As the prospects for an effective coronavirus vaccination improved for the coming year, Donald Trump became outwardly irritated that he was not in the Oval Office to take credit for it.
For months, Trump had promised a COVID vaccine would arrive shortly. He put much of his electoral hopes on this possibility. But the announcement by two large pharmaceutical companies of the extremely successful trial results for their respective COVID vaccine candidates came in the days following the vote. And while that may have made markets and public health officials happy, for Trump it was nothing but a bunch of frustration.
Prior to the announcement of the breakthroughs, the president had been brainstorming with assistants and close associates on ways to promote the vaccine to the American people. According to two people with first-hand knowledge of his private comments, the president had said he was considering large, public, mask-less events – especially when the weather warmed, what he planned to be, a second term – and rallies to celebrate the success of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership to develop a vaccine. When the distribution began, Trump had wanted to be directly involved in promoting the vaccine, launching a video campaign about the safety and success of his operation.
Trump also considered hosting a public televised event or press conference where he proudly waved and read a list of news headlines, articles and reports that had underestimated him or raised doubts about the timeline. of Operation Warp Speed.
“The president was eager to show that he was right and that the media were wrong,” one of the sources said.
But many of those plans are now scuttled. At the end of January, President-elect Joe Biden will be the leader of the free world, and the West Wing’s communications apparatus will no longer focus on amplifying Trump’s boasting. According to two people who spoke to the president about it, he has become preemptively annoyed that Biden is trying to “steal” money from him for life-saving vaccine developments.
“Another vaccine has just been announced. This time by Moderna, 95% efficient. For these great “historians”, remember that these great discoveries, which will put an end to the Chinese plague, all took place under my supervision! President tweeted Monday, with future credit requests clearly at the forefront of his thinking.
Trump’s grief comes as communities across the country grapple with how to handle spikes in new positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and as the president and current administration continue to block cooperation on coronavirus issues with a new Biden administration. And for the president’s critics, it’s yet another illustration of the perverse priorities he has made in the fight against COVID.
“When [the scientists] say they have a safe and effective vaccine ready for mass distribution, we have to believe them. But I know President Trump has made efforts to politicize this as well. I was in a meeting with him months ago when we were discussing the development of a vaccine and he specifically said that we needed it before ‘November’, ” Olivia Troye, former senior advisor, recounted. of the coronavirus task force that endorsed Biden soon after leaving the Trump administration. .
“President Trump has also made efforts to politicize this. I was at a meeting with him months ago when we were discussing the development of a vaccine and he specifically said we needed it before ‘November’. “
– Olivia Troye, former senior advisor to the coronavirus task force
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the story.
Trump’s now aborted plans for a grand vaccine celebration tour in a second term weren’t the only events he was forced to back down following the election.
In the week before voters went to the polls, Trump and some political lieutenants had also discussed the possibility of holding mass rallies immediately after polling day. Those plans have also been put on hold, at least for now, as Trump officials soured the idea of putting the president back on track to support the die-hard MAGA who still think he has. won, according to two sources close to the plans.
“There were no plans for POTUS rallies,” added a senior Trump campaign official.
Instead, Trump and what remains of his re-election campaign has largely focused on the legal challenges that constitute a frantic and almost thoughtless attempt to overturn the election results. It’s an ultimate legal and messaging blitz for which the President has made his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani the main fighter. As of Monday afternoon, the Trump 2020 shell was still raising money for this and other costly efforts, and using vaccine breakthroughs to do so. “CORONAVIRUS VACCINE UPDATE,” read a text message the Trump campaign released to supporters on Monday. “Another option for the vaccine has just been announced – 95% EFFECTIVE! Unbelievable! President Trump needs your support. Make a donation.”
As the president, in his fundraising appeals and social media missives, presented the news regarding the development of a COVID vaccine as a triumph of his leadership, various senior officials working on the response from the COVID-19 administration warned there was a long way to go. before it reaches the general public.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist and member of the COVID task force, said in a recent interview with The Daily Beast that he expects the first doses of a vaccine to be distributed to healthcare workers by the end of December. . Pfizer and Moderna both said their respective candidates had efficiency rates well over 90%.
However, Fauci said he didn’t expect the general public to have access to the vaccine until this spring.
“This is good news everywhere. Both vaccines are going to be extremely important in containing the epidemic in this country, ”Fauci told the Daily Beast, adding that he expects the administration to be able to view vaccine data from other companies early in this year. next year. He described the Johnson & Johnson version as a “promising candidate”.
“This is good news everywhere. Both vaccines will be extremely important in containing the epidemic in this country.“
– Dr Anthony Fauci
Before the vaccine is distributed, Fauci said the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), led by Dr. Stephen Hahn, will need to review vaccine data from Pfizer and Moderna. In a call with governors across the country on Monday, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Hahn said the FDA has yet to receive this information. But once it does, Fauci said, the FDA will hopefully approve an emergency use authorization, which would allow the administration to begin distributing the vaccine immediately.
“Probably around the end of December,” Fauci said.
In recent months, officials working on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus have developed proposals for distribution to the American public. Plans for manufacturing the vaccine and shipping it to states have been finalized, officials said. But what’s less clear is how state, county, and municipal authorities will distribute doses to residents.
According to several health officials, there is no federal mandate specifying who will receive the vaccine first. There is only one administration recommendation that the first wave of doses go to frontline health workers and the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with co-morbidities. During the call with governors on Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, said the 64 health jurisdictions had submitted outlines on how they plan to distribute the vaccine to residents. Each is specific to the individual jurisdiction depending on resources and how local officials wish to prioritize documents. Redfield said the CDC will continue to work with states to help smooth out those plans.
“People say, ‘Oh my God, how are you going to distribute all these vaccines?’ The CDC does this every year. They distribute like 80 million doses of vaccine. So they’re very experienced, ”Fauci told The Daily Beast. “But whoever decides whether Jane Smith, who’s standing at a desk in a hospital, versus Mary Jones, who’s in the intensive care unit, whether they’re both equal frontline workers, or whether one is more preferential than the other, it will be a local decision. “
While some officials in the Trump administration are wary of possible disruption in vaccine distribution locally, others are more concerned with whether Americans will be lining up to get vaccinated.
In recent months, the CDC has launched a campaign to build the confidence of communities across the country to assure Americans that the vaccine will be safe and effective. During the call with governors on Monday, Redfield again pleaded with state leaders to speak more aggressively about the safety and transparency of the vaccine manufacturing and distribution process.
“We ask all of you to get your leadership to help you,” Redfield said. “I think the biggest risk to our vaccination plan isn’t the vaccine, which is truly miraculous, it builds the confidence of the American public. We had a really big campaign… to build that confidence… to change this talk about vaccine reluctance that we have seen spreading across the country. I think this is something we still have the opportunity to continue.
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