Facing pressure to more enthusiastically promote Covid-19 vaccines with vast numbers of Republicans still hesitant about getting inoculated, former President Donald Trump delivered a ringing endorsement of the jab in an interview with the New York Post on Thursday.
In his first public media effort dedicated solely to endorsing the vaccine, Trump said he’s “all in favor” of the shot, adding it’s a “great thing” that people “should take advantage of.”
The former president has endorsed the vaccine several times—he advocated for the shot during two separate interviews with Fox News and once during a Conservative Political Action Conference speech in February—but this marks the first time he has given an interview focused specifically on encouraging Americans to get immunized.
“Nobody should be forced, we have our freedoms” but it’s a “real lifesaver,” Trump said.
Republicans are among the groups with the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy, with 45% indicating they do not plan on getting the vaccine in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
The former president indicated he had no adverse reaction to the shot: “Not even a bit of arm soreness,” he told the Post.
Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, called on Trump to do the “right thing” and release photos of himself being vaccinated in an interview with ABC’s The View last week.
Trump was notably missing from a a vaccine public service announcement featuring former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter released in March. A Trump spokesperson has claimed the Ad Council, which filmed the vaccine PSA, did not invite the former president to participate in the ad. An Ad Council spokesperson told Reuters last month Trump was not included because one of the commercials was filmed at Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which Trump did not attend.
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday, Trump said he doesn’t understand why Republicans are skeptical of Covid-19 vaccines. “I don’t know what that is exactly,” he said. While endorsing the shot in various interviews, Trump has sought to take credit for bringing vaccines to market. Touting Operation Warp Speed—a public–private partnership launched by the Trump administration to accelerate vaccine development—and his pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to approve a shot, Trump has claimed it would have taken “many, many years” for Covid-19 vaccines to be produced if not for him. Experts say Operation Warp Speed achieved many of the targets it set out to reach, but floundered when it came to the rollout.
The New York Post, a conservative-leaning tabloid which endorsed Trump for reelection, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated in an editorial this week. However, the publication has for weeks run stories about rare side effects to the shots that could make people vaccine-hesitant.
What To Watch For
How other Republicans rally behind the vaccine effort with Trump now a more prominent endorser. In an interview this week with conservative Wisconsin radio host Vicki McKenna, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) slammed the effort to get everyone inoculated, saying he is “getting highly suspicious” of the “big push to make sure everybody gets the vaccine.”
The crash landing of ‘Operation Warp Speed’ (Politico)