Former President Donald Trump claimed the world could have seen 100 million deaths from COVID-19 if his administration hadn’t developed the vaccine.
“I think if we didn’t come up during the Trump administration with the vaccine, you could have 100 million people dead just like you had in 1917,” Trump said Saturday night during an interview with Fox News’ Dan Bongino.
Trump, who was discussing the reopening of schools, says he is very proud of the vaccine and that it “has been great for the world”.
He claims without it America would’ve seen fatalities similar to those from the Spanish flu – which is believed to have killed 40million to 100million worldwide. Around 675,000 were killed in the United States.
The former president also said he hopes that educators will get the vaccine so that schools can reopen.
“The schools have to open,” he said, adding, “These young people are losing a big part of their life and they’re not going to recover from it.”
Trump argued that school closures are leaving a “psychological scar” on children, citing the impact of students’ lack of social interaction.
“We have to open our schools. I say, let the teachers get the vaccine — they should get the vaccine, I hope they do,” Trump continued, saying that some teachers don’t “ever want to go back to work” due to virus concerns.
While Trump said he supports the vaccine, he also reiterated that he is against pandemic mandates.
“I have to be a big vaccine fan because I’m the one that got it done so quickly. Got it done in less than nine months, it was supposed to take five years. They would’ve never even gotten it done, so I’m a big fan,” Trump said.
“But at the same time I’m a big fan of our freedoms and people have to make that choice for themselves and people have to make that choice for themselves,” he said.
“I would recommend that they get it and they get it done, and they’re being protected,” Trump said.
“The vaccines turned out to be a tremendous thing. But I also feel strongly that there are some people that do not want to do it and I really believe in somebody’s choice, somebody’s freedom. The mandates are crazy,” he said.
The former president continued, saying he thinks COVID mandates are negatively impacting the American education system.
“What they’re doing with schools now — they don’t know if they’re going to keep them closed. What are they doing? The teachers union now is in flux. All of the things that are happening … people have to get back, the kids have to get back to school,” Trump argued.
Trump’s comments come as many families are preparing for the new school year.
Some districts, like Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, have already returned to the classroom and are seeing the impacts of COVID-19.
The district, which is the largest in the state, confirmed 253 cases of coronavirus on Friday, just three days into the new school year, CNN reported.
A district spokesperson argued that the cases are from “communal spread” and not school transmission because those sickened “haven’t been in our buildings yet to have contracted” the virus.
“Now that we’re back in school, we know we’re going to get cases,” Bernard Watson, director of community and media relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools, told the news outlet.
Similarly, Arizona’s second-largest school district also battling active cases of COVID-19.
Since the school year began on July 21, Chandler Unified School District has reported more than 140 coronavirus cases. The district is continuing to “monitor confirmed cases” and will “make adjustments to our mitigation plan as necessary”.
Indianapolis Public Schools also saw a COVID-19 outbreak upon the return to the classroom.
On Tuesday, officials notified parents that 61 fourth-grade students were required to “quarantine for 14 days after coming in close contact with a school staff member who tested positive for COVID-19”.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the schools that experienced outbreaks are not following COVID-19 mitigation measures like wearing masks.
“If you’re masked and you’re doing all of the prevention mitigation strategies, it won’t be transmitted in the school. It will be contained,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN.
She also encouraged everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine, saying, “Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you, especially as the more contagious Delta variant spreads around the country.”
According to the CDC, 166,203,176 Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday. The White House said this accounts for more than half of the US population.
194,346,486 individuals have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The seven-day average of newly vaccinated people is up 11 percent from last week, and up 44 percent over the past two weeks.
President Joe Biden has been pressing hard for Americans to get vaccinated ever since he took office in January.
His aggressive vaccination program had raised hopes of a return to some semblance of normal life this summer, but the plan was hindered by the Delta variant.
In an increasingly assertive approach, the Biden administration recently asked all federal employees to get vaccinated or face COVID testing twice a week.
The president hinted Friday there would be further measures, saying, “There will be more to come in the days ahead”.
One possibility mentioned in press reports is pressuring nursing homes — a hotbed of deaths early in the pandemic — to force vaccinations among staff or risk losing public funding.
Cities including New York and Los Angeles have imposed new restrictions, such as demanding proof of vaccination for entering indoor venues including restaurants and gyms.
Daily new cases, deaths and hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks. Last week, there was an average of 90,000 new coronavirus cases perday, with Florida and Texas accounting for a third of them, the White House said.
The United States is back up to around 380 COVID-19 deaths a day, with hospitalizations averaging 7,300 a day over a week.
The level of community transmission of the virus is “high” or “substantial” in 85 percent of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The United States is the nation hardest-hit by the pandemic, with 615,000 deaths.