A federal well being company on Friday nixed a plan by a Trump administration official to offer Santa Claus performers early COVID-19 vaccine entry in change for his or her participation in a controversial federal public service marketing campaign, a brand new report mentioned.
Beneath the Santa plan, drawn up by Michael Caputo, an assistant secretary on the Division of Well being and Human Companies, the St. Nick lookalikes would have promoted the advantages of a coronavirus vaccine at rollout occasions in dozens of cities, in accordance with cellphone recordings obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
Ric Erwin, the chairman of the Fraternal Order of Actual Bearded Santas, instructed the newspaper that Caputo outlined the plan to him on a late August cellphone name.
Erwin mentioned about 100 Santas had agreed to take part within the plan with the anticipation they’d obtain COVID-19 vaccines earlier than Thanksgiving.
However the proposed collaboration, which President Trump was reportedly by no means knowledgeable of, was scrapped Friday by HHS.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar was unaware of the outreach carried out by Caputo, who took a 60-day medical go away final month, an HHS spokesman instructed the Journal.
Erwin, in an interview with the newspaper, known as the choice to scrap the plan “extraordinarily disappointing.
“This was our biggest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it appears to be like prefer it received’t occur,” he mentioned.
The HHS additionally introduced Friday the company is reviewing its total advert marketing campaign that was anticipated to make use of tv, radio and podcasts for coronavirus-related public service bulletins.
Azar “ordered a strategic overview of this public well being schooling marketing campaign that shall be led by high public well being and communications consultants to find out whether or not the marketing campaign serves necessary public well being functions,” HHS officers mentioned in a press release to the paper.
Critics have blasted the $250 million HHS-lead advert blitz, claiming the taxpayer-funded plan will attempt to put a constructive spin on the Trump administration’s dealing with of the pandemic.
Actor Dennis Quaid additionally took warmth for filming a spot within the marketing campaign.
After information broke of his involvement, Quaid had mentioned he was not paid for his position in a video the place he urged individuals to put on masks and social distance.
“It was on no account political,” he had mentioned in an Instagram put up.
Mark Weber, HHS’s deputy assistant secretary, shared comparable sentiments in a press release to the Journal.
“There isn’t any room for political spin within the messages and supplies designed by HHS to assist People make knowledgeable choices in regards to the prevention and therapy of COVID-19 and flu,” Weber wrote.