Slaoui urges Trump to encourage supporters to get vaccine

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The scientist leading the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed beseeched the president on Tuesday to use his platform to promote the newly arrived coronavirus vaccines to his core supporters.“There’s a whole fringe of the population that listens to the president very carefully, and therefore he has an important role,” Moncef Slaoui said on CNN. “I know he has been very supportive of the vaccine development, so I hope he will be, of course, as supportive of its usage.”While President Donald Trump championed the vaccine’s arrival on his Twitter account, the amount of public attention he’s devoted to the development has been dwarfed by his fixation on casting doubt on the integrity of the presidential election he lost and his attempts to overturn its results.White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that the president “has great confidence in” the new vaccines, but declined to say whether he would do so in public. “He will receive the vaccine if the medical team determines that it’s best,” McEnany told reporters at a press briefing. She also insisted the president is focusing on the response effort. “Just because you don’t see him at the podium every day doesn’t mean that he’s not aggressively pursuing actions on behalf of the American people,” McEnany said during a press briefing.Trump over the weekend tweeted that he was “not scheduled to take the vaccine but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.” Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, said on Tuesday that Trump and President-elect Joe Biden should be inoculated as a matter of national security.“For security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “You want him fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January. So that would be my strong recommendation.”Slaoui said he agreed with Fauci’s recommendation, noting that both Trump and Biden are in their 70s.“I think it is very important that our leaders — departing ones and arriving ones — are protected,” he said. “Both President Trump and President-elect Biden are both parts of the higher age group and therefore higher risk. So yeah, I think they should be vaccinated.”The president tested positive for the disease in October, but Fauci and other experts say they should still get vaccinated due to the risk of reinfection.“To be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated, as well as the vice president,” Fauci said.Trump also reversed plans to have White House staffers among the first to receive doses of the two-step vaccine, which McEnany said Monday was in order to ensure shots would be available to frontline health care workers and high-risk populations. White House officials have told POLITICO they are continuing to hash out plans for a more limited universe of people to still receive shots in order to ensure government operations are not disrupted. Biden vowed to take the vaccine in public as soon as it became available, and his transition team has been consulting with Fauci — who the president-elect has named his chief medical adviser — about the timing of when to do so. Earlier Tuesday the FDA stated that the vaccine developed by Moderna was safe and effective for use in adults, positioning the drug for authorization as soon as this week. The panel last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a vaccine made by Pfizer based on similar mRNA technology, and FDA granted authorization for its use in people aged 16 and up Friday night. “I think both vaccines will have a great impact on this pandemic going forward,” Slaoui said. An independent FDA advisory panel will meet Thursday to consider recommendations for the Moderna vaccine that will be passed along to the agency, which is expected to authorize the shot soon after. The federal government plans to ship out nearly 6 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine across 3,285 sites in the first week after the FDA gives the green light, according to Gen. Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer.

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