United States President-elect Joe Biden will receive his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, his press secretary announced, as Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking government officials to receive their doses on Friday.
Biden’s incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki, on Friday said that Biden’s wife Jill, will also be getting an injection on Monday and that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, are expected to receive their doses the week after next.
Psaki told reporters that Biden would be receiving the shot in public, as Pence did, in an effort event aimed at reassuring Americans the shot is safe.
President Donald Trump, who frequently downplayed the severity of the virus and feuded with his top public health officials, has so far largely remained out of sight five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history – one that could eventually put an end to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
He has held no public events to trumpet the roll-out and he has not been inoculated himself. And he has tweeted fewer than a handful of times about the shot.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern said on Friday that the president, who contracted the disease back in October, is currently discussing with his medical team
“There are medical professionals I think providing advice, and there’s some public reporting on that that says that for someone who’s recently recovered and had the antibodies, it may not be as immediate a need for that person to be vaccinated,” Morgenstern told reporters.
Pence, meanwhile, has taken an increasingly visible role in highlighting the safety and efficacy of the shots, including touring a vaccine production facility this week.
The top two leaders in the US Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also received COVID-19 vaccinations Friday.
Pence did not flinch during the quick prick, nor did his wife, Karen, or Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who also received shots.
“I didn’t feel a thing. Well done,” Pence told the technicians from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who administered his Pfizer-BioNTech shot early Friday morning in a live televised event.
The Pfizer vaccine is composed of a two-dose regimen. A second shot is required about three weeks later.
“Hope is on the way,” Pence later said. “The American people can be confident: We have one and perhaps within hours two safe vaccines,” he added, referring to the FDA’s expected authorisation of a second vaccine by Moderna.
The US death toll from the disease meanwhile surpassed 312,000 with 3,300 deaths added on Thursday, according to John Hopkins University.
Front-line healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents have been given priority to get vaccinated, but a parade of high-profile jabs could soon follow.
Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have volunteered for public inoculations.