Vice President Mike Pence, Karen Pence receive COVID-19 vaccine publicly to ‘build confidence’

Vice President Mike Pence received a COVID-19 vaccine Friday on live television to build confidence among the American people about its safety and efficacy, becoming the highest ranking U.S. official to do so.

Pence's wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received the shots.

"I didn’t feel a thing. Well done," Pence told the technicians from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who administered his Pfizer-BioNTech shot early Friday morning. 

"Hope is on the way," Pence later said during the televised White House event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "The American people can be confident: We have one and perhaps within hours two safe vaccines," he added, referring to the FDA's expected authorization of a second vaccine by Moderna.

The vice president, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, toured a vaccine production facility earlier this week and reiterated his confidence in the vaccine development.

"Be confident that we have cut red tape but we've cut no corners when it comes to the development of this vaccine," Pence said during the visit. 

Adams, who is Black, emphasized the "the importance of representation" in outreach to at-risk communities and encouraged Americans to avoid disinformation around the vaccines.

Vice President Mike Pence receives the COVID-19 vaccine in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

A survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about half of Americans want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Another quarter of the public isn't sure, while the remaining quarter say they aren’t interested. Some simply oppose vaccines in general. Others are concerned that the injections have been rushed and want to see how the rollout goes.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters this week that President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the virus in October and recovered, is "absolutely open to taking the vaccine." 

"He will receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best," McEnany said, stating that Trump’s priority is frontline workers and those in long-term care facilities. 

Trump launched Operation Warp Speed — the government campaign to help swiftly develop and distribute vaccines — this spring with great fanfare in the White House Rose Garden. Pfizer-BioNTech received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Dec. 11, and amid its distribution, many have called for Trump to also get vaccinated publicly soon to help instill confidence in the shot.

"The President’s relatively low profile on the COVID response since the election is curious and counter to Mr. Trump’s own interests," Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law who focuses on public health, told the Associated Press. 

Gostin, who has criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic in the past, said that he "deserves a great deal of credit" for Operation Warp Speed and placing a bet on two vaccines that use groundbreaking mRNA technology.

"Having exhibited leadership in the vaccines’ development, he should take great pride in publicly demonstrating his trust in COVID vaccines," Gostin added.

According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is not yet enough information to determine whether those who have had COVID-19, like Trump, should get the vaccine. 

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, recommended that Trump take it publicly without delay.

"Even though the president himself was infected, and he has, likely, antibodies that likely would be protective, we’re not sure how long that protection lasts. So, to be doubly sure, I would recommend that he get vaccinated as well as the vice president," Fauci told ABC News.

It was not clear whether first lady Melania Trump, who came down with COVID-19 at the same time as her husband, would be vaccinated.

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said Trump "will continue to update the country through a variety of means while giving medical professionals and hardworking staff at OWS the space to do their jobs and save lives."

Fauci has also called on President-elect Joe Biden to get vaccinated for the coronavirus as soon as possible. Biden reiterated Tuesday that he would get the vaccine publicly, which he had previously committed to do. 

"I want to just make sure we do it by the numbers. When I do it, you'll have notice, and we'll do it publicly," Biden told reporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days. Three former presidents have also said they would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine publicly to encourage all Americans to get inoculated against a disease that has already killed more than 305,000 people nationwide.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.