Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday slammed President Trump’s appointment of Vice President Pence as point man on the coronavirus outbreak, pointing out 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. 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,” the Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator wrote on Twitter.
Sanders embedded a clip of Azar, under questioning from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (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.
Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:
-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor
-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
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 27, 2020
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.