As new COVID-19 cases continue to surge, former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are looking ahead to the arrival of a vaccine -- and suggesting they'd be willing to receive it on camera to help promote public trust in its safety.
"A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated," Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told CNN, referring to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, the White House's Coronavirus Response Coordinator. "First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera."
Staff for Clinton threw support behind the idea after CNN reached out.
"President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials," said Angel Urena, Clinton's press secretary. "And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same."
As for Obama, the topic of the vaccine came up in an interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison that airs Thursday. Obama expressed his complete support for Fauci and said he plans to receive the vaccine as soon as the science shows it to be safe and effective.
"I promise you that when it's been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it," Obama said. "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."
Former president Jimmy Carter also expressed support for the vaccine in a tweet Thursday from the Carter Foundation. Carter, who sits as the oldest and longest-lived president in American history at 96 years old, says that he and his wife Rosalyn, "are in full support of COVID-19 vaccine efforts and encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized as soon as it becomes available in their communities."
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- which doesn't have a role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine but will be instrumental in organizing its rollout -- the first doses aren't expected to arrive until the very end of 2020. Pharmaceutical makers Pfizer and Moderna are each claiming over 90% effectiveness for their vaccines, and both recently applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. We can expect those initial, limited supplies to be targeted toward health care professionals and high-risk communities.
"When a vaccine is authorized or approved in the United States, there may not be enough doses available for all adults," the CDC says. "Supplies will increase over time, and all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021."
The success of that rollout will depend on public willingness to be vaccinated, something Obama nodded to with respect to Black Americans in his interview.
"I understand, you know, historically -- everything dating back all the way to the Tuskegee experiments and so forth -- why the African American community would have some skepticism," Obama said, referencing a 40-year Public Health Service study of syphilis among Black men that failed to obtain the informed consent of its subjects or provide them with adequate care for their symptoms.
"But the fact of the matter is, is that vaccines are why we don't have polio anymore, the reason why we don't have a whole bunch of kids dying from measles and smallpox and diseases that used to decimate entire populations and communities," Obama added.
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