White House would welcome Trump urging supporters to get vaccinated
The Biden administration on Monday indicated it would welcome former President Trump getting more involved in vaccine outreach efforts, but signaled it would spend its time investing in local doctors and community leaders who might convince skeptical conservatives to get the shot.
"If former President Trump woke up tomorrow and wanted to be more vocal about the safety and efficacy of the campaign, of the vaccine, certainly we’d support that," White House press secretary Psaki said at a briefing with reporters.
"Every other living former president … has participated in public campaigns," she added. "They did not need an engraved invitation to do so. He may decide he should do that. If so, great. But there are a lot of different ways to engage to reach out to ensure that people of a range of political support and backing know the vaccine is safe and effective."
President Biden, asked after a speech on the American Rescue Plan about whether Trump should be more vocal about getting the vaccine, came back to the podium to answer the question.
He said his focus was more on doctors, preachers and other local leaders who would resonate with Republicans.
"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 doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say," Biden said. "So I urge all local docs and ministers and priests to talk about why, why it’s important to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask."
Psaki has been asked at each of the last two press briefings about recent polling that shows Republicans, and Republican men in particular, are among the most likely to say they will decline to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The press secretary acknowledged last week that the Biden administration, which is stocked with Democratic officials, is unlikely to be the best messenger to convince conservatives to get the vaccine. She noted that demographic is more likely to trust their personal physician, community leaders or religious organizations, and the administration has done outreach there to try and reduce vaccine hesitancy.
Still, Trump retains a sizable and dedicated following, and experts have acknowledged he could persuade many of his supporters to get the vaccine if he spoke out about it. Trump told supporters to "get your shot" in one line of a 90-minute speech last month, but has otherwise been quiet on the subject.
Trump was the only living former president not to appear in a PSA released last week in which former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama urged Americans to get their coronavirus vaccine.
Trump got his shot in his final days at the White House, but did so without telling anyone or doing it on camera. He has in the past waded into anti-vaccine conspiracies on social media.
Anthony Fauci, the government's top official on infectious diseases, said Sunday it would be a "game changer" if Trump were to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.