With recent polling showing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, a group of Republican members of Congress with medical backgrounds are urging Americans to get vaccinated in a new PSA.
Members of the Republican Doctors Caucus — including Sens. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., an OB/GYN, John Barrasso R-Wyo., an orthopedic surgeon, and John Boozman, an optometrist — came together to tout the safety of the coronavirus shots, while also appealing to the traditional GOP values of liberty and freedom.
“I look forward to the freedom that I along with my loved ones will regain once the vast majority of Americans are vaccinated,” Sen. Barrasso said in the video.
Indiana Rep. Larry Buschon, who was a practicing physician and surgeon specializing in cardiothoracic surgery before joining Congress in 2011, said that getting the vaccine is the only way to “end the government’s restrictions on our freedoms.”
The lawmakers stressed that the vaccine is safe and effective, giving credit to the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” which helped in the development and rollout of vaccines.
“Look, this vaccine is safe,” Rep. Buschon said bluntly.
“Operation Warp Speed brought us safe and effective vaccines, and all in record time,” Maryland Rep. John Joyce added.
“The process was rigorous and transparent,” Texas Rep. Brian Babin, a dentist, added, noting that he “personally followed” the vaccine development process “very closely.”
“The FDA did not skip any steps,” Maryland Rep. Andy Harris said, with Texas Rep. Michael Burgess adding that they “cut bureaucratic red tape, not corners.”
A CBS News/YouGov poll released Tuesday showed that 33% of Trump voters in 2020 would not get a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to just 5% of Biden voters.
A NPR-PBS Newshour-Marist poll from March, 49% of Republican men said they would not get the shot, compared to 6% of Democratic men who responded the same way. A Monmouth University poll from the same month also suggested that 36% of Republicans say they don’t plan to get inoculated, compared to 6% of Democrats. And a study from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 42% of Republicans say they probably or definitely will not get the shot, compared with 17% of Democrats.
The trend in hesitancy among Republicans has led members of GOP leadership to state their support for the vaccine.
“I can say as a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters in March. “There is no good argument not to get the vaccination. I would encourage all men regardless of party affiliation to get the vaccination.”
Former President Donald Trump recommended the vaccine to his followers in a recent Fox News appearance, but said in the same interview that he was sympathetic to those who choose not to get vaccinated.
“We have our freedoms, and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also," said Trump. “But it's a great vaccine, it's a safe vaccine, and it's something that works.”
Some of the lawmakers in the video seemed to sympathize with that sentiment.
“The beauty of living in this great nation is, however, that we have the option to choose whether or not we get vaccinated,” Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter, a pharmacist, noted.
The lawmakers urged people to consult their medical practitioners about the COVID-19 vaccination, noting that “doctors, nurses and pharmacists nationwide” recommend the vaccine to their patients, and over 90% of doctors across the country have chosen to get vaccinated.
The lawmakers summed up their message by saying they hope Americans will join them in getting vaccinated, with Sen. Marshall stating, in closing, that once vaccinated, “we can throw away our masks and live life as free as we did before.”
Sen. Marshall told Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post that they worked with experts to identify what message works best with those hesitant: “What we've found is if we put on our white coat, it literally moves the needle.”
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has come under fire for his comments about the vaccines during a recent radio interview, in which he said he was “highly suspicious” of the “big push to make sure everybody gets the vaccine.”
At least one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, criticized Johnson’s remarks, telling CNN Sunday that “comments like that hurt.”
Marshall told Bobic that he wasn’t familiar with Johnson’s comments, but noted that “if you have concerns about the vaccine, at this point, probably the only one that folks are going to listen to would be their own doctor or their own pharmacist."