Fauci urges Trump to address supporters over vaccine hesitancy

fauci vaccine trump supporters vaccine hesitancy
Photo via Trump White House Archive/Flickr (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

The U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, called for former president Donald Trump to address his supporters about vaccine hesitancy following results of a March 12 poll he found disturbing. 

The NPR/PBS News/Marist poll found that willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine split definitively along political lines. NPR noted, in its report on the poll, “Among Republican men, 49% said they did not plan to get the shot, compared with just 6% of Democratic men who said the same. Among those who said they supported President Trump in the 2020 election, 47% said they did not plan to get a coronavirus vaccine compared with just 10% of Biden supporters.” 

The report led Fauci to label the results as “so disturbing.” 

“How such a large proportion of a certain group of people would not want to get vaccinated merely because of political consideration, it makes absolutely no sense,” Fauci said in a Sunday news program interview, according to the Washington Post. “And I’ve been saying that for so long. We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common-sense, no-brainer public health things.”

“What is the problem here?” Fauci continued. “This is a vaccine that is going to be lifesaving for millions of people. How some groups would not want to do it for reasons that I just don’t understand.”

As noted by the Guardian, part of the problem is how the Trump campaign politicized COVID-19 and the federal response to it.

“Trump early in the pandemic appeared at coronavirus briefings with Fauci but later turned on him,” that publication observed. It added that in October, shortly after his three-day hospital stay after contracting COVID-19, Trump criticized Fauci. 

“Fauci is a disaster,” Trump declared then. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.“

One of Fauci’s appearances speaking about vaccine hesitancy was on the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel. There, as reported by The Hill, he told host Chris Wallace, “I think it would make all the difference in the world” if Trump were to express support for vaccines. “He’s a widely popular person among Republicans,” he said.

In that same interview, Fauci pointed to Europe’s rising case numbers, warning that Europe’s case trends tend to be a few weeks ahead of U.S. virus trends. He concluded that this is “absolutely no time to declare victory” over the virus.

Trump did tell supporters to get vaccinated at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, his first public-facing event since leaving the White House. He was quoted as saying “Everybody, go get your shot.”

Trump has also been reticent to publicly endorse vaccination efforts in other ways. Earlier this month, Trump’s office revealed that the former president had received a vaccine in January before leaving the White House. He didn’t go on camera for the vaccination, however, as did former Vice President Mike Pence. 

Likewise, Trump did not participate in a recent public service announcement by the Ad Council, which featured all of other living former presidents encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. Fauci labelled the omission as “puzzling.”

Trump is making sure people don’t forget his role in getting COVID-19 vaccines ready and approved, however. In a March 11 article titled, “Donald Trump Demands Americans Picture His Face While COVID Vaccine Enters Their Bodies,” Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin reported on the missive Trump sent from his communication team. 

“I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t president, you wouldn‘t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all,” the message reads. “I hope everyone remembers!”

In Levin’s coverage, she countered that “At a crucial moment in the pandemic, it appears he declined to help convince eligible Americans to actually get the vaccine and help move the country toward herd immunity.” She added that Trump declined to do so “presumably because he can’t stand the idea of life returning to normal on Joe Biden’s watch.” 

Sources: NPR, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Hill, Vanity Fair

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