WASHINGTON: US Vice-President Mike Pence received his COVID-19 vaccine live on television on Friday, seeking to shore up public support for vaccinations after US deaths from the coronavirus topped 3,000 for a third straight day. Pence, his wife Karen Pence, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams each rolled up their sleeves and took injections from medical staff in white coats, becoming the highest-profile recipients to receive the vaccine publicly.
“I didn’t feel a thing. Well done,” said Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force. They were injected with the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE that the Food and Drug Administration authorised for emergency use a week ago. The FDA on Friday was expected to approve a second vaccine for emergency use, this one from Moderna Inc.
After answering routine questions about their health, the three of them took their injections in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House campus, seated in front of a blue curtain and screens that declared, “Safe and Effective” and “Operation Warp Speed.” They could be followed by a parade of political leaders, part of a campaign to overcome public scepticism about the safety of vaccines, which underwent large-scale clinical trials and scientific review.
Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have volunteered for public inoculations, and President-elect Joe Biden, who is due to take office on January 20, will get his next week, his aides said.
US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, tapped to be Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he would get vaccinated as soon as he could and was waiting for doses to arrive at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “I hope that’s going to be within the next few days,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday.
While departing President Donald Trump has yet to embrace messages about social distancing and mask-wearing, he has encouraged people to get vaccinated and championed his administration’s Operation Warp Speed programme to promote the development and distribution of vaccines. But Trump, who survived a bout with COVID-19 a few weeks before losing the November 3 election to Biden, has yet to announce his plans for getting a shot.
The US Congress looked increasingly unlikely on Friday to meet a deadline to agree on $900 billion in fresh COVID-19 aid and instead may pass a third stopgap spending bill to keep the government from shutting down at midnight.
After months of partisan finger-pointing and inaction, Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating intensely this week on what is expected to be the biggest package since spring to provide relief to a country struggling with a pandemic that has killed nearly 309,000 Americans.
They have reported progress, but enough differences remained by late on Thursday that talks looked likely to stretch into the weekend. That would force Congress to pass a stopgap spending bill — known as a continuing resolution, or CR — to keep the government operating for a few days after current funding expires at midnight while talks continue.
Congressional leaders plan to pass the COVID-19 aid as part of sweeping legislation to fund the government through September 2021.
The top congressional Democrats — House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer — had a series of telephone conversations with Republican President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, until late on Thursday evening, Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter. — Reuters