President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday that his team is working to get him the coronavirus vaccine and that he plans to receive his doses on camera.
“We’re working on that now,” he said. “I don’t want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take. They’re working on that plan right now. And when I do it, I’ll do it publicly so you all can actually witness my getting it done.”
Biden, 78, had already committed to taking the coronavirus vaccine.
As the first emergency doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, were distributed Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, suggested Tuesday that both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris get their doses “as soon as we possibly can.”
“For security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can,” said Fauci. “You want him fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January. So that would be my strong recommendation.”
The number of new COVID-19 infections has risen dramatically in recent weeks. The disease has now killed more than 300,000 Americans. Biden’s office said Wednesday that a journalist in his press pool had tested positive for the virus. However, it said the reporter was never in close contact with the president-elect, although one of Biden’s communications staffers is now self-isolating “out of an abundance of caution.”
Dr. Dara Kass, a Columbia University associate professor of emergency medicine and a Yahoo News medical contributor, echoed Fauci, saying it was “critically important” for Biden and Harris to receive both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before their Jan. 20 inauguration.
“It’s critically important to get it going. Vaccinating them now is smart because they’ll be fully vaccinated by the time they take office,” said Kass, who added that both should be immunized publicly in order to instill public confidence in the vaccine. Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that 27 percent of respondents probably or definitely would not get a coronavirus vaccine. The level of skepticism among nonwhite Americans is far higher, with only 14 percent of Black people and 34 percent of Latinos saying they believed a vaccine would be safe.
Fauci recommended that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence receive the vaccine as soon as possible as well. Although the president tweeted Sunday that he is not yet “scheduled to take the vaccine,” members of his administration have implied that it would be in the president’s — and the country’s — best interest to have him vaccinated.
“I certainly will say broadly that it is important for the leaders of the world to be vaccinated from a continuity of operations perspective,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on CNN Monday.
Trump contracted the disease in the fall, although it’s still unknown when he first tested positive and how severe the course of his illness was. He was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after just three days and held a campaign rally in Florida less than a week after his diagnosis became public.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was “absolutely open to taking the vaccine” and will receive it when his “medical team determines that it’s best.”
Trump announced over the weekend that he was delaying a plan for White House staffers to get early access to the vaccine, tweeting that they “should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.” And Kass said that, regardless of whether staffers are vaccinated early or not, the White House’s public health measures should remain in effect.
“The vaccine protects the person who is vaccinated from getting sick or dying,” said Kass. “We don’t know if it protects you from being able to spread the virus. So vaccinating staff should not change the public health measures that should be in place in the White House. We can’t say for sure what it says about the transmissibility environment.”
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