Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said that an order mandating vaccination against the Wuhan coronavirus should be considered if it would help curb the outbreak. Biden made the statement during a town hall in Pennsylvania televised Oct. 15, adding that “the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it’s being distributed” was a major decision in making the vaccine a must.
Despite saying that a number of people believe a vaccine against COVID-19 is “the golden key” to addressing the pandemic, Biden remarked that enforcing mandatory vaccinations was the problem. “You can’t say, everyone has to do this.”
Biden turned down the idea of using fines to enforce the mandates and suggested pressuring local authorities to implement rules they can enforce. “I go to every governor, mayor, councilman [and] every local official [to] say ‘mandate the mask.’ This is what you have to do when you’re out.”
Biden remarked during the town hall that “the words of a president matter.” He cited an example of how this statement would be valuable during the pandemic: “You can go to ever governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them, as president and say, ask people to wear the mask.”
“When a president doesn’t wear a mask, or makes fun of folks, like me, when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say ‘well, it mustn’t be that important,” Biden remarked. His statement appeared to be a swipe at President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly refused to wear a mask or face covering.
Trump mocked the Democratic presidential candidate’s mask-wearing habits during the first presidential debate last Sept. 29. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from it. And he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Trump’s mockery did not unnerve Biden a bit, who replied that “masks make a big difference.” He echoed the same sentiments during the town hall: Vaccines were only secondary to masks in providing protection. “If you listen to the head of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], he stood up and he said ‘you know, while we’re waiting for a vaccine … you wear this mask, you will save more lives between now and the end of the year.’”
Biden referenced a Sept. 16 testimony by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, where Redfield said that wearing a face mask is “more guaranteed” to protect against the coronavirus than getting a COVID-19 jab. The director added that in case the vaccine fails to build an immune response to the coronavirus, the face mask will still protect against future infection. (Related: CDC director says face masks “more guaranteed” to protect against coronavirus than any vaccine.)
Biden’s comments on coronavirus vaccination during the Pennsylvania town hall appear to be a complete turnaround from his previous stance. He and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines developed under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
“Who’s going to take the shot? Are you going to be first one to say ‘sign me up,’ they now say it’s okay?” Biden said during an interview with local Florida outlet WKMG News 6. (Related: Joe Biden just declared Trump’s coronavirus vaccines unsafe, but media doesn’t label him “anti-vaxxer”.)
Meanwhile, Harris remarked in a separate interview: “I would not trust Donald Trump, and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and reliability of whatever he’s talking about.” She added that a rushed vaccine against the coronavirus was “an issue for us all.”
These remarks from the Democratic candidates led Trump to demand that both “immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric.” He added that Biden and Harris’ remarks “undermines science,” adding “they’ll say anything and it’s so dangerous for our country.”