Success: Pence, Surgeon General get Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations on live TV

Smart, effective, and perhaps even a bit gutsy — or at least that’s how it will play. The Pfizer vaccine has proven both safe and effective, but plenty of people still worry over its effects. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams rolled up their arms to get vaccinated on live TV just a few minutes ago, after all. They’re selling confidence in the best way possible — by putting their own arms where their mouths are, so to speak.

It’s not a point they intended to make subtly, as the signage behind them — “SAFE and EFFECTIVE” — makes obvious. Note how well it frames Pence for his shot, in both senses of the word:

Vice President Mike Pence received a coronavirus vaccine on live television Friday morning at the White House, a measure that the Trump administration said was intended to to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people.”

“I didn’t feel a thing,” he said shortly after receiving the shot. “Well done.”

His wife, Karen Pence, and Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, also received the vaccine. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert; Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also attended. The event was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where doctors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center administered the vaccine.

Afterward, Pence talked up the success of Operation Warp Speed, and also prodded the FDA on the Moderna vaccine. He noted that the advisory panel unanimously approved that vaccine and said he expected the FDA to act “later today” to issue its emergency use authorization. That’s a bit more gentle than the messaging a week ago from the White House to FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, but the signal is no less clear. Pence wants the extra 5.9 million doses moving tonight.

Adams had perhaps the best pitch after the vaccinations. He remarked that skepticism over the vaccine is highest among communities of color and validated their concerns, given the history of the horrific Tuskegee syphilis experiment. His decision to vaccinate in the first round on national television, Adams declared, was a message of safety and confidence in the vaccine and in the process that produced it. That’s a valuable message, one that hopefully won’t get overshadowed by the event itself.

Adams has already garnered some support, too. One family of a Tuskegee experiment subject declared their intention to get the vaccine yesterday:

Thornton said that to rebuild this trust, there needs to be more people of color in the medical field. Her mother said that while there are more people of color in these positions now, and that “things have changed, things have gotten better,” they could still improve more.

“I am committed to spending my life in public health and in working in the way that I do because we need that representation,” Thornton said. “That’s the reason why the syphilis study happened to begin with because there wasn’t that representation. There wasn’t those voices around the table. And so, we really do need to have that representation engaged in science, engaged in research and engaged in respectful health care.”

When asked if they’d take the COVID-19 vaccine themselves, they both said yes.

“Without hesitation,” Head said. “As soon as the vaccine is available for me, I’m taking it.”

That’s a hopeful sign of broad participation. Let’s keep this momentum rolling.