July 23, 2021 -- Eight months after the national vaccination program to protect Americans from COVID-19 kicked off, top conservative leaders such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are calling for more Americans to get vaccinated.

“These shots need to get in everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible or we´re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for — that we went through last year,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday at a news conference, according to the New York Post and other media outlets. “This is not complicated.”

Utah’s Republican governor, also Spencer Cox, encouraged people in the state to get vaccinated and blamed conservative media for stoking vaccine hesitancy.

“We have these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine,” Cox said, according to The Hill. “It’s dangerous. It’s damaging. And it’s killing people. It’s literally killing their supporters and that makes no sense to me.”

When asked about Cox’s comment, McConnell urged Americans to “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

The CDC says less than half the American population is fully vaccinated, even as the Delta variant drives up new COVID cases. Almost 20% of the new infections are coming from Florida, the White House said last week.

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined the chorus of voices urging people to get vaccinated, saying the shots are “saving lives.”

“If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals …. over 95% of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all,” DeSantis said, according to The Hill. “These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.”

In another shift, Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy this week spoke positively about the coronavirus vaccine, though many network commentators regularly criticize Biden administration strategies to get more people vaccinated.

"Please take COVID seriously, I can't say it enough. Enough people have died. We don't need any more deaths," Hannity said.

There’s a clear partisan split in vaccine attitudes, with Republicans much less likely to get vaccinated than Democrats. In June, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 86% of Democrats who took part in the survey had gotten at least one shot, compared to 52% of Republicans.

But many conservative leaders continue to attack the Biden administration’s vaccination program.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, while saying he’d just received his first Pfizer dose, took a shot at President Biden’s vaccination strategies, The New York Timessaid. Conservatives are especially critical of the recently floated possibility that health workers will go door to door to find unvaccinated people, The New York Times said.

“You’re seeing some people try to bully people into doing things instead of just encouraging them,” Mr. Scalise said. “There’s even talk of putting mask mandates back on people in certain states when the vaccine is widely available, it’s safe and effective.

“We should be encouraging people to get it,” he added, “but not trying to threaten people.”

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, said Biden had not given former President Trump enough credit for launching the vaccination program.

Tuberville said vaccine skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one,” The New York Times reported.

Show Sources

New York Post: “Mitch McConnell warns of return to 2020 if COVID vaccine rates don’t increase”

The Hill: “GOP Utah Gov. Spencer Cox: Vaccine hesitancy 'literally killing' people”

The Hill: “DeSantis urges public to get vaccinated: These shots are 'saving lives'”

Kaiser Family Foundation. “KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: June 2021”

The New York Times: “As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish”

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