President Trump, a man with a history of making anti-vaccination comments, is furious at former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for saying what everyone is thinking: That the Trump administration’s promise of a covid-19 vaccine just in time for the 2020 election sounds a little too good to be true.
On Sunday, during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Harris was asked whether she would trust a vaccine doled out by the Trump administration before Election Day.
“I think that we have learned since this pandemic started, but really before that, that there’s very little that we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” Harris said.
Harris accused Trump of creating “false expectations” for the American people and prioritizing political expediency over safety.
“And so, no, I would not trust his word,” she said. “I would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump.”
During a campaign stop in Pennsylvania on Monday, reporters asked Biden whether he would take a covid-19 vaccine if it was released just before Election Day. Biden said he would need to see what scientists said first and worried that Trump is “undermining public confidence” in a legitimate vaccine.
In other words: Believe scientists and public health experts, not the Trump administration.
And now Trump is playing offense and painting Biden and Harris as anti-vaxxers. During a White House press conference Monday afternoon, Trump said that Biden and Harris “should immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric that they are talking right now.”
He continued, rambling:
“[Biden and Harris are] talking about endangering lives, and it undermines science, and what’s happening is all of the sudden you’ll have this incredible vaccine, and because of that fake rhetoric — it’s a political rhetoric, that’s all it is, just for politics, cause now they seen we’ve done an incredible job and in speed like nobody’s ever seen before. This could have taken two or three years, and instead it’s going to be—[laughs]—going to be done in a very short period of time. Could even have it during the month of October. So contrary to all of the lies, the vaccine—they’re politicalizing, they’ll say anything, and it’s so dangerous for our country what they say—but the vaccine will be very safe and very effective and it’ll be delivered very soon. You could have a very big surprise coming up, I’m sure you’ll be very happy. But the people will be happy. The people of the world will be happy.”
But experts—including Moncef Slaoui, chief of the covid-19 vaccination initiative Operation Warp Speed—have their doubts about Trump’s timeline, suggesting that a vaccine is an unlikely October surprise.
Slaoui told National Public Radio that states should, indeed, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and prepare to deploy a vaccine soon, stressing that it would be irresponsible not to. However: “There is a very, very low chance that the trials that are running as we speak could read before the end of October.”
And Trump’s newfound appreciation for vaccines counters his long history of making vaccine-skeptical remarks, including the long-debunked conspiracy theory that vaccinations cause autism. In 2007, he called autism an “epidemic” caused by administering too many “injections” to infants. During a 2012 Fox and Friends interview, Trump said, “I mean, I’ve seen people, where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations, and a month later the child is no longer healthy.” In 2014, Trump tweeted, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!” During a 2015 Republican debate, Trump said, “People that work for me, just the other day, two years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later, got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
However, once Trump took office, his position on vaccines conveniently changed. When there was a measles outbreak in 2019, Trump stressed that families must vaccinate their children. And now that covid-19 hasn’t “disappeared” like a “miracle” just yet, Trump is all aboard the vaccine train. (It’s worth noting that on May 8, Trump said, “[covid-19] is gonna go away without a vaccine.”)
Trump regards a covid-19 victory as one of his best shots at scoring points with the American public, a majority of whom are embarrassed by the nation’s pandemic response. The question now is what will disastrous rhetoric will Trump resort to if it becomes increasingly clear that a vaccine may not become available in October as promised.