The White House on Friday said President Biden didn’t anticipate the extent of opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine after it was developed by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
“We didn’t anticipate that when there was a vaccine approved under a Republican president — that the Republican president took — that there would be such opposition, vehement opposition in some cases, from some people in his own party,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
She was alluding to Mr. Trump’s work to develop and win emergency approval COVID-19 vaccines under “Operation Warp Speed.”
Polls show counties that supported the former president often have lower vaccination rates than those that backed Mr. Biden in 2020.
Mr. Trump has encouraged people to get the vaccine but received his shots in private before leaving office in January. He’s also slammed Mr. Biden for conditioning employment on getting the shots, saying it should be a choice.
Only 53% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Nearly three-quarters of eligible persons aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, though 75 million to 80 million remain on the sidelines.
Mr. Biden on Thursday said he will mandate all federal employees and 17 million health workers to get vaccinated.
He also demanded Labor Department rules that require workers at firms with 100 workers or more to get the vaccine or submit to weekly testing. All told, the mandates impact about 100 million Americans.
Ms. Psaki said it will be up to private companies to simply require the vaccines — the government provides them for free — or eat the cost of providing a testing option.
She also said Mr. Biden was channeling the frustrations of millions of vaccinated Americans who are tired of waiting for others to accept the best tool society has for controlling the pandemic.
Mr. Biden referred to unvaccinated persons as a “minority” of the country three times in his speech.