U.S. President-elect Joe Biden received a COVID-19 vaccine live on television on Monday in a campaign to boost Americans’ confidence in the jabs — and in marked contrast to President Donald Trump’s mixed messaging.
The 78-year-old incoming president got the Pfizer vaccine at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware. His wife Jill received the shot earlier, the presidential transition team said.
Mr. Biden told Americans “there’s nothing to worry about” when they get vaccinated and that in the meantime they should keep wearing masks and “listen to the experts.”
He and the future first lady were the latest high-profile political figures publicly joining the first wave of vaccinations aimed at stopping a pandemic that has killed almost 318,000 Americans.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband will be vaccinated next week.
Meanwhile, the serving vice president, Mike Pence, and his wife got vaccinations last week. Mr. Trump, however, has yet to take part in the drive.
The Republican leader — who has become consumed by pushing conspiracy theories that his election loss to Biden was the result of mass fraud — cites the natural immunity he is believed to enjoy after recovering from a bout of coronavirus.
Surgeon general Jerome Adams reinforced that argument at the weekend that, saying that due to the antibodies the president received from his infection, “that is actually one scenario where we tell people maybe you should hold off on getting the vaccine.”
However, he has done little, even in terms of issuing statements, to support the campaign to overcome Americans’ vaccine skepticism.
His wife, Melania Trump, who likewise contracted COVID-19, has also been largely absent from the issue.
The inconsistent messaging is part of a pattern with Trump, who throughout the pandemic has veered from declaring himself a wartime leader to scoffing at scientists and insisting that the disease will go away without major changes in Americans’ daily lives.
Oldest to assume presidency
Mr. Biden will be the oldest president ever to take office on January 20.
This was the first shot in the two-stage Pfizer vaccine and he said he was “looking forward” to the follow-up.
Mr. Biden praised “the scientists and the people who put this together — frontline workers, people who were the ones who actually did the clinical work.”
He called medical workers “amazing and incredible.”
Mr. Biden also had some rare praise for the Trump administration, which he said “deserves some credit” for overseeing record-speedy development and production of vaccines.
Distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines began a week ago and on Monday a second vaccine, this time made by Moderna, went into use.
But Mr. Biden, who spoke through a double mask, cautioned that there was still a long way to go before the inoculations can really halt the virus’ spread.
“It’s worth stating that, you know, this is just the beginning,” he said. “It’s going to take time.”
“In the meantime,” he said, “I hope people listen to all the experts… talking about the need to wear masks” during the holidays.
“If you don’t have to travel, don’t travel. It’s really important.”
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.
There are also swaths of the country where mask wearing sees little adherence — and in some cases is actively opposed.