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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 23, 2021

Biden, Harris distrusted Trump with COVID-19 vaccines, not the vaccines themselves

If Your Time is short

  • Video clips appear to show Joe Biden and Kamala Harris raising doubts about COVID-19 vaccines, but they were raising concerns about the rollout by then-President Donald Trump, not the vaccines themselves.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been pushing Americans to get inoculated against COVID-19. But a video on social media suggests that they actually had reservations about the safety of the vaccines.

"Keep doubting, They actually said this, it’s not editing," says the heading on the video, which contains clips of statements made by Biden and Harris appearing to cast doubt on the vaccine while they were campaigning last year. 

In fact, the clips are selectively edited to take the statements out of context. The parts that are left out make clear that Biden and Harris were raising questions not about the vaccines themselves, but about then-President Donald Trump’s rollout of the vaccines and the risk that the effort would become rushed or politicized.

The TikTok video was posted on TikTok on May 11 and we found it was still being widely shared on Facebook in mid-July, more than a month after it was reposted there. 

A June 15 Facebook post showing the video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Trump was publicly touting the promise of a rapidly developed COVID-19 vaccine as early as March 2020, when fears of a global pandemic were just beginning to flare, and said he was urging researchers working on the vaccine to "speed it up." Scientists and drug makers, meanwhile, were urging more caution on the timeline and said they were emphasizing safety and effectiveness over speed.

Here’s a rundown of the Biden and Harris statements cited in the video. The video included only the parts that are in bold, but we’ve provided the fuller context around them.

Harris’ statements

Harris was asked in a Sept. 6, 2020, interview whether she would take a vaccine if it was approved before the election. She replied:

"Well, I think that's going to be an issue for all of us. I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump. And it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about. I will not take his word for it. He wants us to inject bleach. I — no, I will not take his word."

Harris was asked in an Oct. 7, 2020, vice presidential debate if she would take a vaccine if the Trump administration approved one. Referring to the leading government epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, she said:

"If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it."

Biden’s statements

Biden’s statements on the campaign trail show that he was concerned that politics would influence the development and deployment of the vaccine, and that Trump could not be trusted. 

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In an interview for a journalism conference Aug. 6, 2020, he said:

"The way he (Trump) talks about the vaccine is not particularly rational. He’s talking about it being ready, he’s going to talk about moving it quicker than the scientists think it should be moved … . People don’t believe that he’s telling the truth, therefore they’re not at all certain they’re going to take the vaccine. And one more thing: If and when the vaccine comes, it’s not likely to go through all the tests that need to be done, and the trials that are needed to be done."

In a Sept. 2, 2020 TV interview, Biden referred to political influence over two federal agencies leading the fight against the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. He said:

"Look at what’s happened. Enormous pressure put on the CDC not to put out the detailed guidelines. The enormous pressure being put on the FDA to say they’re going, that the following protocol will in fact reduce, it will have a giant impact on COVID. All these things turn out not to be true, and when a president continues to mislead and lie, when we finally do, God willing, get a vaccine, who’s going to take the shot? Who’s going to take the shot? You going to be the first one to say, ‘Put me — sign me up, they now say it’s OK’? I’m not being facetious."

In a July 28, 2020 campaign speech, Biden stressed the need for transparency in developing the vaccine. He said:

"How are you going to distribute the vaccine when it arrives, when it arrives, when it’s there? And the question of whether it’s real, when it’s there, that requires enormous transparency. You’ve got to make all of it available to other experts across the nation, so they can look and see, so there’s consensus this is a safe vaccine. Because already you have, what percent is American people saying if the vaccine were there tomorrow, they wouldn’t take it? And it’s not the usual anti-vaccine crowd. It’s beyond that because people are losing faith in what the president says. Think about it." 

In campaign remarks on Sept. 7, 2020, Biden outlined steps he would take to address the pandemic, including masks and contact tracing, adding: 

"Charting a clear path of science-based vaccines, free from politics. I get asked the question: ‘If the president announced tomorrow we have a vaccine, would you take it?’ Only if it was completely transparent, that other experts in the country could look at it, only if we knew all of what went into it. Because so far, nothing he’s told us has been true."

The following week, Biden restated his concern about politics intervening in vaccine development:

"Americans have had to endure President Trump’s incompetence and dishonesty, when it comes to testing and personal protective equipment. We can’t afford to repeat those fiascos when it comes to a vaccine. … Let me be clear: I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either. Last week, Senator Harris and I laid out three questions this administration’s going to have to answer to assure the American people that politics will not play a role whatsoever in the vaccine process. If Donald Trump can’t give answers and the administration can’t give answers to these three questions, the American people should not have confidence."

Our ruling

A video on social media suggests that Biden and Harris distrusted COVID-19 vaccines.

The video was selectively edited to leave out the context of their statements. Their full statements show they were raising doubts about Trump’s trustworthiness, his ability to roll out the vaccines safely and the risk of political influence over vaccine development. 

We rate the video False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, June 16, 2021

TikTok, post, May 11, 2021

CNN, transcript, Sept. 6, 2020

Fox News, "Biden questions whether coronavirus vaccine will be 'real,' despite experts' assurances," July 31, 2020

Facebook, ABC News video (24:10) Sept. 7, 2020

ClickOrlando.com, video of Joe Biden remarks (4:20), Sept. 2, 2020

GOP.com, "Biden Repeatedly Undermined The Vaccine," March 18, 2021

YouTube, video of Joe Biden interview, Aug. 6, 2020

Facebook, video of Joe Biden remarks (7:50), Sept. 16, 2020

YouTube, NBC News video, Oct. 7, 2020

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Biden, Harris distrusted Trump with COVID-19 vaccines, not the vaccines themselves

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