Thursday April 15th, 2021 1:50AM

Trump stays on sidelines as vaccine injections begin

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration helped deliver vaccinations against the coronavirus earlier than even some in his administration thought possible, but the president has been largely absent from the effort to sell the American public on what aides hope will be a key part of his legacy.

Trump launched “Operation Warp Speed” — the government campaign to help swiftly develop and distribute vaccines — this spring with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden.

But now, five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the nation's history, Trump has held no public events to trumpet the rollout. He hasn't been inoculated himself. He has tweeted only twice about the shot. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has taken center stage — touring a vaccine production facility this week and preparing to receive a dose himself on live television Friday morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days.

Trump's relative silence comes as he continues to stew about his defeat in the Nov. 3 election and embraces increasingly extreme efforts to overturn the people's will. 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.

The sheepish approach has been surprising, especially for a president 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's handling of the pandemic 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 — including top government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci — who doubted a shot would be ready this year.

But many Trump aides are puzzled by his low profile now that the vaccine is actually being injected. They see it as a missed opportunity for the president, who leaves office at noon on Jan. 20, 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, President-elect Joe 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.”

Despite Trump's claims, FDA scientists were the ones who came up with the idea for Operation Warp Speed, the White House-backed effort through which millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines and treatments are being manufactured even as they are still being evaluated. And much of the groundwork for the shots was laid over the past decade, including through research on messenger RNA, or mRNA, used in the vaccines developed by both Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer developed its vaccine outside Operation Warp Speed but is partnering with the federal government on manufacturing and distribution.

Trump's low-key approach could have an impact on public health. Fauci told NBC News this week that 75% to 85% of the nation needs to be vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” making the public education campaign about the vaccine’s safety all the more pressing.

A survey from 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 public isn't sure, while the remaining quarter say they aren’t interested. Some simply oppose vaccines in general. Others are concerned that the injections have been rushed and want to see how the rollout goes.

As Trump sat on the sidelines, some of his favored commentators, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, were questioning the safety of the vaccine.

While senior officials are beginning to make plans to receive the vaccine in public to help build public confidence, Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October, is taking his time.

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. Still, Fauci recommended that Trump take it publicly without delay.

“Even though the president himself was infected, and he has, likely, antibodies that likely would be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts. So, to be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated as well as the vice president,” Fauci told ABC News.

It was not clear whether first lady Melania Trump, who came down with COVID-19 at the same time as her husband, would be vaccinated.

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said 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.”

Pence, along with his wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, planned to be vaccinated at 8 a.m. Friday. Biden expects to receive his shot as soon as next week.

“The last thing I would say to every American is be confident that we have cut red tape, but we’ve cut no corners when it comes to the development of this vaccine,” Pence said this week at an Indiana vaccine production facility.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters this week that Trump, who has previously spread misinformation about other vaccines, was trying to send a message about priorities by delaying his own inoculation.

“The president 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," she said.

Gostin disagreed. ”It will be enormously damaging to public trust in the vaccine if President Trump isn’t visibly enthusiastic, including getting his shot on national television,” he argued. “It simply isn’t good enough to have Vice President Pence as a proxy."

Presidents and their family members have often made a display of their vaccinations to boost public confidence. President Dwight Eisenhower highlighted that one of his grandchildren was among the first wave of American children vaccinated for polio. In 2009, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, vaccinated both their young daughters, who were in a higher risk group, for the swine flu.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump stays on sidelines as vaccine injections begin
President Donald Trump’s administration helped bring about vaccinations against the coronavirus earlier than even some of his own officials had hoped for
12:35AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Asian stocks mixed after Wall St record on stimulus hope
Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims
12:10AM ( 47 minutes ago )
Transition stumbles test Biden's bond with Capitol Hill
President-elect Joe Biden brings more Capitol Hill experience than any president in decades
12:10AM ( 47 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Hack against US is 'grave' threat, cybersecurity agency says
The government’s cybersecurity agency is expressing increased alarm about a hack of computer systems in the U.S. and around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russia
10:48PM ( 2 hours ago )
Pelosi, McConnell to get vaccine, urge members to do same
The top leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will be receiving the coronavirus vaccine in the next few days, and Congress’ attending physician has informed members that they are all eligible for the shots under “government continuity” guidelines
10:46PM ( 2 hours ago )
Snags on COVID-19 relief may force weekend sessions
It’s a hurry up and wait moment on Capitol Hill as congressional negotiators on a must-pass, almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package struggle through a handful of remaining snags
9:12PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Asia Today: Beds in short supply as SKorea sees another jump
South Korea has reported 1,062 new cases of the coronavirus, its third straight day of over 1,000, as authorities in Seoul warn that hospital beds are in short supply
11:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
Asian stocks sink after Wall St hits record on stimulus hope
Asian stock markets are lower after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims
10:33PM ( 2 hours ago )
Judge says strip club ruling also protects restaurants
A California judge said Thursday that all restaurants in San Diego County can resume on-site dining with safety protocols, marking a setback to the governor’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus
9:17PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Coca-Cola laying off 2,200 workers as it pares brands
The Coca-Cola Co. says it’s laying off 2,200 workers, or 17% of its global workforce, as part of a larger restructuring aimed at paring down its brands
5:28PM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: NBA star Antetokounmpo appears in safety ad
NBA basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo has appeared in a commercial in his native Greece, released ahead of Christmas to urge people to observe public safety measures during the pandemic
5:03PM ( 7 hours ago )
Biden picks deal-makers, fighters for climate, energy team
Joe Biden has picked some experienced deal-makers and fighters for a climate team he’ll ask to remake much of the U.S. economy
4:59PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Vaccines reach COVID-ravaged Indigenous communities
The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are arriving at Native American communities that have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic
5:27PM ( 7 hours ago )
Hot spot: California hospitals buckle as virus cases surge
Hospitals across California have all but run out of intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients, ambulances are backing up outside emergency rooms, and tents for triaging the sick are going up
4:39PM ( 8 hours ago )
US cybersecurity agency warns of 'grave' threat from hack
U.S. authorities are expressing increased alarm about an intrusion into computer systems around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russia
4:06PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Toughest COVID-19 rules extended to much of south England
Britain's health secretary says large parts of southern England will be placed under the country’s strictest coronavirus restrictions from this weekend, as infections and hospital admissions continue to surge in those areas
10:12AM ( 14 hours ago )
The Latest: France's Macron tests positive for COVID-19
France’s Elysee Palace says President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the coronavirus
7:59AM ( 17 hours ago )
The Latest: Tokyo reports record cases, straining hospitals
Tokyo has reported 822 new cases of the coronavirus, a new high for the Japanese capital
1:33AM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Asian stocks mixed after Wall St record on stimulus hope
Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims
12:10AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Transition stumbles test Biden's bond with Capitol Hill
President-elect Joe Biden brings more Capitol Hill experience than any president in decades
12:10AM ( 50 minutes ago )
COVID-19 models plot dire scenarios for California hospitals
Gov. Gavin Newsom's dire view of California’s out-of-control surge of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths is based partly on projection models that he says are becoming alarmingly more accurate
12:06AM ( 54 minutes ago )
US experts debate: Who should be next in line for vaccine?
Experts are debating who should be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines when more doses become available
12:05AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Raiders lose QB Carr, fall in overtime to Chargers, Herbert
Justin Herbert scored on 1-yard plunge to give the Los Angeles Chargers a 30-27 overtime victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night
12:03AM ( 57 minutes ago )