Former President Donald Trump encouraged the public to get a COVID-19 vaccine—and noted that a lot of people who are hesitant about getting vaccinated are his own supporters.
Trump quietly received a COVID-19 vaccine in January, CNN reported, and said he “would recommend it” in a Fox News interview this week. “And I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” he continued. “We have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also,” Trump said. “But it’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine, and it’s something that works.”
Although he doesn’t name it specifically, Trump is likely talking about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was authorized in December 2020. This is now one of three vaccines that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized for emergency use, including one from Moderna and one from Johnson & Johnson in addition to the Pfizer vaccine.
While Trump’s pro-vaccine message is a welcome one, it’s important to point out how damaging his (and his larger administration’s) overall response to the pandemic was—and continues to be. Trump knew just how deadly the coronavirus was over a year ago, according to recordings published by the Washington Post, and admitted to downplaying the risks in public. He used racist rhetoric to refer to the coronavirus as recently as this Tuesday, Newsweek reports, which happened to be the same day that a white man shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta.
And in this new Fox interview, Trump took full credit for the vaccine, saying that, without him and the government’s Operation Warp Speed, it would have taken “many, many” years to get a COVID-19 vaccine. In reality, while Pfizer partnered with Warp Speed to scale up the manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine, the company did not receive any assistance from the government during the development process.
Throughout the pandemic, Trump’s rhetoric has encouraged anti-Asian violence and hate crimes. It’s also made it more difficult for the U.S. to contain the pandemic because basic public health measures, like social distancing and wearing masks, became highly politicized, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in a recent interview. Considering how significantly Trump through his words and actions exacerbated the pandemic’s deadly toll on the country, his comments encouraging followers to get the vaccine seem like the very (very) least he could do.