Biden says he ‘started the vaccination program’ despite Trump rollout

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President Biden on Thursday claimed credit for the US COVID-19 vaccination program — despite the fact that coronavirus vaccines were developed and initially deployed by the Trump administration.

In a remark sure to raise eyebrows, Biden said that “when I first started the vaccination program and we got all that vaccine, enough for everyone, we were vaccinating 3 million people a day, we were getting very close before things began to slow down.”

Biden has taken heat — including from fact-checkers — for inflating his own role in the vaccine rollout while downplaying the work of former President Donald Trump.

After taking office, Biden claimed in February, “Just over four weeks ago, America had no real plan to vaccinate most of the country,” despite Trump’s administration publishing a plan in September that his administration largely followed.

In the same February remarks, Biden said, “My predecessor … failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers.”

But FactCheck.org labeled those Biden claims “misleading” — pointing out that Trump “had contracts in place for plenty of vaccines for all Americans” and that “there was indeed a plan to acquire and distribute vaccines.”

The fact-check group also noted that “Biden exaggerated when he claimed that vaccinations have ‘nearly doubled’ on his watch.”

President Joe Biden claimed his administration sure to raise eyebrows, Biden said that "first started the vaccination program" in the United States.
President Joe Biden claims his administration “first started the vaccination program” in the United States — but it actually began under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The US vaccine deployment campaign began in December 2020 when Trump was president and Biden’s initial goal of vaccinating 1 million people per day had already been achieved when he took office on Jan. 20, 2021.

Biden was speaking Wednesday near Chicago about a new federal rule that will require companies that employ 100 or more employees to require vaccination or regular testing.

He has previously given some credit to Trump, whose administration poured billions of dollars into vaccine development and purchases with Operation Warp Speed. As votes were still being counted in the week following the presidential election, Pfizer was the first company to announce its vaccine was successful in clinical trials.

Biden's comments were made despite the fact that the vaccine was developed and initially deployed under the Trump administration.
Biden’s comments were made despite the fact that the vaccine was developed and initially deployed under the Trump administration.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In December, Biden said that “I think that the [Trump] administration deserves some credit, getting this off the ground, Operation Warp Speed.”

Biden on Wednesday likened his vaccine mandates, which also require all federal workers to get shots, to long-standing school vaccine requirements for infectious diseases.

He also said that he recently called a Pennsylvania hospital to ask why they couldn’t see the partner of one of his friends — saying that many COVID-19 patients resulted in them waiting to be seen.

“Last night … I was on the telephone with a person at an emergency hospital ward in Pennsylvania because a good friend had called and he had rushed his significant other to the emergency room because this one was having trouble breathing, had a high fever and could not really catch a breath,” Biden said.

A man getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Chula Vista, California on December 21, 2020 — before Biden took office.
A man gets the COVID-19 vaccine in Chula Vista, Calif., on December 21, 2020 — before Biden took office.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

“And they got her into the hospital, But the waiting room was so crowded. Things were so backed up, they couldn’t even get her to be seen initially. So, because I knew this person I called. I called the desk, the receiving nurse and asked what the situation was.”

Biden added, “I wasn’t complaining because they’re getting the living hell kicked out of them, by the way — doctors and nurses. Some of them are just, they’re running dry.”

It was unclear if the presidential phone call had any effect on the hospital’s operations.

“To make a long story short, it took a while because all of the — not all, the vast majority of the emergency rooms and the docs were occupied taking care of COVID patients,” he said.

More than 78 percent of US adults have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to CDC data. The more contagious Delta variant of the virus has resulted in lower vaccine efficacy and inhibited the goal of reaching herd immunity. The virus has killed more than 709,000 Americans.



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