White House staff members who work in close quarters with President Trump have been told they are scheduled to receive injections of the coronavirus vaccine soon, at a time when the first doses of the vaccine are being distributed only to high-risk health care workers, according to two sources familiar with the distribution plans.
The goal of distributing the vaccine inside the West Wing is to prevent additional government officials from falling ill in the final weeks of the Trump administration. The hope is to eventually distribute the vaccine to everyone who works in the White House, but will begin with some of the most senior people who work around the president, one of the people said.
It is not clear how many doses are being allocated to the White House or how many are needed, since many staff members have already tested positive for the virus and recovered. While many Trump officials said they were eager to receive the vaccine and would take it if it were offered, others said they were concerned it would send the wrong message by making it appear as if Trump staff members were hopping the line to protect a president who has already recovered from the virus and bragged that he is now “immune.”
The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine left a facility in Michigan early Sunday, with UPS and FedEx teaming up to ship them to all 50 states for distribution. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The White House has seen multiple waves of coronavirus cases. Mr. Trump, the first lady and a half-dozen advisers tested positive at the end of September and early October. A few weeks later, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and a handful of other Pence staff members and advisers got sick.
And a third wave hit the West Wing after the president’s election night party at the White House. The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, got sick around that time, as did a number of other Trump advisers.
After months during which Mr. Trump and his senior advisers played down the virus, hosting campaign rallies and holiday parties where face masks were encouraged but never required, the news of White House officials suddenly taking the virus seriously enough to claim early doses of a vaccine was greeted by outrage from Democrats as well as the president’s longtime critics.
Tim Hogan, a Democratic consultant and a former top aide to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign, said that Washington “will not come close to covering every health care worker with its first allotment of the vaccine, but a White House that downplayed the virus and held a half-year nationwide super spreader tour gets to cut the line.”
He called the White House vaccinations “a final middle finger to the nurses and doctors on the front lines from the Trump administration.”
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, would not say whether White House officials who had already recovered would still receive the vaccine, or whether Mr. Trump himself would get one.