Addressing hesitancy among Republicans to get vaccinated for COVID-19, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged members of the GOP on Monday to get inoculated to help end the pandemic.
“I saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine,” McConnell told reporters during a press briefing outside a health care clinic in Kentucky. “I'm a Republican man, and I want to say to everyone, we need to take this vaccine."
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted last month found that 49 percent of Republican men don't plan to get vaccinated for COVID-19, compared with just 6 percent of male Democrats.
Similarly, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 50 percent of unvaccinated people who voted for Donald Trump’s reelection said they will “never” get vaccinated.
“These reservations need to be put aside,” McConnell continued. “Because the only way I think we finally get to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror is with herd immunity.”
Health experts say that in order to achieve herd immunity, 75 to 80 percent of the population needs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5 percent have been fully vaccinated in the United States.
In McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, that number is about 30 percent.
“So we got a ways to go,” he said.
Trump spent the early days of the pandemic downplaying the virus’s deadliness, and for months afterward he promised the nation that the coronavirus would “disappear.” Trump himself was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October and received treatment for severe symptoms of the disease. He went on to host a series of campaign rallies despite the warnings of health experts that such events risked further spreading the coronavirus.
In February, Trump urged his supporters to get vaccine shots, but he has otherwise steered clear of efforts to promote vaccination. He was absent from a pro-vaccine video featuring all the other living former presidents.
The Biden administration has acknowledged that addressing vaccine hesitancy among Republicans and Trump voters remains a difficult challenge.
“We recognize as a Democratic administration with a Democratic president that we may not be the most effective messenger to communicate with hard-core supporters of the former president,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month. “We have to be clear-eyed about that.”
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