Vice-president Mike Pence has received the Pfizer jab live on television as America was poised to have a second vaccine approved for national rollout.
With about 40 per cent of Americans saying they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ not get vaccinated, the staged event was designed to reassure the public the drug was safe.
“The American people can be confident: we have one and, perhaps within hours, two safe vaccines,” Mr Pence said, referring to expected FDA approval for Moderna’s vaccine.
His wife Karen and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received shots during the White House event.
Five days into the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history, which began on Monday (local time), President Donald Trump has held no public events to trumpet the roll-out.
However he did issue a false tweet claiming too early that the Moderna vaccine had been approved and would be distributed “immediately”.
In fact, Moderna’s jab has been endorsed by a panel of experts and is awaiting final approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Moderna vaccine overwhelmingly approved. Distribution to start immediately.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2020
Mr Pence, 61, received the first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at 8am (local time) and is the most senior US official to have been inoculated so far.
“We gather here today at the end of a historic week to affirm to the American people that hope is on the way,” he said.
“Karen and I were more than happy to step forward before this week was out to take this safe and effective coronavirus vaccine that we have secured and produced for the American people.”
The US is the world’s worst-infected country with the highest death toll of more than 310,000 people.
The country has recorded more than 17 million cases since the start of the pandemic.
Mr Trump, who was hospitalised with COVID-19 in October, hasn’t been inoculated himself.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said on Thursday that they would get vaccinated in the next few days.
Meanwhile News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, 89, received the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK at his local doctor’s surgery, a statement issued on his behalf said.
“He would like to thank the key workers and the NHS (National Health Service) staff who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic, and the amazing scientists who have made this vaccine possible,” the statement said.
Mr Murdoch received a call from the local surgery to say he was eligible.
He has been isolating in Britain since the northern summer with his wife Jerry Hall Murdoch.