Why Donald And Melania Trump's Vaccination Just Got Controversial

Donald Trump's administration gave a million and one reasons why the former president could dodge the COVID-19 vaccine when it was first released in December. He'd already had COVID. Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Trump had just been given a special antibody treatment. So it came as something of a surprise when in his CPAC speech, Trump, who was an early COVID-denier and a known anti-vaxxer, came forward to urge his wary supporters to "get their shots." Now, it has been revealed that Trump and former first lady Melania had actually been vaccinated against the coronavirus back in January. What is not known is which vaccine they received (via Axios). As to when, Jim Acosta's sources confirmed that it was while Trump was still president (via Twitter). 

Trump's secret vaccination bucked the trend, which had incumbent President Joe Biden and predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama committing to get vaccinated in public to convince everyone that the shots were safe (via NBC). UNC professor of public health behavior Noel Brewer told ABC in December that "What is very effective is having leaders stand up for the vaccination system and for individual vaccines. Having them offer to get vaccinated on camera is one of the single most important things that could happen." 

Trump critics are now even more angry with the former president, particularly because as The New York Times points out, Trump was, and still appears to be more concerned about getting credit for vaccine development than actually getting people inoculated against the virus.

Twitter is outraged by the Trump vaccine news

It wasn't just a colossal oversight, or gigantic communications mix-up, as CNN's Betsy Klein reminded Twitter. "We repeatedly asked the Trump White House for information on whether the President and first lady had been vaccinated or intended to receive a vaccine. As recently as January 18, WH declined to comment," she tweeted

Clean-water warrior, who was famously portrayed by Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich, weighed in, saying: "Trump got the vaccine but didn't want you to know. He didn't want you to believe it was safe. His persona is more important to him than your life. It's all an act."

Actress and activist Rosanna Arquette also jumped on the news, tweeting: "Hold on, Trump and wife got the covid vaccine in January? I thought they didn't believe in it? I thought they felt it was a hoax and didn't believe in the vaccine or that covid was a deathly lethal disease that didn't require masks. 500 + human beings died because of lies." One of her followers tweeted back, rather poetically, "The Trumps: 'A hoax for thee, but not for me.'" 

MSNBC's Rachel Maddox, for her part, was miffed. "Why did they keep this information secret from the American public ... what was the self-interest here? To whom did the benefit accrue from keeping this secret?" she asked. Because it seems clear that the one group of people who Trump didn't help when he refused to get publicly vaccinated were his own supporters. 

Too little, too late? Trump's anti-vaccine stance has already created roadblocks

Trump has gone on the record for being against vaccinations in general. The New York Times, for example, will remind you that the former president once blamed autism on vaccines. During his time as president, he regularly sent out vaccine-skeptic tweets. As Bloomberg reported, Trump was conspicuously absent from the country's COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. 

And research was actually carried out which showed that Trump's anti-vaccine tweets really did make the former president's supporters more concerned about vaccine safety (via APA PsycNet). While ABC reports that one in three Americans are vaccine skeptics, the vaccine skeptical are not evenly divided amongst the United States' demographics. Axios reports that white Republicans are more anxious about getting the vaccine than any other demographic. And, as of March 2021, a Civiqs poll shows that nearly 41 percent of Republicans do not intend to get a COVID vaccination, an additional 11 percent are unsure. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated that up to 90 percent of American residents must be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity (via Forbes). 

It's math like that which makes The New York Times editorial board suggest that Donald Trump should become a "celebrity vaccine crusader." Given Trump's about-face at the CPAC conference over vaccines, he might well be able to make a difference. It's now unclear how his supporters will feel about the COVID shot, or whether they will register Trump's contradiction at all.