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With a potential surge in COVID-19 cases on the way linked to coronavirus variants, more people need to line up to get vaccinated — and former President Trump may be able to help, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday.
To combat vaccine skepticism, Fauci urged former President Donald Trump to tell his supporters to get a vaccine.
“It would be very helpful for the effort for that to happen. I’m very surprised at the high percentage of Republicans who say they don’t want to get vaccinated,” Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Last week, a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that 49% of Republican men said they don’t intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Now public health officials are speaking up about it.
Trump was vaccinated at the White House before leaving office in January and encouraged people to get vaccinated while speaking at an event in Florida last month. However, he’s declined to join public service campaigns which include other former presidents who are expressing support publicly.
Fauci said it “seems absolutely inevitable” that the vast majority of Trump’s close followers would listen if he said COVID-19 vaccines were important for their personal health, their family’s health and the country’s health.
“I think it would make all the difference in the world,” Fauci said. “He’s a very widely popular person among Republicans.”
Fauci spoke about the coronavirus surges across Europe and warned that case trends there tend to precede similar trends in the U.S. This is “absolutely no time to declare victory,” he added.
“They plateaued because they pulled back a bit,” he said. “They thought they were home free, and they weren’t, and now they’re seeing an increase.”
During another Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Fauci said it was “disturbing” to see the number of Trump supporters who are choosing not to get vaccinated.
“We’ve got to disassociate political persuasion from common sense, no-brainer public health things,” he said.
Vaccines have rescued the U.S. from smallpox, polio, measles and other diseases, he added.
“What’s the problem here? This is a vaccine that is going to be lifesaving for millions of people,” he said. “I just don’t get it.”
The U.S has distributed more than 135 million vaccine doses, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday. More than 69.7 million Americans have received at least one dose, and 37.4 million are fully vaccinated.
Also on Sunday, Fauci said the CDC is thinking about reducing the social distancing rules by cutting them from 6 feet to 3 feet. Health experts are looking at a new Massachusetts study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, that found no difference in COVID-19 cases in schools that had 6-foot and 3-foot rules. The CDC is reviewing the data and conducting its own tests, he said.
“Within a reasonable period of time, quite reasonable, they will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
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