Donald Trump on Tuesday evening said he was ‘very appreciative’ of President Joe Biden paying tribute to his administration’s efforts to create the vaccine – adding that he was ‘surprised to hear it’.
Biden several hours previously had commended his predecessor for leading efforts to make the U.S. one of the first countries in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19.
‘Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,’ said Biden.
‘Thanks to my administration, the hard work of Americans, we let, our roll-out, made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms.’
Trump, who has frequently complained about not getting enough credit for his decisions in pushing the vaccine manufacture, said he was pleasantly surprised by the president’s words.
‘I’m very appreciative of that – I was surprised to hear it,’ Trump told Fox News.
Joe Biden is seen on Tuesday speaking about COVID-19 from the White House. In his speech, he paid tribute to the Trump administration for
Donald Trump, seen on October 30, said he was pleasantly surprised that Biden credited his administration
‘I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy.
‘I think he did something very good.
‘You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot.’
The 75-year-old – who on Sunday was booed when he confirmed he had had the booster shot – said Americans should be ‘really happy’ about having access to vaccines.
‘When we came up with these incredible vaccines – three of them – and therapeutics, we did a tremendous job, and we should never disparage them,’ Trump said.
‘We should be really happy about it because we’ve all saved millions and millions of lives all over the world.’
Trump in May 2020 announced Operation Warp Speed (OWS) – a partnership between the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense – aimed to help accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
OWS has invested an estimated $18 billion, mostly in the late-stage clinical development and early manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, and has agreements in place to buy 455 million doses.
The scheme is by far the largest of the global efforts for development of COVID-19 vaccines.
By comparison, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – founded in Davos by the governments of Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and the World Economic Forum – has invested $1·4 billion in support of the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Their vaccines, unlike those from OWS, are intended for a global audience.
Trump in December 2020 also signed an executive order that would ensure all Americans had access to coronavirus vaccines before the U.S. government could begin aiding nations around the world.
‘This is a great thing that we all did,’ Trump said, referring to the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines.
‘I may have been the vehicle, but we all did this together.’
Biden and Trump spoke as COVID-19 is once again surging across the U.S., and the new Omicron variant is gaining ground.
On Tuesday cases nationwide were up 29 per cent compared to two weeks ago, and deaths were up four per cent.
In Trump’s hometown of New York City, cases have surged in recent days to more than 15,000 on Monday – the highest level since at least January and about four times the number of cases recorded just one week earlier.
Hospitalizations in the city have been rising over the past month but are still at less than half the level of last winter’s peak, reaching about 270 new admissions a day on Monday, according to New York State figures.
The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, on Tuesday offered $100 for any New Yorker who have not received their booster to do so.
Trump said vaccinations and the booster were the answer.
‘You have to embrace it. You don’t have to do it, and there can’t be mandates and all those things, but you have to embrace it,’ he said.
‘It’s a matter of getting people out to, ideally, get the vaccine.
‘If you have the mandate, the mandate will destroy people’s lives – it destroys people’s lives, just as the vaccine saves people.’
He added: ‘I think that it’s really a question of tone. It’s a question of trust, and hopefully, the people that have had COVID, hopefully they will be given credit for that.’
Trump predicted that those who have already been infected with COVID-19 are ‘in pretty good shape of not getting it again, or getting it in a much lighter way.’
‘They probably won’t catch it, but if they do get it, it’s not going to be nearly as severe, and there probably won’t be hospitals involved,’ Trump said.
The only person in the U.S. confirmed to have died from Omicron so far is someone who had already caught COVID before.
Asked what he thought of Biden’s strategy of ending travel from Southern African nations, but continuing domestic and international travel, Trump demurred.
‘It is a little tough to be overly critical now, because he just thanked us for the vaccine and thanked me for what I did,’ Trump said.
‘You know, that’s a first – so it is very tough for me to be overly critical now.
‘But, you know, we did shut it down, and we were criticized by some — we weren’t criticized by all.
‘And ultimately, they said we did the right thing. I think we saved hundreds of thousands of lives in our country by closing it down to China and then ultimately closing it down to Europe very early.
‘I think people understand that now.’