Ex-US presidents offer to take Covid-19 vaccine publicly
Three former US presidents have volunteered to take shots of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine — when it is approved — publicly to persuade Americans who are sceptical about inoculations.
Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama — three of the four living former presidents — conveyed their offer in public remarks to CNN and SiriusXM on Wednesday. There was no word on the fourth, President Jimmy Carter, who is the oldest among them and beat cancer in 2015.
“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera,” Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff told CNN, and added that the former president had asked him to reach out to Anthony Fauci and Deborah Brix, members of the White House task force on coronavirus, with his offer of whatever help he could extend.
Clinton’s press secretary also told the news channel that the former president “will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same”.
And Obama told SiriusXM that if Fauci, the top epidemiologist who has emerged as the most trusted voice in America on Covid-19 and the vaccines in the pipeline, “tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunise you from getting Covid, absolutely, I’m going to take it”.
“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid,” the Democrat added.
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German BioNTech applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their vaccine candidate on November 22. Moderna, another US company, applied for the same on November 30. Their vaccines — which have an efficacy of 95% — are expected to become available in the country around mid-December after the FDA meets on December 10 and 17 to take a call on the same.
Frontline workers such as health professionals and law enforcement personnel, and residents of nursing homes will be the first two groups of recipients, according to a recommendation by the US Centers for Disease Control.
Despite being hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic — more than 271,000 fatalities and nearly 14 million confirmed infections — many Americans have been leery of any cure or therapeutics. Among several reasons for this distrust are also allegations that the Donald Trump administration — which has been criticised for not taking the public health crisis seriously enough — pushed agencies to approve vaccines in a rush to improve his chances of re-election ahead of the November 3 polls.
The President has also spoken about the efficacy of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, which he forced the drug regulator to clear for emergency use despite studies suggesting it is not a Covid-19 cure, and went so far as to suggest the injection of household cleaning agents.
More than two-thirds — 66% of respondents — told Gallup in a poll in July they would not agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drug regulator, was available to them at the time, and at no cost. Only 34% said they would.
More Americans have come around since. The latest Gallup poll, conducted in a period ending November 1, before the announcements by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna found that nearly six in 10 — 58% — respondents said they will take the shots, but 42% were still not convinced.
A majority of those sceptical of the vaccines (37%) in the Gallup poll cited “rushed timeline for the development of the vaccine” as their reason.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have indeed come in record time, aided also by an all-in effort from the Trump administration under its Operation Warp Speed, which provided massive federal aid for their development.
According to the latest poll, almost 26% of those distrustful of the vaccine said they would wait to see if the vaccine was safe; 12% were those who said they just didn’t trust vaccines, and 10% wanted to see how effective the vaccine was before agreeing to take the shots.
Distrust of vaccines among African-Americans, who are among the hardest hit by Covid-19, too goes back in history.
In the Tuskegee Experiment -- which began in 1932 and went on for years -- African-American men, many of whom suffered from latent syphilis, were administered placebos such as aspirin and mineral even after penicillin had made the disease curable. Many of the participants eventually lost their eye eyesight and died of the disease as the researchers studied long-term progression of the illness.
“I understand you know historically -- everything dating back all the way to the Tuskegee experiments and so forth -- why the African American community, would have some scepticism,” Obama said in the SiriusXM interview. “But the fact of the matter is, is that vaccines are why we don’t have polio anymore, the reason why we don’t have a whole bunch of kids dying from measles and smallpox and diseases that used to decimate entire populations and communities.”
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- Biden also issued executive orders reversing some of former President Donald Trump's immigration policies, such as halting work on a US-Mexico border wall and lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries.