Until A Coronavirus Vaccine Is Ready, Pneumonia Vaccines May Reduce Deaths From COVID-19


Vaccination rates may be tied to rates of COVID-19.
Marko Geber/Getty Images

Robert Root-Bernstein, Michigan State University

The yearly influenza season threatens to make the COVID-19 pandemic doubly deadly, but I believe that this isn’t inevitable.

There are two commonly given vaccines – the pneumococcal vaccine and the Hib vaccine – that protect against bacterial pneumonias. These bacteria complicate both influenza and COVID-19, often leading to death. My examination of disease trends and vaccination rates leads me to believe that broader use of the pneumococcal and Hib vaccines could guard against the worst effects of a COVID-19 illness.

I am an immunologist and physiologist interested in the effects of combined infections on immunity. I have reached my insight by juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated puzzles: Infants and children get SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but very rarely become hospitalized or die; and case numbers and death rates from COVID-19 began varying greatly from nation to nation and city to city even before lockdowns began. I wondered why.

One night I woke up with a possible answer: vaccination rates. Most children, beginning at age two months, are vaccinated against numerous diseases; adults less so. And, both infant and adult vaccination rates vary widely across the world. Could differences in the rates of vaccination against one or more diseases account for differences in COVID-19 risks? As someone who had previously investigated other pandemics such as the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 and AIDS, and who has worked with vaccines, I had a strong background for tracking down the relevant data to test my hypothesis.

Pneumococcal vaccination rates correlate with lower COVID-19 cases and deaths

I gathered national and some local data on vaccination rates against influenza, polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), tuberculosis (BCG), pneumococci and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). I correlated them with COVID-19 case rates and death rates for 24 nations that had experienced their COVID-19 outbreaks at about the same time. I controlled for factors such as percentage of the population who were obese, diabetic or elderly.

I found that only pneumococcal vaccines afforded statistically significant protection against COVID-19. Nations such as Spain, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Peru and Chile that have the highest COVID-19 rates per million have the poorest pneumococcal vaccination rates among both infants and adults. Nations with the lowest rates of COVID-19 – Japan, Korea, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand – have the highest rates of pneumococcal vaccination among both infants and adults.

A recent preprint study (not yet peer-reviewed) from researchers at the Mayo Clinic has also reported very strong associations between pneumococcal vaccination and protection against COVID-19. This is especially true among minority patients who are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. The report also suggests that other vaccines, or combinations of vaccines, such as Hib and MMR may also provide protection.

These results are important because in the U.S., childhood vaccination against pneumococci – which protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria – varies by state from 74% to 92%. Although the CDC recommends that all adults 18-64 in high risk groups for COVID-19 and all adults over the age of 65 get a pneumococcal vaccination, only 23% of high-risk adults and 64% of those over the age of 65 do so.

Similarly, although the CDC recommends at all infants and some high-risk adults be vaccinated against Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), only 80.7% of children in the U.S. and a handful of immunologically compromised adults have been. Pneumococcal and Hib vaccination rates are significantly lower in minority populations in the U.S. and in countries that have been hit harder by COVID-19 than the U.S.

Based on these data, I advocate universal pneumococcal and Hib vaccination among children, at-risk adults and all adults over 65 to prevent serious COVID-19 disease.


Left: Combined rates of childhood and adult (over 65) pneumococcal vaccination (out of a possible 200). Right: Cases (per million) population of COVID-19 at about 90 days into the pandemic for 24 nations. Nations with high pneumococcal vaccination rates have low COVID-19 case rates.

How pneumococcal vaccination protects against COVID-19

Protection against serious COVID-19 disease by pneumococcal and Hib vaccines makes sense for several reasons. First, recent studies reveal that the majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and in some studies nearly all, are infected with streptococci, which causes pneumococcal pneumonias, Hib or other pneumonia-causing bacteria. Pneumococcal and Hib vaccinations should protect coronavirus patients from these infections and thus significantly cut the risk of serious pneumonia.

I also found that pneumococcal, Hib and possibly rubella vaccines may confer specific protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 by means of “molecular mimicry.”

Molecular mimicry occurs when the immune system thinks one microbe looks like another. In this case, proteins found in pneumococcal vaccines and, to a lesser degree, ones found in Hib and rubella vaccines as well look like several proteins produced by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Two of these proteins found in pneumococcal vaccines mimic the spike and membrane proteins that permit the virus to infect cells. This suggests pneumococcal vaccination may prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. Two other mimics are the nucleoprotein and replicase that control virus replication. These proteins are made after viral infection, in which case pneumococcal vaccination may control, but not prevent, SARS-CoV-2 replication.

Either way, these vaccines may provide proxy protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection that we can implement right now, even before we have a specific virus vaccine. Such protection may not be complete. People might still suffer a weakened version of COVID-19 but, like most infants and children, be protected against the worst effects of the infection.

Fighting influenza-related pneumonias during the COVID-19 pandemic

While the specific protection these other vaccines confer against COVID-19 has not yet been tested in a clinical trial, I advocate broader implementation of pneumococcal and Hib vaccination for one additional, well-validated reason.

Pneumococcal and Hib pneumonias – both caused by bacteria – are the major causes of death following viral influenza. The influenza virus rarely causes death directly. Most often, the virus makes the lungs more susceptible to bacterial pneumonias, which are deadly. Dozens of studies around the world have demonstrated that increasing rates of pneumococcal and Hib vaccination dramatically lowers influenza-related pneumonias.

Similar studies demonstrate that the price of using these vaccines is balanced by savings due to lower rates of influenza-related hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and deaths. In the context of COVID-19, lowering rates of influenza-related hospitalizations and ICU admissions would free up resources to fight the coronavirus, independent of any effect these vaccines might have on SARS-CoV-2 itself. In my opinion, that is a winning scenario.

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In short, we need not wait for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to slow down COVID-19.

I believe that we can and should act now by fighting the coronavirus with all the tools at our disposal, including influenza, Hib, pneumococcal and perhaps rubella vaccinations.

Preventing pneumococcal and Hib complications of influenza and COVID-19, and perhaps proxy-vaccinating against SARS-CoV-2 itself, helps everyone. Administering these already available and well-tested pneumococcal and Hib vaccines to people will save money by freeing up hospital beds and ICUs. It will also improve public health by reducing the spread of multiple infections and boost the economy by nurturing a healthier population.The Conversation

Robert Root-Bernstein, Professor of Physiology, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Eric Trump on Trump’s Health: My Father Created a Vaccine for COVID and ‘Just Took It’ — WATCH

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Donald Trump’s son Eric told ABC News anchor Jonathan Karl that his father created a vaccine for COVID and took it.

“Yeah, listen, that first day he got hit hard. I can tell you as a son. It’s never fun watching your father fly up to Walter Reed on Marine One, right? That’s a day that no son wants to remember. That’s no fun to watch.

Said Trump: “I spoke to him three times that next Saturday. The guy sounded 100 percent. It was amazing. It actually probably goes to speak of how good some of these vaccines being created are. What my father did on the vaccine front, no one could have done. No one could have done.

“My father literally started day one creating this vaccine,” Trump bragged. “He worked to push this vaccine, and now my father just took it, and you see how well he got over it.”

Karl asked Trump to clarify what he said about a vaccine.

Replied Trump: “Meaning, when he was in Walter Reed. The medicines that he was taking. He sounds tremendous. I think it goes to show the power of medicine in this country and how far that we’ve come on COVID in the last six or seven months.”

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In the same broadcast, Karl told viewers that the White House would not allow anyone on the president’s task force to appear on his show:

“We had hoped to talk to Dr. Fauci about both the outbreak at the White House and across the country. He was more than willing to join us, but the White House wouldn’t allow you to hear from the nation’s leading expert on coronavirus. In fact, they wouldn’t allow any of the medical experts on the president’s own coronavirus task force to appear on this show.”

Meanwhile, over on FOX News, Trump told Maria Bartiromo that he’s immune: “It seems like I’m immune, so I can go way out of a basement. … It looks like I’m immune for, I don’t know, maybe a long time, maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime. Nobody really knows. But I’m immune. So the president is in very good shape to fight the battles.”


‘Pet Shop Karen’ Calls 911 After Being Told to Put On Her Mask: WATCH

pet shop karenpet shop karen

A woman in Palm Springs, California called 911 after being asked to wear a mask inside the Bones-N-Scones pet store. The encounter was filmed by Aidan Bearshaw, an employee at the store, and posted to Facebook, where it has gone viral.

Said Pet Shop Karen: “As per the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I cannot be discriminated against. I do have a right to breathe O2 not CO2 and I am being discriminated against right now. I have a religious exemption right and a God-given right to breathe O2 not CO2. Yes, medical exemption too.”

After the 911 dispatcher said she was sending an officer, Karen turned to Bearpaw and sassed, “You are welcome to do your research to find out that in the end, I’m actually right.”

The New York Post reports: “The woman tells the dispatcher she’s leaving, while insisting that she’s in the “right” before heading back to her car. Bearpaw told Storyful that the woman called 911 on him the next day, sending police to the store. ‘She was feeling the public backlash and dispatched police on me again,’ he said. ‘My bosses were initially furious. It was very possible I was going to be fired. My co-workers were all very supportive and made it clear there would be consequences if I was terminated.’”

Local news station KESQ interviewed Bearpaw who said of Karen, “I think she was kinda waiting for that to happen just cause she had the A.D.A screenshot pulled up already. It was definitely really anxiety inducing. But it worked out in the sense that, you know, I was able to keep myself safe, and whatever customers were going to come that we’re going to come in safe.”

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High street retailer is now offering PrEP for the first time

UK high street health and beauty retailer Superdrug has started to offer PrEP through its online doctor.

It’s a first for the UK and should help people in remote areas access the drug that can prevent people from getting HIV.

The move comes after last week’s announcement from the government that PrEP will be available for free in sexual health clinics across England. Free PrEP is already available in Scotland and likely to continue in Wales with Northern Ireland to make an announcement soon.

The drug, which can be taken daily or with a special ‘on-demand’ regimen, is 99% effective at preventing HIV. A combination of HIV negative people taking PrEP, prompt HIV testing and putting people on effective HIV treatment fast, has already slashed HIV rates.

Michael Henry, healthcare director, at Superdrug said:

‘Following the DHSC’s announcement, we’re further increasing PrEP’s availability and making it more easily accessible to people who need it most via our Online Doctor PrEP service.

‘We offer a fully remote service, where people who don’t have easy access to a sexual health clinic – due to their location, covid restrictions or lack of appointments – can access a full PrEP service from home.

‘Our aim is to enable people to make informed choices and assume responsibility for their own healthcare.’


PrEP take-up has been particularly high among gay and bi men. But with the drug not routinely available on the NHS until now, many have bought it online.

In that context, Superdrug’s service is nothing new. However, the entry of a major British brand into the market is a major change.

Dr Michael Brady, medical director, at Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) said:

‘It’s great to see a high street store like Superdrug making PrEP easy to access through its website. This move will also help raise awareness of this game-changer for preventing HIV; especially amongst groups that might not have heard much about PrEP before.’

Indeed, one challenge to PrEP advocates has been educating people who may benefit from it. Gay and bi men have seized on the drug – swiftly filling pilot studies around the UK.

By contrast black, Asian and other UK ethnic minorities, women and trans people – also at higher risk of HIV – have been slow to take it up.

Right now, sexual health clinics across the UK are rolling out their PrEP services too. These include screening to ensure people can take PrEP safely and regular sexual health check-ups.

Brady added: ‘While many people may prefer this service, it’s also important to point out that PrEP is currently available for free via sexual health clinics in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and this will very soon be the case across England too.’


As well as providing PrEP, Superdrug will also be doing screening to ensure customers can take it safely. They told GSN this will include essential blood and kidney function tests.

Customers will be able to choose between two PrEP test kits. The basic one, for £39.99, will check kidney function and whether you already have HIV. The ‘full’ kit will also test for hepatitis B and C, but costs £99.99.

Of course, those using NHS clinics can go those tests free. Likewise, a more complicated question is access to regular sexual health screening.

People on PrEP are not reliant on condoms to avoid HIV. Therefore, many choose not to use condoms – even though doctors and Superdrug advise them to continue to do so. And while having condomless sex, they are at greater risk of other sexually transmitted infections.

With routine testing, doctors can spot infections including gonorrhea, syphillis and chlamydia quickly. Swift treatment can avoid them seriously damaging people’s health and stop people spreading them to other sexual partners.

People accessing PrEP through clinics will continue to have frequent sexual health tests.

Other STIs

However, those using Superdrug should still take these tests. A spokesperson for the retailer told GSN:

‘You rightly suggest … people may well be at higher risk of other STIs.

‘At Superdrug Online Doctor, we have a well-established sexual health service, providing both accurate and comprehensive testing, and treatment for conditions like chlamydia, trichomoniasis and herpes.

‘We make sure that at every step of your journey through our service (from researching it, to ordering, and then returning to repeat the process), we educate you and advise you of all the other tests you should do in order to make sure you’re free of other STIs too.’

Like NHS clinics and THT, it recommends STI testing every three months. This is particularly important for those having condomless sex with casual partners.

People can buy tests online. But some parts of the UK offer free postal testing – as well as tests in clinics being free for those who can access them.

However, Superdrug says it is ‘giving people a choice between going through the NHS or doing it privately’. As such, it could help spread PrEP availability and help campaigners create the HIV-free future they say is now in sight.

Trump Can Handle COVID Pandemic Better Than Biden Because He Contracted the Virus, Campaign Spokeswoman Argues: WATCH

erin perrine coviderin perrine covid

Donald Trump can handle the coronavirus pandemic better than Joe Biden because he contracted the virus and Joe Biden didn’t, according to Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine.

Said Perrine on FOX News: “Firsthand experience is always going to change how someone relates to something that has been happening. The president has coronavirus right now. He is battling it head-on as toughly as only President Trump can. And listen, of course that will change the way that he speaks of it because it will be a first-hand experience. But that experience of not only coronavirus, but being President of the United States, that’s why you just see a different tone overall from him.”

“He has experience as Commander in Chief. He has experience as a businessman. He has experience now fighting the coronavirus as an individual,” Perrine added. “Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those.”


Trump’s Doctor Dodges Question on Oxygen Treatment, Reveals Timeline Suggesting President Attended Fundraiser Knowing He Was Positive: WATCH

Sean ConleySean Conley

Donald Trump’s doctor Sean Conley gave a report on the president’s condition Saturday morning that raised several red flags, one being the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis. Conley said that the original diagnosis was 72 hours ago. He also said that Trump has been fever-free for 24 hours.

The timeline suggests that Trump went to a fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey after already being diagnosed as positive and receiving some treatment.

Conley also dodged a question on whether Trump has received supplemental oxygen.

Full presser:

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Trump later tweeted: “Doctors, Nurses and ALL at the GREAT Walter Reed Medical Center, and others from likewise incredible institutions who have joined them, are AMAZING!!!Tremendous progress has been made over the last 6 months in fighting this PLAGUE. With their help, I am feeling well!”


England makes PrEP free but getting it will still be a postcode lottery for now

The UK Government has now made PrEP available for free across England – but many gay and bi men will still struggle to get it.

Pilot projects have found the drug is highly effective in cutting HIV transmission. But the government refused to fund it for years. And now it has announced the funding just days before the scheme is due to start.

The announcement followed months of delays. Experts expected free PrEP to start on 1 April but it should now start from 1 October.

Those delays in making the funding available have undermined clinics readiness for actually making the drug available.

The National Health Service is funding the tablets. But it is up to local authorities to pay for the essential tests before people can start taking it and run outreach work to encourage people to consider PrEP.

With no guarantee if and when the funding would start, some local councils have been reluctant to make preparations. Indeed, some are so distrustful of the Department of Health as a funder that they didn’t want to rely on promises from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

As a result, people who ask for PrEP at their local sexual health clinic this week may not be able to get it.

GSN understands some authorities are ready – good examples include Bristol and parts, though not all, of London. However other areas, including those with large LGBT+ communities such as Manchester, are apparently less prepared.

While all areas should eventually provide the essential services, it could be a postcode lottery over the coming weeks.

That could mean a further frustrating wait for gay and bi men. Many have already waited for months to get access to PrEP. Some clinics running the ‘trial’ PrEP schemes found themselves massively oversubscribed, creating long waiting lists.

‘Only the beginning’

The PrEP drug can be taken daily or with a special on-demand regimen. It is highly effective at stopping HIV transmission even when people have sex without condoms.

The government’s funding comes after a long campaign by HIV organizations and PrEP activists.

They argued that a combination of PrEP, prompt HIV testing and putting people on effective HIV treatment fast, is proven to slash HIV rates.

People who are HIV positive and on effective HIV treatment have ‘undetectable’ levels of the virus and can’t pass it on. This is called ‘treatment as prevention’, ‘undetectable equals untransmittable’ or ‘u=u’.

National AIDS Trust was instrumental to the campaign to get PrEP free. They took the government to court to challenge their refusal to move forward.

Kat Smithson, director of policy at National AIDS Trust, said:

‘This announcement finally gives all local authorities in England the certainty they need to progress with providing PrEP, uncapped.

‘We will closely monitor the roll out and hold government to account on ensuring fair and full access to this vital drug. 

‘Although it’s been a long road to get to this stage, in many ways it’s only the beginning.

‘The potential contribution of PrEP to the goal of ending HIV transmissions by 2030 is yet to be realised. We must now work on addressing inequalities in access with knowledge and use of PrEP much lower in some affected groups than others.’

Should other NHS services offer PrEP

Indeed the ‘trials’ of PrEP has seen some men getting it for free in England. And the pilot projects have proved particularly popular with gay and bi men who rushed to sign up. Meanwhile, others have been buying PrEP online from private suppliers.

However, unleashing the potential of PrEP will mean moving beyond just gay and bi men.

The vast majority of people in the UK currently taking the drug are cisgender men who have sex with other men. But that’s left out other groups who are also vulnerable to HIV.

For example, people of color are more likely to contract HIV. However they are less likely to be on PrEP.

Richard Angell is head of policy and public affairs at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust. 

He told GSN that PrEP should be more widely available, rather than just through GUM (sexual health) clinics.

He argues pharmacies, GP surgeries, gender clinics and maternity services should offer the drug.

This would help roll it out to communities who are less likely to go to GUM clinics – including women. Equally, it would make it more available to rural communities as most sexual health clinics are in cities.

Five year funding demand

Moreover, THT, NAT and others are calling on the government to guarantee funding for future years.

The £11.2million only covers the period until March 2021. They want £16million set aside every year for the next five years to give the chance for PrEP to make a real difference to HIV rates.

Typically the government often announces sexual health funding very late, stopping long term planning.

Meanwhile, Angell hopes to ‘see PrEP made rapidly available right across the country’.

He told GSN: ‘They have got to spend this money by the end of March and so if they are not ready by the end of November they may struggle to use the funds, and that would be a public health travesty.’

However, while he admits there may be delays in accessing the drugs, he points out sexual health clinic staff have been just as frustrated about funding as those waiting to get PrEP:

‘When enquiring, be kind to the sexual health staff because it’s not their fault that there’s been delays.’

PrEP in the rest of the UK

Meanwhile Scotland is ahead of the curve. PrEP has been available there since July 2017.

Likewise, Wales is now ending its pilot project to test offering free PrEP. However, unlike in England, the number of people in the project was uncapped. Moreover, the Welsh government has committed to making PrEP routinely available.

In Northern Ireland, provision has been more patchy. A pilot project to provide PrEP started in 2018 and is due to end soon. However experts hope PrEP will soon become routinely available.

Anderson Cooper Chokes Up Asking About Moment Gay ICU Doctor Died in His Husband’s Arms: WATCH

Last week we reported on Dr. Joseph Costa, the chief of the critical care division/ICU at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who died of complications from COVID-19 in his husbands arms. He was 56.

On AC360, Anderson Cooper got choked up speaking with Costa’s husband David Hart, about how he took off his PPE in his husband’s final moments.

ICYMI: Colleagues Shaken as ICU Chief at Baltimore Hospital Dies of COVID-19 in Husband’s Arms: WATCH

“So many people did not have the privilege that I had and I cannot imagine going through what I went through and not being able to be in the room,” said Hart. “I contracted COVID from Joe at the time he was dying. I was just not going to not be able to touch him with my bare hands, with my cheek, so I took everything off. I just took it off. I know I wasn’t supposed to do that, but, at that point, it was what I wanted to do for him to help support and comfort him.”

“Unfortunately, those 20 people that he worked with, his fellow physicians and nurses, they had to leave that room and go back to work, so they did not have that luxury,” Hart continued. “So they had their hands in blue gloves on his body which was a very poignant moment for him. So I was holding him and I looked down the length of his body and that’s what I saw.”

“I feel for them,” Hart added. “For everybody who has been in that situation, for everybody who has lost a loved one, it’s important to be there. It’s important to touch somebody. That’s what’s so cruel about this disease, the quarantining, the not being able to touch somebody, to give somebody a hug.”

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Nashville Restaurant to Press Assault Charges Against COVID Rule-Defying ‘Bedazzled’ Bachelorette Party Attendee Who Coughed on Manager: WATCH

bachelorette cough mockingbird

Mikey Corona, who owns Nashville restaurant Mockingbird with his husband Brian Riggenbach, says he plans to press charges after a bachelorette attendee deliberately coughed on his manager when she was was told it was against the city’s COVID regulations to join two tables together.

WKRN reports: “He said the woman coughed three times while directing the cough with her hand toward his employee. He said the group of 10 stomped out after not being allowed to move their tables together, a violation of the current Phase Two health orders. Additionally, some in the bachelorette party refused to wear a mask, he said, but coughing on his employee elevated the disruption to another level.”

Said Corona to WKRN: “It was intentional, it was malice, it was not done in any sort of accidental way. We knew exactly what that meant. That’s the equivalent of spitting on somebody or slapping somebody, let alone during the pandemic. … You know we are all about fun in this town, but when you come in with your bedazzled cowboy boots and you stomp on us like we are a mat that’s not ok. That’s where you have to draw the line because we are also human and you should respect that first and foremost.”

Corona says the manager is now quarantined until she gets tested.

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Nancy Pelosi Says Dr. Birx is ‘Enabling’ Trump’s COVID Lies: She ‘Stands There While the President Says ‘Swallow Lysol” — WATCH

On CNN Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about remarks she made over the weekend in which she said she had no confidence in Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force since February 2020.

Said Pelosi to ABC News’ Martha Raddatz: “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no.”

Pelosi clarified the remarks to CNN’s Jim Sciutto, explaining a talk she had with White House officials: “What happened is we had a conversation about how we stop the virus, and when we did, they were making contentions about how tracing isn’t a valuable thing, we shouldn’t do it, and I said ‘Well that’s not what most scientists say.’ And they said ‘well we’ll bring a scientist to say that,’ and I said ‘Make sure it’s not Dr. Birx because I don’t have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says swallow Lysol and it’s going to cure your virus.’”

“It’ll kill you and you won’t have the virus anymore,” Pelosi continued. “I don’t have confidence in somebody when the president says ‘it’s a hoax, magic, it’s going to go away by magic, a miracle,’ and all those things. No. I don’t have confidence.”

“I think that she has enabled [Trump’s lies],” Pelosi added. “But it’s not about her. It’s about the American people and how this administration has not had a strategic plan. …. If the president is saying these things, then who’s advising him that this is okay and enabling that to happen?”

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