US Vice President Mike Pence received a Covid-19 vaccine live on television Friday in a public display designed to boost national confidence in the drug, while President-elect Joe Biden is set to receive his shot on Monday.
“Building confidence in the vaccine is what brought us here this morning,” Pence said after being injected, quipping: “I didn’t feel a thing.”
Pence, his wife Karen and the nation’s leading public health official, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, were all given the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine in an annex to the White House.
Signalling the importance given to the event, top infectious disease official Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield were also in the room.
Notably absent was President Donald Trump himself.
The Republican has sent mixed messages about the seriousness of Covid-19 throughout the crisis, even as the US death toll topped 300,000 this month.
However, he has been keen to take credit for the historic speed of vaccine development.
Earlier Friday, he tweeted that a second drug, made by Moderna, had been “overwhelmingly approved” and that distribution would “start immediately.”
This sparked confusion. An advisory panel recommended emergency use approval for Moderna’s vaccine on Thursday, but the Food and Drug Administration was not expected to give the green light to allow distribution until later Friday.
Trump has made clear he is not planning to take the vaccine imminently, citing the belief that his recovery from a brief but severe bout of covid has given him immunity.
“He will receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best. But his priority is frontline workers, those in long-term care facilities,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were given the vaccine on Friday.
Pelosi cited “confidence in science” as she received the injection at the U.S. Capitol, adding that mask-wearing and social distancing should continue as the vaccine is distributed.
For his part, McConnell said, “Vaccines are how we beat this virus.”
On Thursday, congressional attending physician Brian Monahan sent an “unequivocal” message to all members urging them to take the vaccine.
“The benefit far exceeds any small risk,” he wrote.
– Fighting ‘misinformation’ –
Biden, eager to build Americans’ confidence in the vaccines, will meanwhile receive his first dose at a Delaware facility Monday, one month before he takes office.
“He will be doing it in public, which is important to us, as he’s stated many times, to send a clear message to the public that it’s safe,” Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be vaccinated the following week.
Large numbers of Americans subscribe to the anti-vaccination movement, and hostility to the Covid-19 vaccines in particular has been stirred by right-wing media personalities and conspiracy theorists.
“It feels false because it is, it’s too slick,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson told viewers Thursday.
There is also a focus on mistrust among African Americans, a group that Adams, who is black, addressed after he got his dose.
Americans should not “let misinformation and mistrust cause you to make a decision that is bad for your health,” he said. AFP