Former U.S. president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, were vaccinated for COVID-19 in private during their last days in the White House in January, even as other leaders tried to set an example by getting their vaccines in public.
Multiple sources told CBS News, CNN, Axios and The New York Times about the vaccinations over the weekend, after the former president urged Republicans to get the vaccine in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Polls have shown that vaccine hesitancy is more common among Republicans.
“Everyone should go get your shot,” Trump said on Sunday.
Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 last October after months of downplaying the coronavirus threat, did not publicly commit to getting the vaccine during his time in office. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also defended Trump’s apparent reticence in December, saying that he had a “medical reason” not to get the shot because of the experimental treatments he received in hospital.
“People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” Trump said in a tweet on Dec. 13. “I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”
Then-vice president Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, received their vaccines on live television on Dec. 18. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who were the president-elect and vice president-elect, also received their shots in public in December.
“I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared, when it’s available, to take the vaccine,” Biden said at the time. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
A Trump adviser told several outlets about the vaccinations. The adviser said the Trumps received their shots in January, but did not say exactly when or whether they got their second vaccines.
Melania Trump also had a milder case of COVID-19 last October.
Trump frequently boasted about his role in encouraging vaccine development during his time in office, but he did not call for all Americans to get the shot.
As president, Trump’s personal health often sparked suspicion. During his bout with the coronavirus, for instance, he appeared to stage several photos of himself “working” through his hospitalization, and tried to pr
oject an image of strength upon his return to the White House.
Later reports suggested that he was far sicker than he appeared.
His annual medical exam results also raised eyebrows. His 2018 exam results listed him at one pound under the clinical definition of obese; then-Dr. Ronny Jackson said that Trump was “in excellent health.”
Trump met the definition of obesity after his 2019 exam, though Dr. Sean Conley at the time also said he was in “very good health.”
The first coronavirus vaccines were approved shortly after U.S. election day last November. The Biden administration has since released a sweeping distribution plan.
More than 514,000 Americans have died of the virus to date.
—With files from The Associated Press
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