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Republican lawmaker says GOP Sen. Ron Johnson's vaccine comments 'hurt' goal

"I believe that we should all have confidence," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "We should get vaccinated."
Image: Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on Capitol Hill on Jan. 26, 2021.Susan Walsh / AP file

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Sunday that fellow GOP Sen. Ron Johnson's recent downplaying of the need for all adults to get a Covid-19 vaccine "hurt" efforts to achieve widespread inoculation.

"Well, I definitely think that comments like that hurt," Capito, R-W.Va., told CNN's "State of the Union." "I believe that we should all have confidence, that we should — to not just protect ourselves, but our communities and our neighbors. We should get vaccinated."

Speaking with a conservative radio host Friday, Johnson, R-Wis., expressed concern that the vaccines did not go through the years-long government review process, though health experts say shortcuts were not made and that the vaccines are safe. He also said only "really vulnerable" Americans should get the shots.

"So if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" Johnson, who contracted the virus last year, told host Vicki McKenna. "I mean, what is it to you? You've got a vaccine and, you know, science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets the vaccine?"

Johnson's comments come as public health officials domestically and internationally are urging vaccination to help stop the spread of the virus. Both Democrats and Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have urged Americans to get vaccinated.

Johnson's remarks come as conservatives and Trump supporters remain some of the most vaccine-hesitant populations. A CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday found that 51 percent of Republicans have either already been vaccinated or say they will get inoculated. Meanwhile, 19 percent say they might get vaccinated while 30 percent say they will not.

"I wouldn't say that only Republicans have hesitancy," Capito said. "I think that there are some folks that are unsure. And when we saw what happened over the last week with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that really sort of chills people that were maybe waiting."

On Friday, the U.S. announced it will resume the use of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine after an 11-day pause to investigate extremely rare but severe blood clots, with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group voting to recommend lifting the pause.

"I disagree with my fellow senator," Capito said. "I think we ought to move forward. West Virginia has done a great job in this area, but we're starting to find that we have more vaccine than we do have people who are willing to step forward."

"So, I'm trying to do whatever I can to say, it's safe, it's reliable, and it's really about you and your neighbor," she continued, "And that's what we need to take into consideration."

Currently, more than 225 million doses have been administered, allowing at least 138 million Americans to have received at least one shot and millions to have received two doses, according to an NBC News tracker based on CDC data. But the seven-day average of daily vaccinations has ticked downward in recent days after peaking at more than 3.3 million earlier this month.

Responding to Johnson's comments in an interview with ABC's "This Week," Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said the senator's comments were nonsense.

"Well, the fact is that people who have been infected in this country now and have died, if you look at the numbers, there's been about 570,000 Americans have died," he said. "We have a highly efficacious and effective vaccine that's really very, very safe."

"That is the reason why you want everyone to get vaccinated, so I don't understand the argument. if I get vaccinated, George, and I'm protected, that you, George, don't have to get vaccinated," he continued. "It doesn't make any sense."