Vice President Mike Pence became the highest-ranking U.S. official to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday in a live-television event aimed at reassuring Americans the shot is safe. He celebrated the milestone as “a medical miracle” that could eventually contain the raging pandemic.
Pence has taken an increasingly visible role in highlighting the safety and efficacy of the shots, including touring a vaccine production facility this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.
Joe Biden expects to receive his shot as soon as next week.
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“I didn’t feel a thing. Well done,” Pence told the technicians from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who administered his Pfizer-BioNTech shot early Friday morning.
Pence didn’t flinch during the quick prick, nor did his wife, Karen, or Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who also received shots during the televised White House event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“Hope is on the way,” Pence later said. “The American people can be confident: We have one and perhaps within hours two safe vaccines,” he added, referring to the FDA’s expected authorization of a second vaccine by Moderna.
Adams, who is Black, emphasized “the importance of representation” in outreach to at-risk communities and encouraged Americans to avoid disinformation around the vaccines.
Meanwhile, Trump has remained relatively silent on one of his administration’s most impressive achievements, focusing on his apparent defeat in the Nov. 3 election. He’s pushed aside the plans of aides who wanted him to be the public face of the vaccination campaign, eschewing visits to labs and production facilities to thank workers, or hosting efforts to build public confidence in the shot, according to people familiar with the conversations.
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The approach has been surprising, especially for a president who eagerly embraces the spotlight and is rarely shy to take credit, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law who focuses on public health.
“The president’s relatively low profile on the COVID response since the election is curious and counter to Mr. Trump’s own interests,” he said. Gostin, who has criticized Trump in the past, said that he “deserves a great deal of credit” for Operation Warp Speed and placing a bet on two vaccines that use groundbreaking mRNA technology.
“Having exhibited leadership in the vaccines’ development, he should take great pride in publicly demonstrating his trust in COVID vaccines,” he said.
Trump did appear at a White House “summit” ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine last week. That event included an introductory video highlighting the past comments of those who doubted a shot would be ready this year.
Trump “will continue to update the country through a variety of means while giving medical professionals and hardworking staff at OWS the space to do their jobs and save lives,” said White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern.
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But many Trump aides are reportedly puzzled by his low profile now that the vaccine is actually being injected. They see it as a missed opportunity for the president to claim credit for helping oversee the speedy development and deployment of the vaccine that is expected to finally contain the virus that has killed more than 310,000 Americans.
Trump himself has tried to minimize any credit that might go to his successor, Biden, who will preside over the bulk of the nationwide injection campaign next year.
“Don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccines,” Trump has told reporters. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me, and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before.”
According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is not yet enough information to determine whether those who have had COVID-19, like Trump, should get the vaccine.
Previously, the president promised to get the vaccine when it’s his turn.
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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters this week that Trump “wants to send a parallel message which is, you know, our long-term care facility residents and our front-line workers are paramount in importance.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article