White House says Biden credit to Trump on vaccine shows COVID-19 fight shouldn't be 'political battle'
Press secretary Jen Psaki says, 'I think it's a reflection of the president's belief that the enemy of the American people is the virus'
The White House on Wednesday said President Biden's "acknowledgment" of former President Trump and his administration for their success in making COVID-19 vaccines available to the public was a "reflection" of Biden's "belief" that "the enemy of the American people is the virus."
Biden, on Tuesday afternoon announced increased testing capacity and expanded access to vaccines and support for hospitals across the country amid a surge in cases of the omicron variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week makes up more than 73% of new infections in the country.
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"Just the other day former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot. That may be one of the few things he and I agree on," Biden said Tuesday. "Let me be clear, thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine."
In an exclusive interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Trump reacted to Biden acknowledging his administration’s efforts.
"I'm very appreciative of that – I was surprised to hear it," Trump told Fox News. "I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy."
Trump said he thought Biden "did something very good."
"You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot," Trump said.
During the White House press briefing Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked why Biden invoked his predecessor, and whether mentioning Trump was an attempt to reach a different audience.
"Well, I think it was an acknowledgment that the former president sent an important signal to many Americans about the importance of getting boosted, and if they were opposed to getting boosted or opposed to getting vaccinated," Psaki said.
"I think it's a reflection of the president's belief that the enemy of the American people is the virus, and this shouldn't be a political battle," Psaki added.
Psaki, though, in an apparent swipe at Trump said Biden’s praise "doesn't mean we are not going to call out misinformation or steps or actions that are being taken by any leader that we feel are detrimental to the health and well-being of communities around the country."
"But we can also call out actions that we think are positive and send a good message to people who may not be waiting for President Biden to tell them what to do," she said.
The Trump administration created Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership to create vaccines against the novel coronavirus, as the pandemic raged in 2020. Under his administration, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
Trump in December 2020 signed an executive order that would ensure all Americans had access to coronavirus vaccines before the U.S. government could begin aiding nations around the world.
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"This is a great thing that we all did," Trump told Fox News, referring to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. "I may have been the vehicle, but we all did this together."
"When we came up with these incredible vaccines – three of them – and therapeutics, we did a tremendous job, and we should never disparage them," Trump said. "We should be really happy about it because we’ve all saved millions and millions of lives all over the world."
Trump, who is fully vaccinated, told Fox News that he received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The former president was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October 2020.
For those still hesitant to receive a COVID vaccine, Trump said: "You have to embrace it. You don’t have to do it, and there can’t be mandates and all those things, but you have to embrace it."
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Trump said getting Americans vaccinated is "really a matter of tone" instead of mandates.
"It’s a matter of getting people out to, ideally, get the vaccine," Trump said. "If you have the mandate, the mandate will destroy people’s lives – it destroys people’s lives, just as the vaccine saves people."
He added: "I think that it’s really a question of tone. It’s a question of trust, and hopefully, the people that have had COVID, hopefully they will be given credit for that."
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Trump predicted that those who have already been infected with COVID-19 are "in pretty good shape of not getting it again, or getting it in a much lighter way."
"They probably won’t catch it, but if they do get it, it’s not going to be nearly as severe, and there probably won’t be hospitals involved," Trump said.