With more than 317,000 dead, Americans have been left fuming at photos of prominent Republican politicians in the US getting the coronavirus vaccine before a majority of frontline healthcare workers in the country.
While most senior Republicans did not overtly deny the seriousness of the pandemic in the country, the party’s leader, President Donald Trump, repeatedly downplayed the virus, politicised the wearing of face masks, pushed conspiracy theories and fake cures, undermined his top infectious diseases doctor and falsely promised people the virus would disappear.
Senior Republicans stood by in silence.
That fact has enraged many US citizens after the likes of Vice President Mike Pence, and senior senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio were photographed taking the vaccine before it’s available to frontline workers.
Pence echoed false coronavirus claims by Trump and, as the head of the country’s Covid taskforce, continually made overly rosy assessments about the pandemic response despite mounting cases and deaths.
On June 16, despite glaring evidence to the contrary, the vice president claimed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed there “isn't a coronavirus second wave”.
In the piece he criticised the media and called concern about rising cases “overblown”.
The country’s death toll has nearly tripled since then.
While few have been as wrong and reckless as Pence, other Republicans have followed suit and attended maskless rallies and events, compared the virus to the normal flu, and bemoaned the negative media coverage of the pandemic and its objectively disastrous handling in the US. Few dared to contradict the president’s falsehoods about the coronavirus.
TV host and author Karamo Brown was among those to express anger at the sight of these same men “skipping the queue” to get the vaccine.
The pictures were posted online by political leaders with the intention of assuring the public the vaccine is safe – but the perception of hypocrisy loomed large.
“My mum lives in a nursing home. Neither she nor her amazing caregivers have yet to be vaccinated. Yet mask-refusing science-denying, superspreader-attending Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Mike Pence... have THEIRS,” fumed screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer.
Others were equally mad politicians who downplayed the virus were the first to get vaccinated.
Trump yet to take vaccine as he stews in defeat
Trump is now one of the only senior-most US officials who has not received the first of two vaccination shots, which began being administered last week as part of the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history.
The president, who in the past has spread misinformation about vaccine risks, tweeted earlier this month he was “not scheduled” to take the vaccine, but looked “forward to doing so at the appropriate time”. The White House says he is still discussing timing with his doctors.
Trump was hospitalised with Covid-19 in October and given an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment he credited for his swift recovery.
But the advisers also recommended those who received the kind of treatment Trump did should put off being vaccinated for at least 90 days.
The president has spent the last week largely out of sight as he continues to stew about his election loss and floats increasingly outlandish schemes to remain in power. It’s an approach that has bewildered top aides who see his silence as a missed opportunity for the president, who leaves office January 20, to claim credit for helping oversee the speedy development of the vaccine and to burnish his legacy.
Trump has also come under criticism for failing to take the vaccine himself as an example to help allay concerns about its safety, especially among Republicans.
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