Fauci says vaccine hesitancy among Republicans poses a risk

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – Reluctance among certain parts of the population to receiving a vaccine is one of the biggest risks to coronavirus control efforts, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said.

“I just don’t get it,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s Meet the Press when asked about polling showing many Republicans, especially men, don’t want a vaccine.

A poll released on Thursday (March 11) by PBS NewsHour/National Public Radio/ Marist showed that 41 per cent of people who identify as Republicans, including 49 per cent of GOP-leaning men, said they would not get one of the three federally approved coronavirus vaccines.

Among Democratic-leaning men, only 6 per cent said the same.

“We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from common sense, no-brainer public health things,” Dr Fauci said.

Dr Fauci made three Sunday talk show appearances to mark a year since the Covid-19 outbreak was deemed a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Since then, some 120 million cases have been identified around the world and more than 2.6 million people have died, including over 534,000 in the US.

Dr Fauci also said he wished former President Donald Trump would come out and publicly urge his supporters to get the vaccine. “I wish he would,” Dr Fauci said on Fox News Sunday. “It would really be a game changer if he did.”

He continued to warn against becoming complacent in the US even as cases and hospitalisations drop sharply and the pace of vaccinations accelerates.

“If you’re going for a touchdown, don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone,” Dr Fauci said on Meet the Press. “We’re not in the end zone yet.”

New variants of the coronavirus are a particular risk, and have contributed to a fresh increase in cases in Europe, where fewer vaccines have been given so far.

On Thursday, Mr Biden pledged that all adult Americans will be able to sign up for Covid-19 shots by May 1, receive their vaccines by the end of May, and return to a semblance of normal life by the July 4 Independence Day, the holiday traditionally marked by festive public gatherings and backyard barbecues.

That timeline, which Dr Fauci said was “a couple of months” ahead of where he recently thought the US would be, reflected “a full-court press” to mobilise vaccination efforts, including in hard-to-reach communities.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Mr Biden’s timeline could be too conservative and that the expedited vaccine rollout was “all about supply.”

“We could do it today, all we need is vaccines from the federal government,” Mr Hogan, a Republican, said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“If the president and his team is able to deliver, we don’t have to wait until May 1. We could get moving even faster.”

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Some 21.4 per cent of people in Maryland have received at least one vaccine dose and 12 per cent have been fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, in both cases slightly above the US average.

Overall vaccinations against Covid-19 in the US have topped 106 million, with more than 2 million recently being administered each day on average.

Supplies of the three approved shots in the US is projected to surge in coming weeks, with enough for every American before June.

But a decision by a large swathe of the population to not receive a vaccine may slow or imperil the march toward herd immunity in the US.

The US is on course to reach the lowest level of infections since the start of October, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The average number of daily cases over the last week has fallen 15 per cent compared with the previous week, continuing a decline that started in January.

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