More Americans should get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 or the country could see harsh measures imposed this fall, the top Republican in Congress said Wednesday.
"It never occurred to me after three highly effective vaccines were developed in under a year that we'd have difficulty getting Americans to take the shots. But that's obviously where we are," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
"I want to underscore in the strongest possible manner I can, and I say this with some authority, as you all know, as a result of being a polio victim myself and being very aware that it took seven decades to come up with two effective polio vaccines. This was done in under one year. These shots need to get in everybody's arm as rapidly as possible or we're going be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for, that we went through last year," he added.
McConnell cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic in claiming 97 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
The figure was put forth last week by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the agency, in a virtual briefing.
She did not say how the agency reached the conclusion.
In a previous briefing this month, Walensky said, "preliminary data from a collection of states over the last six months" suggested that 99.5 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in those states were among unvaccinated people.
The following week, Walensky clarified that the figures come from several states while claiming they suggested that 99.5 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in the entire country were in the unvaccinated.
The evidence for the claims has not been made public. The CDC has not responded to requests for comment.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official, used a different figure in a recent interview. He said approximately 99.2 percent of the COVID-19 deaths were among the unvaccinated.
A spokesperson for Fauci's agency told The Epoch Times in an email that he misspoke and was referring to the CDC analysis.
McConnell added later that the U.S. economy is well on its way to recovering and does not need a "tax and spending spree."
"The way to defeat getting back into the position we were last year is to get vaccinated. This is not complicated. 97 percent of the people who are in the hospital now for COVID are unvaccinated. So if there's anybody out there willing to listen—get vaccinated," he said.
Other members of Congress have offered a different view.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for instance, has noted that people who recover from COVID-19 enjoy some measure of immunity. Paul, who himself recovered, has said he will not get a vaccine.
“If you want people to get vaccinated at a higher rate, just provide the information, step back and let adults manage their own lives. This is a free country. People are going to do what they want to do," he added.
As of July 21, 56 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.