A White House official said it is "up for discussion as to whether someone who's recovered from COVID and has antibodies would necessarily be a high priority for receiving the vaccine and for the purposes of vaccine confidence"

By Sean Neumann
December 08, 2020 06:31 PM
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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on July 21.
| Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have all said they'll publicly take a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to underline their confidence in it.

But the White House said Monday that it’s still an “open question” whether President Donald Trump would need to do so after himself recovering from the virus.

During a press call about vaccine development and distribution, a senior administration official said that the idea of Trump, 74, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is “certainly something that is under consideration."

"As you know, the president recovered from COVID. And so I think there is something that’s up for discussion as to whether someone who's recovered from COVID and has antibodies would necessarily be a high priority for receiving the vaccine and for the purposes of vaccine confidence. But he's expressed his willingness," the official told reporters.

They continued: "I think there is an open question as to whether, ultimately, he [Trump] will be one of the ones to take it on air. And that's simply a function of whether that would actually serve the desired purpose, given the fact that he's a recovered patient."

Last week, Trump’s three presidential predecessors all committed to receiving a vaccine in public, whether on TV or on video, in an effort to reassure the public.

President Donald Trump
| Credit: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty

“I will be taking it," Obama, 59, told SiriusXM. "I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting COVID."

Bush’s chief of staff told CNN the 74-year-old former president “will gladly do so on camera,” while a spokesman for the 74-year-old Clinton told PEOPLE that “he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”

Trump — whose much-scrutinized response to the pandemic, which he admitted downplaying, was wielded against him in the election he just lost to Joe Biden — was hospitalized with the coronavirus for three days in October, in a White House outbreak that sickened First Lady Melania Trump and close aides.

The first vaccine in a Western country was administered to a 90-year-old woman in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, in a celebratory day locally dubbed “V-Day,” following a year of health, economic and social upheaval around the world.

While U.S. health officials have said they expect a vaccine developed by pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer to receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration within the month — hearings are set for the coming days — Trump officials are looking to shore up public confidence in the virus after a year of misdirection and misinformation about the pandemic spread by the president and others.

From left: former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama in 2017
| Credit: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

"We want the American people to know that this vaccine is safe and effective," the senior administration official said Monday.

While Trump may not participate in a vaccine confidence campaign, the official said, "there are other sort of famous, shall we say, vaccine influencers and experts who I think have come forward and volunteered to participate in an effort to help instill public confidence, and we're certainly considering such offers."

At least 285,070 people in the U.S. have died from the virus, while more than 15.1 million Americans have been infected, according to a New York Times tracker.