Trump has a message for his base: COVID-19 vaccinations work

Former President Donald Trump, who previously suggested to Americans that they inject themselves with bleach to treat COVID-19, has seemingly reversed course and become a public advocate for vaccinations this week. 

In an interview with The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens released on Tuesday, the former president said “the results of the vaccine are very good, and if you do get [COVID], it’s a very minor form. People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.” When Owens pushed him on whether the vaccine was effective, he responded, “The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don’t take their vaccine. But it’s still their choice, and if you take the vaccine, you are protected.”

Trump has turned down many opportunities to extoll upon the virtues of vaccines in the past, and this summer said he would not be getting his booster shot. In July, he released a statement politicizing the vaccine and seeding doubt in its efficacy. “People are refusing to take the vaccine because they don’t trust his administration,” he wrote. “They don’t trust the election results, and they certainly don’t trust the fake news, which is refusing to tell the truth.”

But Trump appears to have changed his tune this week. During a live stage show with former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly this week, the president said he had received his booster shot, then admonished the members of the audience for booing him

The sudden about-face arrives as the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus tears across the United States coinciding with an increase in holiday season travel and indoor gatherings. It also came as President Joe Biden took credit for the increase in vaccination rates amongst Americans this year. 

“Since I took office, nearly six million jobs have been created, over 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and unemployment claims are the lowest on average since 1969,” the president tweeted

Trump appeared upset on Tuesday with Biden receiving credit for the vaccination rate. “I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines. All are very, very good. Came up with three of them in less than nine months,” he told Owens.

Trump, in fact, did not come up with a vaccine, but his administration did establish a public–private partnership known as Operation Warp Speed to push vaccine creation forward on an accelerated timeline. (However, Pfizer— which saw its COVID-19 vaccine win both emergency and full FDA approval first—did not accept federal funding to produce its vaccine.)

Regardless of his motivations, advocates are hoping that Trump’s words encourage his supporters to get vaccinated. A September study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 52.8% of people in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated, compared to 39.9% of Trump-won counties, a 12.9 percentage point difference.

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