A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.

As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included…

In a 12-minute phone call in late August, Mr. Caputo told Mr. Erwin of the Santa group that vaccines would likely be approved by mid-November and distributed to front-line workers before Thanksgiving.

“If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” Mr. Caputo said on the call, which was recorded by Mr. Erwin and provided to the Journal. “I cannot wait to tell the president,” Mr. Caputo said at another point about the plan. “He’s going to love this.”