Biden downplays Trump’s potential role promoting Covid vaccines to ‘MAGA folks’

President emphasises role of local doctors, preachers, and priests in advocating for public health steps such as getting vaccines and wearing masks

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Monday 15 March 2021 19:36
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Joe Biden is minimising the hypothetical importance of Donald Trump promoting the effectiveness of Covid vaccines to his supporters, most of whom remain at least somewhat sceptical of the three shots that have been approved for use in the US.

“I’m hearing a lot of reports from serious reporters like you saying that. I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community would say,” Mr Biden said in response to a shouted question from a reporter after delivering prepared remarks on Monday.

“So I urge all local docs and ministers and priests to talk about why, why it's important to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask,” he said.

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In the face of stubborn opposition to vaccines from people who voted for Mr Trump last November, pundits in Washington have latched onto the notion that the former president could do the nation a massive service by urging his supporters to get their jabs when they become available.

Dr Anthony Fauci and White House press secretary Jen Psaki have both acknowledged over the last two days that they would certainly welcome Mr Trump promoting the efficacy of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently in circulation.

The US has administered more than 109m doses of Covid vaccines to Americans. Moderna and Pfizer utilise a two-dose programme, so fewer Americans have been vaccinated than that figure would suggest. But within the next 10 days, Mr Biden announced on Monday, the US will cross the threshold of having administered vaccines to 100m Americans, the most of any country on the planet.

An increasingly frustrated Dr Fauci expressed his puzzlement on Sunday that Republican voters remain sceptical of getting one of the three approved vaccines, saying it marks a “disturbing” trend.

It would “be very helpful” if Mr Trump could sell the vaccines to his defiant base of supporters, Dr Fauci told Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.”

Recent polling has found that a strong plurality of people who voted for Mr Trump in last November’s elections say they will not get vaccinated for the virus that has killed more than half a million Americans in the last 12 months.

Just 30 per cent of Trump voters said they have been vaccinated or want to get one, compared to 47 per cent who said they would not, a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found. Among Biden voters, 58 per cent said they have gotten the vaccine or would get one while just 10 per cent said they would not.

Mr Trump has never opposed the vaccine. In fact, one of his main campaign pitches to voters ahead of his November matchup Mr Biden was his administration’s work to fast-track development and mass production of Covid vaccine candidates at record speed.

The ex-president released a statement last week claiming credit for the vaccine rollout as more than 2m Americans per day receive doses.

“I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all. I hope everyone remembers!” Mr Trump said in his statement.

But such appeals for political credit have not persuaded Republican voters that the vaccines themselves are worth getting.

“We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from common sense, no-brainer public health things,” Dr Fauci said in a separate interview on Sunday with NBC.

Previous vaccines have “rescued” Americans from smallpox, polio, and the measles, he said.

“What is the problem here?” he said.

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