Trump promises speedy vaccine in appeal to seniors

President Trump appealed to American seniors on Friday by touting his administration’s effort to swiftly deliver a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, announcing a new public-private partnership to deliver a possible vaccine to senior citizens free of cost.

During a speech in Fort Myers, Fla., Trump announced that his administration would partner with CVS and Walgreens to immediately deliver a vaccine directly to nursing homes at no cost to their residents.

Trump delivered the remarks to a crowd of a few hundred people. 

The president defended his administration’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 218,000 in America and disproportionately impacted the senior population, and pledged to have 100 million doses of a vaccine available by the end of the year or sooner. He said seniors would be “first in line for the vaccine.”

“I am deeply aware that America’s 54 million seniors have borne the heaviest burden of the China virus,” Trump told an audience at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater, referring to the coronavirus. “Many older Americans have endured months of isolation, missing weddings, birthdays, graduations, church and family reunions.”

“My message to America’s seniors today is one of optimism, confidence and hope. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. The light at the need of the tunnel is near. We are rounding the turn,” he continued.

Trump’s speech comes as he seeks to shore up his support among older Americans less than three weeks from Election Day, as polls indicate his support among the senior population has eroded.

He has faced broad disapproval for his handling of the pandemic, and has repeatedly focused on efforts to deliver a vaccine quickly through “Operation Warp Speed.”

The president initially insisted a vaccine could be ready before the election, contradicting predictions from public health experts, but has recently adjusted his comments as potential vaccines continue to undergo trials. 

The speech was billed as an official address but quickly became political, as he oscillated between promoting his own agenda and attacking Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, warning ominously that America’s seniors are “under threat from a radical left movement.”

Trump claimed that the Democratic ticket, if elected, would delay the coronavirus vaccine and prolong the pandemic, and that they would enact “socialist health care plans” that would adversely impact the country’s elderly population.

The lengthy speech felt like a rally address at times, as Trump complained about the Russia investigation and mentioned “Crooked Hillary” — a remark that invited chants of “lock her up” from the crowd. Trump also offered commentary on the dueling town halls that he and Biden participated in the evening prior.

Trump’s speech in Fort Myers, which was paired with a campaign rally in Ocala later Friday, came on the heels of Biden’s own stop in the Sunshine State earlier this week during which he also delivered remarks targeting older Americans.

Trump’s remarks on Friday served as a rebuttal of sorts to Biden’s scathing rebuke of the president’s handling of the pandemic. Biden accused Trump of treating America’s seniors as if they are “expendable” and ripped his response to the pandemic.

“While you’re losing precious time with your loved ones, he’s been stuck in a sand trap at one of his golf courses, and when he does decide to lift a finger, it isn’t to help you,” Biden told a socially distanced gathering in Florida on Tuesday. 

“While he throws superspreader parties at the White House, while Republicans hug each other, without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids the last seven months?” he continued.

A recent CNN poll found that Biden has a 21-point lead over Trump among voters above the age of 65. Polls have indicated that Trump’s support has slipped in particular among senior voters in Florida, a battleground state that is viewed as crucial to his reelection.

Trump won voters over 65 by a 7-point margin during the 2016 election, according to CNN exit polls.

Seniors have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which is more likely to result in severe symptoms or death among older individuals who contract it.

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign launched an eight-figure advertising campaign aimed at shoring up his support among America’s seniors nationwide.

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