In the first general election debate ahead of North Carolina’s battleground Senate contest between incumbent GOP Sen. Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham, the challenger echoed fear mongering rhetoric about a potential COVID-19 vaccine that was originally pushed by Sen. Kamala Harris. The newly-minted vice presidential candidate said that she “would not trust” a vaccine created by President Trump.
Upon emerging from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s infamous “windowless basement,” Cunningham told voters that he would be “hesitant” to take a COVID-19 vaccine created by the Trump administration.
Cal Cunningham told 10 million North Carolinians he would be hesitant to take a coronavirus vaccine approved by the FDA. This kind of reckless anti-vaxer rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible. #NCsen pic.twitter.com/JV3PqOS1L0— Joanna Rodriguez (@joannamrod) September 14, 2020
Wow - Cunningham indicates he won't take a coronavirus vaccine if one is made available: "I've got questions" because he's seen "politics intervening in what should be driven by health and science."— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 14, 2020
"Yes, I would be hesitant." #ncsen
Sen. Tillis called Cunningham's vaccine hesitation "irresponsible," as a potential COVID-19 vaccination would save an abundance of American lives:
"I think that that is irresponsible," he said in response. "That statement puts lives at risk and it makes it more difficult to manage the crisis that he pretends to say he’s up to the task to manage."
Apolitical public health experts consulting with the administration on COVID-19 relief efforts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have given the green light for the vaccine trial process. Any potential vaccination would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which Sen. Tillis deemed the "gold standard." Cunningham insisted that even if the FDA, a government agency with no political agenda, were to approve a vaccine, he would remain hesitant.
While Sen. Schumer does his best to keep Cunningham shielded from the public eye, as the Democratic leader hopes to take back the majority in the upper chamber come November, both the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics rate the race as a toss-up.