Sen. Kamala Harris said during Wednesday's vice presidential debate that she would take a COVID-19 vaccine only if medical professionals recommended it, not on President Donald Trump's word alone.
"If Dr. Fauci, the doctors, tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it," Harris said. "But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I'm not going to take it."
Harris, the Democratic candidate for vice president, has previously told CNN she would second-guess Trump's recommendation, suggesting politics and reelection, not public health, would be his motivation.
Trump has repeatedly pushed for a vaccine to be ready by the election, despite the fact that public health experts have said such a timeline is unrealistic to collect sufficient data on safety and efficacy. He has also undermined his top federal health officials, calling the longer timeline given by his CDC director a “mistake,” and calling FDA guidelines for extra safety data a "political hit job."
Public willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine dropped from 72% in May to 51% in September, according to polls by the Pew Research Center.
Vice President Mike Pence attacked Harris for her answer, saying the senator was undermining confidence in a vaccine the Trump administration has claimed will soon be ready for mass distribution.
"I just ask you to stop playing politics with people's lives," Pence said. "The fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if a vaccine emerges in the Trump administration, is unconscionable."
Harris has been criticized by opponents who have said her comments have subverted public confidence in a vaccine that the Trump administration has been pushing to be approved before the election. It wasn't until Wednesday that Trump tweeted a vaccine would not be available before the Nov. 3 election.
Harris, though, has said she is not questioning the credibility of medical professions, telling CNN she was worried medical professionals would be "muzzled, they'll be suppressed, they will be sidelined."