Pence, Lawmakers Vaccinated in Show of Confidence for Shot

Vice President Mike Pence received the coronavirus vaccine in a televised event at the White House and top U.S. officials including lawmakers began getting shots as well, as millions of doses were shipped across the country this week.

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will get their first dose of vaccine on Monday, a transition official said. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will get their first shots the following week.

Supreme Court justices have been told by the Capitol physician’s office that they are eligible to receive the vaccine “in the coming days,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email.

As part of an effort to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, Pence and his wife Karen Pence went before cameras to receive the first of two doses of the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE vaccine at an office building on the White House compound. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received the vaccine and made a specific plea to the Black community to trust its efficacy.

“History will record that this week was the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force. “But with cases rising across the country, hospitalizations rising across the country, we have a ways to go.”

At the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress also began getting vaccinated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received her first dose during a visit to the Office of the Attending Physician in the Capitol, her spokesman, Drew Hammill, said.

“Even with a vaccine, I will continue to follow CDC guidelines by continuing to wear a mask and take other science-based steps to stop the spread of the virus,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday announcing she would get the vaccine.

McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tweeted that he had received the shot as part of “continuity of government protocols.” Representative Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said “national leaders must lead by example” in getting the vaccination.

The U.S. distributed about 2.9 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this week, the first since its approval for use. More than 300,000 Americans have died from the virus, and new cases and current hospitalizations have reached record levels this month. Moderna Inc.’s vaccine could receive an emergency use authorization within hours, Pence said.

Pence was the first senior member of President Donald Trump’s administration to publicly get the shot. Trump -- who was hospitalized in October from Covid-19 -- has touted the vaccine and said he’ll take it, but hasn’t said when, fueling questions about his own trust of the medicine. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday declined to set a timeline, or to commit to him getting it while still in office.

Harboring Doubts

Recent polls have shown that confidence in the vaccine is increasing but that many Americans still harbor doubts. Adams directly addressed lingering mistrust of the medical community among African Americans -- acknowledging episodes such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which Black men were told over the span of four decades they were receiving free health care from the government but were instead given placebos and other ineffective treatments for the illness.

“Lack of trust, especially in communities of color, is not without good reason,” Adams said, pointing to the Tuskegee experiment and also the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who unwittingly donated cancer cells at Johns Hopkins Hospital, creating the first immortalized human cell line. Lacks was never asked to consent to her cells being reproduced for research.

“As the U.S. Surgeon General and a Black man, I am equally aware of the symbolic significance of my vaccination here today,” Adams said at the event on Friday. “It would truly be the greatest tragedy of all if disparities in Covid outcomes actually worsened because the people who could most benefit from the vaccine can’t get it or won’t take it.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hailed the milestone but warned that the pandemic won’t end quickly.

Independent Evaluation

“We all hope, and I think this is doable, that by the time we get to several months into this year, we will have enough people protected that we can start thinking seriously about the return to normality,” Fauci said.

On the vaccine’s safety, Fauci added that “the decision as to whether or not it’s safe and effective was not in the hands of the company nor was it in the hands of the administration. It was in the hands of an independent body.”

Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses, meaning Pence and Adams will need to receive a second shot in three weeks.

“I didn’t feel a thing,” Pence said of the shot.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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