Biden: I made all the vaccinations happen. AP fact checker: No, you didn't

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

All it would take is one look at any of the recent presidential approval polls to let you know that not a lot is getting done in Washington these days, and the headlines from around the rest of the country don’t look much better. But that won’t stop Joe Biden from trying to take credit for what little good news there is to be seen. That’s something that cropped up during his recent town hall on CNN, and now the Associated Press fact-checkers have been forced to bestir themselves and gently chide Biden for trying to claim credit for something he had almost nothing to do with.

The claim in question arose when Biden was asked about the pace of COVID vaccinations around the country. The President was quick to try to take credit for the progress made thus far, stretching back to events that happened before he was even in office. He said, “When I first was elected, there were only 2 million people who had COVID shots in the United States of America — and the vaccine. Now we got 190 million, because I went out and bought everything I could do and buy in sight and it worked.”

As the fact-checkers were quick to point out, virtually nothing he said in that statement was true. And the bits that might arguably be described as “partially true” are a significant stretch.

THE FACTS: No, that’s not how the vaccine rollout in the U.S. happened. Biden is overstating his part.

First, it’s not true that 2 million people had shots when he was elected in November. The COVID-19 vaccines were still awaiting emergency authorization then. The first shots were administered to the public in mid-December.

Nearly 16 million doses had been administered by Jan. 20, the day Biden took office.

That first sentence is pretty brutal. ‘No, that’s not how it happened.’ If this rating was being given on the Pinocchio scale, Biden would already be close to a four.

The part about “only 2 million people” who had shots ‘when he was elected‘ is completely wrong. As they point out, emergency authorization wasn’t granted until the following month. But perhaps what he meant to say was ‘when he was inaugurated?’ If so, he’s still entirely off-base. By the time he was sworn in, there were roughly 16 million doses in people’s arms. We should also point out that all of this (along with Operation Warp Speed) took place before he was in office and he had nothing to do with any of it.

Actually, we need to fact-check the fact-checkers on the start date of vaccinations, though the wording chosen isn’t as clear as it might have been. It’s true that emergency authorization wasn’t granted until December of 2020, but that doesn’t mean that nobody had been vaccinated. Pfizer started their phase one and phase two trials in the first week of May 2020. Yes, phase one only included 360 volunteers, but that’s still a non-zero number if we’re being sticklers for facts. Of course, the AP did say “first shots administered to the public,” so perhaps they were intentionally ignoring the trial volunteers. (They’re still technically part of the public, though.)

As for Uncle Joe having “bought everything I could do and buy in sight and it worked,” that’s another swing and a miss. Before Biden was sworn in, the Trump administration had already purchased 300 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna. That was far more than would be required to vaccinate everyone eligible in phases one through three of the initial rollout. The Biden administration has continued to purchase more doses on a regular basis, but that has nothing to do with the initial surge.

As we’ve pointed out here before, once the federal government purchased the initial rounds of vials, neither Trump nor Biden had much of anything to do with the hectic, early distribution efforts. Those were handled at the state and municipal levels with varying degrees of success. All the White House really did was write the checks and ship them to the state and city governments for distribution as they saw fit. So Biden was trying to pull off a serious whopper with that answer.

If you click through to the AP page, they also take Biden to task for an answer he gave concerning why he hasn’t been to the border. His answer is all over the place, claiming that he sent the First Lady there (she went before he was President) and that he hasn’t “had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”

Really? Biden claims to have been too busy touring hurricane-damaged regions and “traveling around the world.” Yes, he’s made a few overseas trips, but most of his travel that I recall has consisted of political events to prop up Democratic candidates and push people to support his massive spending spree. Also, he’s spent quite a few weekends in Delaware, right? If he was up to the task, surely he could have spent a Saturday down by the Rio Grande. This was all stuff and nonsense, and the AP earns a bit of praise this week for pointing it out.