The senator said the increase in Delta variant coronavirus cases encouraged him to get the shot
The rising threat of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has spurred some people resistant to taking the coronavirus vaccine to finally get the shot. One of those holdouts is Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
The Republican lawmaker took his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday, despite the vaccine being available to lawmakers since January.
Mr Scalise represents Louisiana, a state where only 36 per cent of its population is fully vaccinated, lagging behind the national average, in which 49 per cent of Americans have taken the shot.
The state has seen a spike in coronavirus cases, almost entirely among unvaccinated members of the population. The current coronavirus vaccines are believed to be at least 90 per cent effective at stopping death and hospitalisation from the Delta variant, which is why Mr Scalise finally took the shot.
Mr Scalise previously has stated he tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies and believed that his antibodies would protect him. The Delta variant changed his mind.
“Especially with the Delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it,” he told Louisiana publication NOLA.
Mr Scalise faced criticism on social media for waiting so long to get the vaccine.
Conservative lawmakers and media personalities have, in some cases, changed their tone on the vaccine in recent days, with people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Fox News host Sean Hannity calling on conservatives to take the shot. However, their new tack is by no means apolitical; many conservatives, including Mr Scalise, have taken to blaming the Biden administration for vaccine hesitancy among Republicans.
According to Mr Scalise, Mr Biden’s criticism of the slow rollout of the vaccine under the Trump administration is to blame for his constituents’ refusal to take the shot. He argued that Mr Biden’s refusal to credit Donald Trump for the vaccine is at fault, and not the fact that conservative groups and celebrities like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson have been repeating conspiracy theories and misinformation about the shot since January.
According to Mediaite, Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville echoed that sentiment, claiming conservatives would be skeptical of the vaccine until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one”.
On Monday, conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen also parroted a similar line, claiming if Mr Biden gave Mr Trump more credit and made him the face of the vaccination effort, more conservatives would take the shot. There is no evidence that Mr Biden holding a parade for Mr Trump would impact vaccine hesitancy.
“You’re seeing some people try to bully people into doing things instead of just encouraging them,” Mr Scalise said. “There’s even talk of putting mask mandates back on people in certain states when the vaccine is widely available.”
Mr Scalise is likely referring to the idea of vaccine passports and other restrictions businesses have considered placing on unvaccinated people who want to use their services. There are no mandates being considered that would force the general public to take the vaccine.