US Vice-President Pence to get vaccine shot on Friday; Joe Biden next week

US Vice-President Mike Pence will be vaccinated on Dec 18 while President-elect Joe Biden will receive the shot as soon as next week. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President-elect Joe Biden will get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as next week, transition officials said on Wednesday (Dec 16), as US authorities try to build public confidence in a measure that promises to stanch the deadly pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence will get the vaccine on Friday (Dec 18), the White House said. Both men will receive the shot publicly in an effort to boost confidence in the safety of the vaccine, which will become widely available to the public next year.

"I don't want to get ahead of the line but I want to make sure that we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take," Biden said at an event earlier on Wednesday.

Biden, 78, is in a high-risk category for the coronavirus because of his age.

Biden has vowed to make the fight against the virus his top priority when he takes office on Jan 20. President Donald Trump, who lost the Nov 3 election to
Biden, has frequently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, which has killed 304,187 Americans so far, and feuded with his top public health officials.

Trump will get the vaccine himself as soon as his medical team determines it is best, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday.

The president was hospitalised after testing positive for Covid-19 this autumn.

Initial doses of the vaccine, which became available in the United States this week, have been set aside for doctors, nurses and other frontline medical workers, along with residents and staff of nursing homes and some US government officials.

US officials aim to get 2.9 million doses of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, by week's end.

Some 16.7 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus so far, equal to roughly 5 per cent of the population.

Pence's wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also will get the vaccine on Friday, the White House said.

Biden's transition team did not say when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would get the vaccine.

Biden is building his incoming administration as he prepares for his inauguration next month.

On Wednesday, he introduced former presidential rival Pete Buttigieg as his choice for US transportation secretary to take the lead in upgrading America's aging infrastructure.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, would be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary confirmed by the Senate if he is approved.

"The Biden-Harris Cabinet will be a historic Cabinet - a Cabinet that looks like America, a Cabinet that taps into the best of America, a Cabinet that is opening doors and breaking down barriers and accessing the full range of talent ... in this nation," Biden said as he puts forth what is shaping up to be the most diverse Cabinet in US history.

Appearing with Buttigieg in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said the 38-year-old would confront the task of restoring what he called "our crumbling roads, bridges and ports".

Biden has proposed a massive boost in infrastructure spending.

Buttigieg emerged from relative obscurity to mount a surprisingly robust campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination eventually won by

A military veteran who served in Afghanistan, Buttigieg is in the vanguard of the next generation of Democratic politicians and is widely seen as a future presidential contender.

"Americans shouldn't settle for less than our peers in the developed world when it comes to our roads and bridges, our railways and transit systems. The US should lead the way, and I know that in this administration we will," Buttigieg said.

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