House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Received the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday after months of waiting, encouraging those hesitant to get the vaccine amid another growing wave of infections.
In early April, the Louisiana Republican declared that he would be vaccinated “soon”, and gave the same answer a month later. Scalise finally received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last weekend at a clinic in Jefferson Parish, according to NOLA.com.
“Especially with the Delta variant getting a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, this was a good time to do it,” the No. 2 House Republican told point of sale, explaining why it took him so long. to get vaccinated.
“When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of the people in [the] hospital with [the] delta have not been vaccinated, ”he continued. “It’s another signal that the vaccine is working.”
Scalise also said he waited in part because he tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and believed he had existing immunity to what was likely a mild case of the virus.
Although public health officials have said that antibodies from contracting the virus may provide some protection, they are not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine.
New cases of COVID-19 have increased dramatically since May thanks to the hugely contagious delta variant. Cases increased this month, with an average of 35,547 new cases on Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, prompting parts of the country to restore public health measures to protect against the spread of the virus.
The Louisiana Department of Health reported on Monday that area hospitals have had the most COVID-19 patients since February, when the deadly winter wave began to abate. The state averages 1,425 new cases per day, a marked increase from the average of 903 cases per day a week earlier.
Scalise told NOLA.com that vaccination policy was not a factor in his decision. However, former President Donald Trump’s staunch ally has publicly supported conspiracy theories that undermine efforts by public health officials to encourage vaccination, including the baseless accusation this Dr Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease specialist, covered up the origin of the virus.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month, 86% of Democratic respondents said they had received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 45% of Republican respondents. About 47% of Republican respondents said they would not be likely to get the vaccine, compared to 6% of Democrats. Scalise said that while he would encourage people to get vaccinated, he doesn’t think it should be mandatory.
“It’s safe and effective,” Scalise said. “It was tested extensively on thousands of people before the FDA gave its approval. Some people think it may have been rushed. This is not the case.”
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