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Sanders rips Pence: His last response to an epidemic was to 'pray' it away

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden campaign promises will struggle if Republicans win back Congress Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday slammed President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE’s appointment of Vice President Pence as point man on the coronavirus outbreak, noting the HIV outbreak that occurred during Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s refusal to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all.

“Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:

-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor

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-Have VP Pence, who wanted to 'pray away' HIV epidemic, oversee the response

-Let ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all

Disgusting,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday.

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Sanders embedded a clip of Azar, under questioning from Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers Acting FTC chair urges Congress to revive agency authority after Supreme Court decision MORE (D-Ill.), saying “we would want to make sure that we worked to make” a vaccine affordable to anyone in need of it, “but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest.”

Pence faced widespread criticism as governor of Indiana following an HIV outbreak in Scott County led to more than 200 cases in 2015 after Pence and GOP state lawmakers defunded Planned Parenthood, which was one of the primary vectors of HIV testing in the county.

The then-governor, asked if he would support a needle exchange program to slow the HIV spread, said, “I’m going to go home and pray on it.” He would later sign legislation for a temporary exchange program two months after the outbreak was initially detected.

Pence said Wednesday at a press conference with Trump and public health officials that his role in a possible coronavirus outbreak would be to bring Trump “the best options for action” and to “see to the safety and well-being and health of the American people.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people globally and with more than 2,500 deaths.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that for the first time since the outbreak began in December, more new cases were being reported outside of China than in it.