'I didn't feel a thing.' Vice President Mike Pence gets COVID-19 vaccine on camera
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House's coronavirus task force, was vaccinated for COVID-19 Friday morning at a live, televised event intended to build public confidence in the vaccine.
"I didn't feel a thing," Pence said. "Well done."
Pence, who wore a short-sleeved shirt and a face mask, sat in a chair next to an American flag and under a sign that said “SAFE and EFFECTIVE.”
He received the recently approved vaccine developed by Pfizer that is being distributed throughout the country.
"Karen and I hope this step today will be a source of confidence and of comfort to the American people," Pence said. "These days of hardship and heartbreak will, in a day not too far in the future, be put in the past."
Acknowledging that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are still rising across the country, Pence said the way through the pandemic is "vigilance and a vaccine." He encouraged the public to "continue to do your part" through hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing while the vaccine is being administered.
The share of Americans who now say they wear masks every time they leave home has grown to 73%, up from 52% in May, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll released Friday. Democrats and independents are still far more likely to wear masks than Republicans.
Pence's vaccine, the first of a two-shot series that will be repeated in 21 days, was administered by staff from the Walter Reed National Medical Center at a room on the White House complex.
He gave a thumbs up to the medical technicians after being told it's normal if his arm becomes sore but he should seek medical care if anything else happens.
Pence's wife, Karen, was also vaccinated as was Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
One of the standard round of pre-vaccination questions – Are you pregnant or breast feeding? – got a laugh from those watching.
Adams made a specific appeal to minority communities that the vaccine is safe to receive, also noting his own increased risk of COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions.
“As the U.S. Surgeon general and a Black man, I’m equally aware of the symbolic significance of my vaccination today," he said.
Adams said it would be the greatest tragedy if the disparities among communities of color – who have been hit hard by the virus – were to worsen if those who would benefit most can’t or won’t get vaccinated.
"It is not only OK to have questions about a treatment that you're being offered, it's normal," he said. "But what is not normal is to let misinformation or mistrust cause you to make a decision that is bad for your health."
Dr. Anthony Fauci recalled that it was just about a year ago when Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called him to say, “I think we have a problem.”
“Literally, a few days after that, the work began to develop the vaccine,” he said.
Fauci said the "truly unprecedented" speed with which the vaccine was approved was the result of extraordinary scientific advances and did not compromise safety or scientific integrity.
"We want virtually everyone eligible to get this vaccine," he said.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Friday a second vaccine made in collaboration with the U.S. government by Moderna, a decade-old Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company.
Pence said there could be enough vaccines for 20 million Americans before the end of the year.
Experts:No need to wait to get a COVID-19 vaccination
Fauci had recommended that those first in line for vaccinations include Pence, President Donald Trump, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Biden and his wife will be vaccinated Monday, a spokeswoman announced Friday. Harris will receive hers the week after Christmas.
Even though Trump had COVID in October and likely has antibodies that would protect him, scientists don't know how long that protection lasts, Fauci said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The White House has not said when or whether Trump will be vaccinated.
Pence did not respond to questions from reporters Friday about the president and who will get the vaccine next.
Besides Trump, many White House officials tested positive for the coronavirus this year including Pence's chief of staff and several others in his immediate orbit.
More:Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine gets panel support, set to become the second cleared by FDA for use in US