“Of course, we would,” Azar said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether the department would vaccinate Biden if he asked for it.
“Any of those types of efforts that signal to the American people the importance of getting vaccinated and that we, as leaders, are willing to sort of, as you say, put our money where our mouth is,” Azar continued, adding that “we would be very supportive of that and make sure that that would happen.”
Azar’s assurance comes after Biden told Tapper during an interview earlier this month that he would “be happy to” get publicly vaccinated, as three of his presidential predecessors – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – said they would as a way to demonstrate its safety and efficacy.
The first doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered to the American public on Monday after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the groundbreaking vaccine on Friday. Forty-two states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had received their shipments as of 5 p.m. ET, according to statements from the state Departments of Health, governor’s offices and local hospitals. The initial batch is being focused on health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, per recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When asked whether President Donald Trump or Biden were scheduled to be vaccinated publicly in the next few weeks, Azar applauded Trump’s comments that he planned to be vaccinated, though he did not directly address the question.
“This week, I really want to keep the focus on our heroic health care workers and our most vulnerable seniors who are in nursing homes,” Azar said, adding that “of course, for any major public official I would be delighted for them to do so on TV but I don’t want to prejudge any individual’s personal health condition or their willingness to get a vaccine or to be judgmental about that.”
Trump tweeted on Sunday night that he had asked White House staffers to receive the coronavirus vaccine “somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” after it surfaced that high-ranking administration officials were set to receive some of the first doses in the US.
“I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time,” Trump tweeted.
Azar also said that he personally wanted to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” and on television “because I want the American people to see my complete confidence in the integrity of the system. I want them to see that I wouldn’t ask them to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”
CNN’s Dan Merica, Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, Susannah Cullinane and Holly Yan contributed to this report.