At Wednesday night's vice presidential debate, vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) doubled down on her opposition to taking a hypothetical coronavirus vaccine if President Donald Trump recommends doing so.
"If the public health professionals, if Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it," Harris said. "But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I'm not taking it."
Sen. Kamala Harris on vaccine: "If Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it." #VPDebate https://t.co/4WLvBW7Omq— The Hill (@The Hill)1602120127.0
In response, Vice President Mike Pence slammed Harris for continuing to "undermine public confidence in a vaccine."
"The reality is that we're going to have a vaccine, senator, in record time, in unheard of time, in less than a year. We have five companies in phase 3 clinical trials, and we're right now producing tens of millions of doses," Pence said. "So the fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think, is unconscionable."
"Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people's lives," he continued. "The reality is that we will have a vaccine we believe before the end of this year. And it will have the capacity to save countless American lives, and your continuous undermining of confidence in a vaccine is just, it's just unacceptable."
Pence then criticized the Obama administration's governance during the swine flu pandemic, noting that Joe Biden's own former chief of staff Ron Klain
criticized the government's response to the H1N1 virus in a Politico article.
"And let me also say, you know, the reality is when you talk about failure in this administration, we actually do know what failure looks like in a pandemic. It was 2009, the swine flu arrived in the United States," Pence said. "Thankfully, it was, ended up not being as lethal as the coronavirus. But before the end of the year when Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, not 7.5 million people contracted the swine flu, 60 million Americans contracted the swine flu. If the swine flu had been as lethal as the coronavirus, in 2009 when Joe Biden was vice president, we would've lost 2 million American lives.
"His own chief of staff, Ron Klain, would say last year that it was pure luck. They did 'everything possible wrong.' And we learned from that," he added.
In a 2019 Politico article, Klain said of the swine flu, "It is purely a fortuity that this isn't one of the great mass casualty events in American history."
"It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can't happen again, they don't have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010 and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that," Klain said.
In September, Harris was criticized for spreading a vaccine "conspiracy theory" after telling CNN host Dana Bash in an interview that she would not trust President Trump to approve an effective vaccine.
"Let's just say there is a vaccine that is approved and even distributed before the election. Would you get it?" Bash asked.
"Well, I think that's gonna be an issue for all of us," Harris responded. "I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump, and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about. I will not take his word for it."