci recommended that Trump take it in public without delay.
Even though the president himself was infected and likely has antibodies that would likely be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts. So, to be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated, as would the vice president, ”Fauci told ABC News.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters this week that Trump, who has previously circulated misinformation about other vaccines, “ wants to send a parallel message that, you know, the residents of our long-term care facility and our front-line workers at the largest are important. importance, ”she said.
Gostin disagreed. “It will be hugely damaging to public confidence in the vaccine if President Trump is not visibly enthusiastic, including getting his picture on national television,” he said. “It’s just not good enough to have Vice President Pence as a nominee.”