The U.S. Health Department Tried to Offer Early Vaccines to Shopping Mall Santas

America’s national health agency “halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.”

The Wall Street Journal reports:

As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included….

The decision comes as the Covid-19 spread continues to accelerate in most states, and the vaccines are unlikely to be broadly available to the public before the holiday season. The coronavirus ad effort — titled “Covid 19 Public Health and Reopening America Public Service Announcements and Advertising Campaign” — was intended to “defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery,” according to a work statement reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. It was to include television, radio, online and podcast announcements, starting immediately. The public-relations blitz began to fizzle after some celebrities, including actor Dennis Quaid, shied away from participating, a former White House official said, amid concerns that the campaign would be viewed as political rather than aiding public health….

[Former pharmaceutical lobbyist Alex Azar, now serving as America’s Secretary of Health], has “ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign that will be led by top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes,” Health and Human Services officials said in a statement.
Santa’s vaccines were the brainchild of Michael Caputo, a political strategist/lobbyist also appointed to America’s Health and Human Services as assistant secretary, according to the Journal. But an HHS spokesman now tells them that the Santa “collaboration will not be happening.”

They also get a quote from Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas — who called the news “extremely disappointing.”
In a 12-minute phone call in late August, Mr. Caputo told Mr. Erwin of the Santa group that vaccines would likely be approved by mid-November and distributed to front-line workers before Thanksgiving.

“If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is,” Mr. Caputo said on the call, which was recorded by Mr. Erwin and provided to the Journal. [In audio of the call published by the Journal, Santa responds by saying “Ho ho ho ho, ho ho ho. I love you.”]

“I cannot wait to tell the president,” Mr. Caputo said at another point about the plan. “He’s going to love this.” Mr. Erwin said on the call: “Since you would be doing Santa a serious favor, Santa would definitely reciprocate.”

Mr. Caputo said: “I’m in, Santa, if you’re in….”

Mr. Caputo said he wanted Santas to appear at rollout events in as many as 35 cities. In exchange, he said the Santas would get an early crack at inoculation.

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