Pence on COVID: China must be accountable, wary about new vaccine

  • Pence: New COVID booster 'hasn't been subjected' to common tests
  • Operation Warp Speed under Trump was a 'medical miracle'
  • Anthony Fauci 'stayed in his lane' before Biden took office

(NewsNation) —  Former Vice President Mike Pence defended the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID pandemic, said China must be held accountable for it’s role in the pandemic and cast doubt on vaccine safety during a NewsNation town hall Wednesday night.

Pence blamed China for the virus that took over 1.1 million American lives and said that Operation Warp Speed was a “medical miracle.”

“I’m incredibly proud of the fact that with American innovation, we managed to develop three safe and effective vaccines in nine months; vaccines usually take three to five years to approve. And I believe we saved hundreds of lives,” Pence said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke with NewsNation earlier this year and said he’s kept an open mind about the origins of COVID-19, but pointed to “accumulating evidence” that it was transmitted naturally as opposed to through an accidental lab leak.

The U.S. intelligence community remains divided on a definite origin, partly because China has not been forthcoming with information about the outbreak and a wet market in Wuhan where it might have first spread.

In NewsNation’s interview with Fauci, he said he was put in an “uncomfortable position” while tasked with delivering COVID-19 information. He claimed the former president made statements about the virus that “were just not true,” and Fauci stood firm that all the chief medical adviser recommendations were rooted in science, not politics.

When asked about Fauci’s response to COVID-19, Pence said the former chief medical adviser for the White House, “stayed in his lane” before President Joe Biden took office.

“In the early days, he (Fauci) gave us medical advice. But he understood that we ultimately would have to make decisions on the broader interests of the country, including economic decisions,” Pence said.

When Biden took office, Pence’s opinion on Fauci’s response to COVID-19 “started to change,” he said, faulting governors and mayors across the country for instituting lockdowns longer than what the administration thought was necessary. 

“The temporary measures in that spring were never intended to be permanent,” Pence said.

Pence also criticized local school districts for choosing to move to online-only instruction, which research has shown set students back.

Fauci defended the COVID-19 lockdowns that took place early on in the pandemic, saying they “saved lives” while hospitals were being overrun.

Recommendations to close schools and enforce shelter-in-place orders early during the pandemic were celebrated by some and criticized by others, but those decisions weren’t made lightly, Fauci said.

Pence added the Trump administration “focused on making sure that the American people had the resources that they needed to meet that moment” and that he’s “incredibly proud of what the American people accomplished during the worst pandemic in 100 years.”

Health officials announced Tuesday that most Americans should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the new shots for everyone 6 months and older and the agency’s director quickly signed off on the panel’s recommendation.

The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has faded, but there are still thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths in the U.S. each week. Hospitalizations have been increasing since late summer, though the latest data indicate infections may be starting to level off, particularly in the South. The CDC works with partners to study COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness using several data collection platforms.

Pence cast doubts on the new vaccine booster, claiming it “hasn’t been subjected to tests” common for approving medicines and vaccines.

The Associated Press and NewsNation’s Katie Smith contributed to this report.

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