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US Political Leaders Including Vice President Pence Line up for Early Covid-19 Vaccines

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, announced he would take the vaccine, also in public, on Monday.

Several senior US officials including Vice President Mike Pence got early Covid-19 vaccinations Friday, contrasting with Europe, where two leaders were quarantining after testing positive and EU regulators have yet to approve a vaccine.

Pence's public inoculation against the coronavirus was the most high-profile attempt yet at persuading vaccine-skeptic Americans to join a massive national effort to halt a pandemic that has killed at least 1.66 million people and infected more than 74 million worldwide.

Also getting their shots were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, announced he would take the vaccine, also in public, on Monday.

Yet in hard-hit Europe, unease mounted after Slovakia's 47-year-old Prime Minister Igor Matovic tested positive Friday for Covid-19 a week after attending a European Union summit in Brussels.

The summit is believed to be where French President Emmanuel Macron caught the virus -- the announcement of his diagnosis a day earlier led a host of European leaders and top French officials to rush into self-isolation.

Macron acknowledged Friday he had been "slowed down" by his infection, but insisted he was doing well and still actively involved in "priority" government business including Brexit trade talks.

US President Donald Trump, who has been a longtime skeptic about the seriousness of the pandemic, wished Macron "a speedy recovery," the White House said.

Elsewhere, world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are also pledging to get public injections in order to boost confidence in the vaccines.

The first wave of vaccinations in the United States, where more than 310,000 Americans have died, are using the Pfizer/BioNTech drug.

Another vaccine, made by Moderna, is now expected to become the second shot allowed in a Western country after a panel of US experts recommended emergency use approval.

Trump was notably absent from Pence's vaccination event.

But he has been eager to take credit for record-fast vaccine breakthroughs, and he sparked confusion Friday when he jumped the gun to declare Moderna approved, ahead of a final verdict from the Food and Drug Administration.

"Distribution to start immediately," Trump tweeted.

first published:December 19, 2020, 08:06 IST