By MICHELLE STODDART, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — After prodding from health experts and members of President Joe Biden’s administration, former President Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine amid a poll showing nearly half of them were unwilling to do so.
“Would you recommend to our audience that the get the vaccine then?” Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo asked Trump in a phone interview Tuesday night.
“I would. I would recommend it and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly. But again, we have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also, but it is a great vaccine,” Trump said. “It is a safe vaccine it is something that works.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, considered the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who also served on Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and serves on Biden’s team, had called on Trump to encourage his supporters to get the vaccine, noting he was not encouraging his supporters get inoculated in a Fox News Sunday interview.
“It seems like an intrinsic contradiction, the fact that you had a program that was started during his presidency and he’s not out telling people to get vaccinated. I wish he would. He has such an incredible influence over people in the Republican Party,” Fauci said. “It would really be a game changer if he did.”
Other former members of Trump’s COVID-19 response team came forward to say that Trump should be pushing the vaccine. Adm. Brett Giroir, former assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, said on CNN Monday that Trump and his former Vice President Mike Pence should be urging supporters to be vaccinated.
“I think it’s very important for former President Trump as well as the vice president [Mike Pence] to actively encourage all the followers to get the vaccine,” Giroir said. “This is something that the Trump administration developed under its time and I think all of the above, including the former president, speaking out would be very important.”
Giroir also revealed that he did not know Trump and former first lady Melania Trump received the vaccine while in office, though he noted it was a private medical decision he did not want to speculate about. Trump did not get the vaccine publicly or release a statement about it, it was not reported until after he left office.
Despite requests from some public health experts, Biden himself refused to say whether he’d ask his formal political rival for help encouraging his supporters to get the vaccine when asked by reporters Monday.
“I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks, is what the local doctors, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” Biden said. “So, I urge all local [doctors] and ministers and priests to talk about why it’s important to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is, in fact, vaccinated to wear this mask.”
Biden also expressed during an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he thought that he had gotten politics out of the discussion of the vaccine.
“How do you get the politics out of this vaccine talk?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I honest to God thought we had it out,” Biden said. “I honest to God thought that, once we guaranteed we had enough vaccine for everybody, things would start to calm down. Well, they have calmed down a great deal. But I don’t quite understand — you know — I just don’t understand this sort of macho thing about, ‘I’m not gonna get the vaccine. I have a right as an American, my freedom to not do it.’ Well, why don’t you be a patriot? Protect other people.”
But the White House has noted the difficulty of reaching across the partisan divide. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden may not be the ‘most effective’ in getting the message to Trump supporters.
“We recognize as a Democratic administration with a Democratic president that we may not be the most effective messenger to communicate with hard core supporters of the former president, and we have to be clear eyed about that,” Psaki said.
However, Psaki noted that the White House is reaching out in other ways to encourage people of all political parties to get the vaccine.
“One of the steps we’ve taken, and we can effectively do outside of any partisan politics is ensure that there are locations with trusted, interested locations, community health centers, pharmacies, where anybody of any political persuasion can get the vaccine, and they don’t need to wear a Joe Biden sticker in order to do that,” Psaki said.
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