The House Republican whip urged educating people, not shaming them to counter vaccine hesitancy. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Sunday criticized the strategy of shaming those who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccination, saying that it is divisive.
“Well first of all, you’ve still got probably two-thirds of our state unvaccinated. What we need to do is be encouraging people to get vaccinated, not trying to shame people that are unvaccinated,” said Scalise.
Scalise made the comments during a Sunday interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.” The Republican congressman said he got vaccinated recently because of the surge in the Delta variant and waited because he had natural immunity from having had COVID early on.
“I had antibodies and so I ultimately made a decision once I saw the Delta variant picking up, that I thought it was important to get vaccinated, and I have high confidence in this vaccination. It’s safe and effective, and I think we ought to be encouraging more people to do it, but again not shaming people who haven’t,” added Scalise.
“We ought to be getting them the information, encouraging people to go talk to their doctors, because there’s real hesitancy out there and we ought to be confronting that—not trying to divide people based on who’s vaccinated and who’s unvaccinated,” added Scalise.
The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has increased sharply in recent weeks. The seven-day average of cases jumped over 18 percent through Aug. 13 when compared to the week before, according to federal data. New hospital admissions increased nearly 30 percent across the same time period.
Although Louisiana is seeing an increase in infections, the representative said he opposes federal mandate as past mask mandates don’t appear to have worked that well.
“Well, again, I don’t want mandates at the federal level, I’ve been very vocal about that. I said those conversations need to be had at the state and local level,” said Scalise, citing Los Angeles, California, as an example of how mask mandates don’t appear to reduce infections. “They’ve had a mask mandate for a long time, but in the end, I think what we really need to be focused on is encouraging more people to get vaccinated,” added Scalise.
Scalise criticized President Joe Biden for not making it a priority to appoint a permanent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, since many people point to the vaccine not being approved by the federal agency as the reason they are not getting inoculated.
“One of the real areas of hesitancy that we’re seeing, that is a real problem, is that people are saying that it’s not FDA approved yet … and yet we’re 200 days into President Biden’s administration. He still hasn’t appointed the head of the FDA, and that’s definitely a failure on President Biden’s part,” said Scalise.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The number of deaths in the United States among those with COVID-19 has also started to rise. The seven-day average increased 21 percent, hitting 492 as of Aug. 13, though it remains over 59 percent lower than the peak seen on Aug. 2, 2020.
In response to the rising trends, some officials across America have reinstated mandates, primarily mask measures. So far, there have not been orders for non-essential businesses to close. Those orders last year, imposed by most governors, crushed the economy, leading to widespread unemployment.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.