Health agency halts Santa Claus coronavirus vaccine plan

The Trump administration's vaccine effort has been criticized over what is viewed as political interference

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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Health and Human Services cancelled a coronavirus vaccine advertising plan that would have provided Santa Claus performers, including Mrs. Claus and performing elves, with early access to a COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for touting its benefits to the public.

“This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen,” Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, told the Journal.

Read More: COVID-19 vaccine trial paused after participant gets ‘unexplained illness’

White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern told the Journal that President Trump was never informed about the plan to use Santa performers to promote the vaccine.

Dubbed as “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump administration’s vaccine effort has been criticized over what is viewed as political interference in an important scientific process. With the president repeatedly promising the approval of the vaccine by Nov. 3, he has been accused of trying to use the vaccine for his own political gain.

The plan would have cost taxpayers $250 million and was intended to “defeat despair” and “inspire hope” through TV, radio, online and podcast ads.

First suggested by HHS assistant secretary, Michael Caputo (who is now on medical leave), the public service ad campaign has been criticized by Democrats for being “politically motivated rather than being purely intended to promote public health,” the Journal said.

Expressing skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of the proposed vaccine, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will create an independent task force to review vaccine candidates before distributing any vaccine to New Yorkers.

Read More: Cuomo may withhold COVID-19 vaccine from New York

As coronavirus cases spike throughout the country, there is no indication that a vaccine will be ready for widespread distribution before the end of the year. In the absence of an effective vaccine, and to prevent further spread of the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested last week that a national mask mandate might be necessary.

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