WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump said he would urge his supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but he acknowledged that some of them may refuse in the name of “freedom.”
“I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it,” Trump told Fox News in a 20-minute telephone interview Tuesday.
Trump noted “a lot of those people” who don’t want the vaccine “voted for me, frankly. But … again, we have our freedoms, and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also.”
In early January, before leaving the White House, Trump and then-first lady Melania Trump received the vaccine but did not disclose that fact publicly.
“It’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine, and it’s something that works,” Trump told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo.
Surveys show that some people don’t want to get the vaccine because they fear side effects or other medical problems, though repeated trials have showed the vaccines are safe. Polls show Republican men and Trump supporters are among the top groups who resist the vaccine.
Trump was the only former president to not participate in a public service ad asking Americans to take the shots.
On Monday, Biden said he wouldn’t wait on help from Trump in getting people vaccinated.
“I discussed it with my team,” he said, “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 local preacher, what the local people in the community say.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top medical expert for both Trump and Biden, had urged the former president to ask supporters to get vaccinated, saying it would make a huge difference.
“He’s such a strongly popular person. I cannot imagine that if he comes out that they would not get vaccinated,” Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It would be very helpful to the effort for that to happen.”
Trump – who contracted coronavirus in early October, in the heat of the presidential campaign – also expressed support for vaccinations in his speech Feb. 28 at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “So, everybody, go get your shot,” he told the crowd of supporters.
In the Fox News interview, Trump also took credit for production of the vaccines and criticized Biden for not giving him what he believes is proper credit. He also attacked Biden over immigration and the economy.
While again protesting the election and denouncing his critics, Trump said it’s too early to say whether he will run again in 2024.
Trump also criticized Meghan Markle over her recent criticism of the British royal family, and he scoffed at the news reports that she may be thinking of running for president.
“If that happened, I think I’d have an even stronger feeling toward running,” Trump said, later adding: “I am not a fan of Meghan.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘It’s a great vaccine’: Donald Trump recommends supporters get COVID-19 vaccine as polls show hesitancy