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 brings us here this morning,” Pence said after being injected, quipping: “I didn’t feel a thing.”
Pence, his wife Karen and the nation s lead public health official, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, were all given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the 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.
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.
Early 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 allowing 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 its 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 US Capitol, adding that mask wearing and social distancing should be continued as the vaccine is distributed.
For his part, McConnell said: “Vaccines are how we beat this virus.”