Trump explicitly rejected leading the US vaccine drive and is letting Mike Pence and Congressional leaders do it instead

  • President Donald Trump declined to lead efforts to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, The Associated Press reported.
  • The president's aides wanted him to embark on trips thanking essential workers and boosting trust in the vaccine, but he passed.
  • Vice President Mike Pence will instead be the center of attention. He is due to be vaccinated live on TV at 8 a.m. ET on Friday.
  • Trump has indicated he will take the vaccine, but has not set a date or said whether he will do it in public.
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President Donald Trump turned down the chance to be the face of the US vaccine rollout, instead letting Vice president Mike Pence take center stage, The Associated Press reported. 

At 8 a.m. ET on Friday, Pence and his wife, Karen, are due to be injected live on TV in a move designed to bolster public confidence in the shot. The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, is also schedule to receive the vaccine.

The public display comes a day after the US government launched a $250 million plan to support the vaccine, responding to worries that anti-vaccine sentiment, fueled by disinformation, might discourage people.

White House officials had wanted Trump to be the face of the vaccination drive, the AP said, but could not persuade him.

The president's aides asked him if he would make efforts to thank essential workers and boost trust in the vaccine, but he declined, the AP said.

Pence made one of those symbolic trips on Tuesday, touring a vaccine production facility run by Catalent in Bloomington, Indiana.

The decision to turn down the opportunity is a change from Trump's history of claiming personal responsibility for delivering the vaccine to the US, and his attempts to prevent his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, from getting any credit.

Aides told the AP that they were puzzled by the decision, and saw it as a missed opportunity.

Trump has indicated that he will get the vaccine, but has not said when, or whether he would do it publicly.

Trump's reticence to get vaccinated may be due to lingering concerns over the antibody cocktail he was given after testing positive for COVID-19 in October.

However, Dr. Vinay Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, told The Times that Trump is in no danger from the vaccine and there is "no scientific reason not to get vaccinated."

Read More: Meet Deb Haaland, Biden's historic pick for Interior secretary. She'll be the first Native American to hold the job if confirmed. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told the AP that Trump's delay in getting the vaccine was because he wants to set an example by letting those with higher priority go first.

"The president wants to send a parallel message which is, you know, our long-term care facility residents and our front-line workers are paramount in importance," she said.

She did not explain why the same logic does not apply to Pence.

Lawrence Gostin, a public health professor of at Georgetown Law told the AP: "It will be enormously damaging to public trust in the vaccine if President Trump isn't visibly enthusiastic, including getting his shot on national television."

"It simply isn't good enough to have Vice President Pence as a proxy."

Aside from Pence, a number of other prominent US political figures have pledged to take the vaccine publicly and said they would do so on TV.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to get the vaccine on TV sometime between December 21 and December 23, CNN reported on Wednesday.

Three former presidents — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush — have said they too will be getting vaccinated and offered to do it on TV.

A group of senior lawmakers and Supreme Court justices will also soon be vaccinated, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

It said that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be among the first.

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