The White House on Monday said it would "support" former president Donald Trump promoting COVID-19 vaccination efforts, but added he shouldn't be waiting for an "engraved invitation" to join the public campaign.
President Joe Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, noted that all other living former presidents, including Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush, have delivered public service announcements.
Trump, by contrast, has kept largely quiet since leaving the White House.
"Every other living president... has participated in public campaigns. They did not need an engraved invitation to do so. So he may decide he should do that. If so, great," Psaki said.
"If former president Trump woke tomorrow and wanted to be more vocal about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, certainly we support that."
The United States is on track to produce far more vaccine than it is likely to need for the entire population. And with logistical problems gradually being ironed out, experts expect the biggest hold up to mass vaccination will be skepticism among parts of the population.
Polls show that Republican men, supporters of Trump and his "Make America Great Again" or MAGA platform, are leading that resistance to getting vaccinated.
A recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll showed that 49% of Republican men say they do not plan to get vaccinated, the largest number of those polled. Many believe Trump's influence could change their minds, perhaps leading to herd immunity more quickly.
Asked about the phenomenon, Biden said that Trump's opinion on vaccines mattered less than advice from local medical and community leaders.
"I discussed it with my team and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the preachers, what the local people in the community say," he told reporters.
"So I urge, I urge all local docs, and ministers, and priests to talk about why, why it's important to get that vaccine, and even after that — until everyone is in fact vaccinated."
Trump and his wife Melania got their own vaccines before leaving the White House in January, an advisor said. Unlike Biden and other current officials who got their shots live on television, Trump in a highly unusual move, kept his own vaccination private.
A recent public service announcement featuring all living fomer presidents except Trump urged Americans to get vaccinated. Trump reportedly was not asked to participate because he did not attend to President Joe Biden's inauguration, when some of the ad was said to have been shot, according to a spokesperson for the Ad Council.
But former President Jimmy Carter was part of the ad, and he, too, skipped the event because of health concerns. Carter is 96.
"We just learned last week that President Trump did get vaccinated and we're so pleased he advised Americans to 'go get your shot,'" the Ad Council spokesperson said.
AFP and Newsmax staff contributed.
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