Former President Donald Trump says he would not mandate COVID-19 vaccines if he was still in office because he’d “sell it” to people to take voluntarily.
President Biden last month announced that most federal workers must get vaccinated or face losing their jobs and that companies with 100 or more employees must require shots or regular testing — drawing pushback from critics who accused him of overreach.
“I wouldn’t say to anybody, ‘You have to.’ But I would sell it. Look, I’m very proud of what we did with the vaccines,” Trump told political news host Bill O’Reilly in an interview that will air at 8 p.m. Monday on The First TV.
“It was supposed to take five years and they said it wasn’t going to work. I did three vaccines in less than 9 months and they do work, they work really well.”
Trump added: “I would convince people, take it. I don’t want to push it… When I was president, there was no talk about mandates or anything. Everybody wanted the vaccine. Now a lot of people don’t want it.”
Trump’s administration spearheaded the development of coronavirus vaccines through Operation Warp Speed, which poured billions into vaccine development and purchases.
The first successful vaccine trial data was reported by Pfizer less than a week after Biden defeated Trump in a campaign focused on management of the virus.
About 79 percent percent of US adults and more than 77 percent of people 12 and older have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to CDC data. But the more contagious Delta variant of the virus has resulted in lower vaccine efficacy and inhibited the goal of reaching herd immunity.
The virus has killed more than 724,000 Americans.
Although Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last year said they were suspicious of vaccine development under Trump, they have since taken credit for it. Biden said this month, “I first started the vaccination program,” despite largely following Trump’s rollout plan, which started administering shots in December before Biden took office.
Biden last month justified his new vaccine mandates by arguing that vaccine refusers were recklessly endangering others. “Our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said.
He said last week the private-sector mandate will take effect “soon.” The Republican National Committee says it will sue to halt that regulation and Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order last week claiming to nullify the federal mandate for the state’s businesses.
States won by Trump against Biden lag behind the rest of the country in vaccination rates, according to CDC data. Initial surveys found young people, Republicans and racial minorities were less likely to get vaccinated, but racial gaps were eliminated over time.