President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is overturning an administrative directive to vaccinate senior government officials against Covid-19, while public distribution of the shot is limited to front-line health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Trump made the announcement hours after his administration confirmed that senior U.S. officials, including some White House aides who work closely with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, will receive coronavirus vaccines immediately this week under federal continuity of government plans.
“People working in the White House need to get the vaccine a little later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” Trump said in a tweet. “I have asked for this adjustment to be made. I don’t plan on getting the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the right time. “
It was not immediately clear what the scale of the vaccine program should be, according to two people briefed on the issue, or what impact Trump’s tweet will have on the government’s efforts to protect a top board.
News that White House people will get the vaccine soon has been criticized on social media. Trump and his aides have consistently violated the Covid-19 guidelines issued by his own administration, including hosting major holiday parties with unmasked participants this December.
Officials said earlier on Sunday that doses of Pfizer’s newly approved vaccine will be made available to those working closely with the nation’s top leaders. They said the move is aimed at preventing further spread of Covid-19 in the White House and other critical facilities. Trump was hospitalized with the virus for three days in October.
“Senior officials across all three branches of government will receive vaccinations in accordance with a continuity of government protocols established in executive policy,” said National Security Council spokesman John Ulyot. “Americans need to be confident that they are getting the same safe and effective vaccine as senior U.S. government officials on the advice of public health and national security leadership professionals.”
The two people informed about the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the matter publicly. The New York Times first reported that top U.S. officials will get early access to the vaccine.
The move to vaccinate top U.S. officials would be consistent with the launch of rapid test machines for the coronavirus, similarly controlled by the federal government with gear reserved to protect the White House complex and other critical facilities.
On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is still not enough information to determine whether those who have had Covid-19 should also receive the vaccine.
Pence has not declined with the virus, and his aides have discussed when and how he should receive the vaccine while the administration aims to strengthen public confidence in the shooting.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses administered three weeks apart, meaning that Trump administration officials would receive the final shot just weeks before leaving office.
Assistants to President-elect Joe Biden discussed when and how he should receive the vaccine and worked to establish plans to accelerate viral safeguards in the West Wing to keep the 78-year-old Democrat healthy.
According to a Capitol official, lawmakers have not been informed of how many doses will be made available to them, adding that it would be premature to speculate who might receive them. The official was not allowed to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.