RALEIGH — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham said he will be “hesitant” to take a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. The comments were made during the first U.S. Senate debate between him and incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
During the debate hosted by WRAL-TV, both candidates were asked if they would take a vaccine if one were ready by Nov. 3 or the end of the year.
Tillis said he has no doubt the vaccine will be safe, but he wants first responders, the medical community and the vulnerable to get it first.
“I think we place a priority on that. And as soon as I know they have been protected, then I will be standing in line,” Tillis said.
When asked the same question, Cunningham said he has questions and said he is worried politics are intervening with health and science.
“We have seen an extraordinary corruption in Washington,” he said. “We have seen political and financial corruption that has intervened in and distorted Washington D.C.”
After being pressed by the moderator if he would be hesitant to take a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, Cunningham said, “Yes.”
“Yes, I would be hesitant, but I am going to ask a lot of questions,” Cunningham said. “I think that’s incumbent on all of us right now.”
In response, Tillis called Cunningham’s position “irresponsible” and said a vaccine won’t be released without reaching the Food and Drug Administration’s gold standard.
“We just heard a candidate for the U.S. Senate look into the camera and tell 10 million North Carolinians he would be hesitant to take a vaccine,” Tillis said. “I think that is irresponsible.”
Following the debate, Cunningham clarified his remarks but reiterated he is concerned about political pressure on the vaccine’s development process.
“The point I am making is we need to do that due diligence that the FDA, medical professionals and scientists sign off on this,” he said. “If they sign off free of politics, you bet I’ll take the vaccine. I won’t hesitate,” he said.
The other debates between the two are scheduled for Sept. 22 and Oct. 1.
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