Vice President Mike Pence will publicly receive the coronavirus vaccine on Friday as the Trump administration scrambles to build public support for an inoculation that promises to stanch the deadly pandemic.
Pence will be the most high-profile recipient to date of a vaccine that was rolled out in the United States this week with high hopes of curbing a virus that has killed more than 300,000 Americans.
President-elect Joe Biden will publicly get the vaccine next week, according to transition officials. At age 78, he is in the high-risk group for the disease.
Biden has vowed to make the fight against the virus his top priority when he takes office on Jan. 20. Republican President Donald Trump, who lost the Nov. 3 election to Biden, frequently downplayed the severity of the pandemic and feuded with his top public health officials.
The vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, is expected to be widely available to Americans next year. Another vaccine from Moderna Inc could win approval from the US Food and Drug Administration this week.
Many Americans remain skeptical. Only 61% of respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted from Dec. 2 to 8, said they were open to getting vaccinated. That is short of the 70% level that officials say is needed to reach herd immunity, either through exposure or vaccination. Roughly 5% of Americans have been infected.
One health worker in Alaska had a severe allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine, officials said on Wednesday in what is believed to be the only adverse reaction so far in the United States.
Pence's wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also will get the vaccine on Friday, according to the White House.
Trump will get the vaccine when his medical team decides it is best, according to the White House. The president was hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19 this fall.
Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, according to a statement from his office.
Biden will inherit the logistical challenges of distributing the vaccine, as well as the task of persuading Americans to take it. One part of that job will be reaching out to people who worry that the vaccine's development was rushed for political reasons.
One of those tasked by Biden with building support, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, told a Black civil rights group on Wednesday that the science was sound.
"The political interference risk was really, really removed," Nunez-Smith said on a call with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).