You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why. Santa Claus has early access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
At least, that’s how it would be if Michael Caputo, one of Trump’s HHS assistant secretaries, had his way. In perhaps one of the strangest plans to come out of this White House, Caputo proposed a $250 million campaign that would give Santa Claus performers access to the coronavirus vaccine before the general public. In exchange, the performers would agree to promote the vaccine to all the boys and girls who came to sit on their lap at Christmastime. And don’t fret about Mrs. Claus and the elves, because this hair-brained plan included giving them the vaccine, too.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the plan after obtaining documents and audio recordings of the idea being discussed. On Friday, though, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the paper that the Santa “collaboration will not be happening,” to the disappointment of children and Santa Clauses across the nation.
“This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen,” Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, told the Journal.
Erwin also provided audio recordings of his calls with Caputo, who said to him, “If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is.”
Caputo also told Erwin, “I cannot wait to tell the president. He’s going to love this.”
The plan goal was to “defeat despair” and “inspire hope” with ads online, on TV, in podcasts, and on the radio. Erwin said he had found almost 100 Santas who volunteered to participate.
But Democrats believe the campaign was politically motivated. “We are concerned that the Trump Administration appears to be misusing taxpayer dollars to fund a political propaganda campaign—disguised as a public health effort—just weeks before a presidential election,” three Democratic members of Congress — Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) — wrote in a letter.
HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Weber denied the ads would be political, saying, “There is no room for political spin in the messages and materials designed by HHS to help Americans make informed decisions about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and flu.” He added that the campaign would “provide important public health, therapeutic and vaccine information as the country reopens, and give Americans information on the phases of reopening.”
In addition to providing Santa Claus performers with the vaccine, the plan included running a series of public service announcements featuring actors and influencers to get the public to believe that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe. Currently, the public does not have much trust in a vaccine with nearly half of respondents to a CNN poll saying they would not get the vaccine when it becomes available.