Trump Admin Planned To Give Santa Performers Early Vax Access In Return For Taking Part In Ad Campaign

Slate reports:

In order to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, a federal health agency had an idea: Get Santa Claus involved. The Department of Health and Human Services had planned to devote $250 million for an advertising campaign, part of which involved Santa Claus performers promoting COVID-19 vaccination, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In exchange, they would get access to the vaccine before the general public. And not just Mr. Claus, performers playing Mrs. Claus and elves would also benefit from the scheme. Michael Caputo, an HHS assistant secretary who took a 60-day medical leave last month, was the one who thought up the plan.

Rolling Stone reports:

HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the paper that the Santa “collaboration will not be happening,” to the disappointment of children and Santa Clauses across the nation. “This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen,” Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, told the Journal.

Erwin also provided audio recordings of his calls with Caputo, who said to him, “If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is.” Caputo also told Erwin, “I cannot wait to tell the president. He’s going to love this.” The plan goal was to “defeat despair” and “inspire hope” with ads online, on TV, in podcasts, and on the radio.

The original report is behind a paywall.