Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., downplayed the need for the Covid-19 vaccine for all adults during an interview Friday with a conservative radio host, facing immediate criticism for suggesting people don't need to be inoculated.
"Because it's not a fully approved vaccine, I think we probably should have limited the distribution to it to the really vulnerable," he told host Vicki McKenna. "What is the point? If the science tells us the vaccines are 95 percent effective. So, if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?"
He added, "What is it to you? You have got a vaccine, and science is telling you it's very, very effective. So, why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"
Johnson's comments come as public health officials in the U.S. and around the world are urging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as they are eligible to combat the spread of the virus. His remarks echo vaccine opponents, who say government shouldn’t be promoting the inoculations and have claimed they’re insufficient because they were quickly approved and didn’t go through the years-long government review process.
Johnson, who contracted and recovered from the virus last fall, also suggested that he does not need the vaccine as a result, contrary to public health guidelines which have recommended everyone receive the vaccine.
Currently, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 200 million doses have been administered, allowing at least 130 million Americans to have received at least one shot and millions to have received two doses.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease excerpt, balked at Johnson's comments during an interview on MSNBC on Friday, noting that the vaccines available thanks to emergency use authorization — which required review by the FDA.
"We have 567,000 people who've died so far in this country from this disease. That is a really, really good reason to get people vaccinated with a vaccine that you have shown is highly efficacious and quite safe. And that's the reason for the emergency use authorization," he said. "We are dealing with an emergency. How can anyone say that 567,000 dead Americans is not an emergency?"