Former President Donald Trump was booed at a rally Saturday in Alabama after he told supporters they should get vaccinated.
"And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You've got to do what you have to do," Trump said. "But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It's good. Take the vaccines."
Some boos rang out from the crowd, who were largely maskless.
"No, that's OK. That's all right. You got your freedoms," Trump said, echoing rhetoric from opponents of mask and vaccination mandates. "But I happened to take the vaccine. If it doesn't work, you'll be the first to know. OK? I'll call up Alabama, I'll say, hey, you know what? But [the vaccine] is working. But you do have your freedoms you have to keep. You have to maintain that."
Covid cases and hospitalizations are surging in large parts of the South because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Cullman, where the rally was hosted, is experiencing a rise in cases that has matched its previous peak from late December. The city declared a Covid state of emergency Thursday to provide extra emergency support for the rally.
Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the U.S., with just more than 36 percent of its population having been fully inoculated, according to an NBC News tracker. Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has said "the unvaccinated folks" are to blame for Covid's resurgence in the state.
Nationwide, the overwhelming majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people, The New York Times reported this month.
A Kaiser Family Foundation vaccination tracking poll released this month found that Republicans were the second-least-likely demographic group to be vaccinated, above only uninsured Americans under 65. While 57 percent of Republicans have received at least one dose of a vaccine or say they will get a shot as soon as possible, 40 percent say that they never will or will do so only if it's required or that they are still in wait-and-see mode. The 40 percent total is the second highest among the 23 demographic groups surveyed.
Trump has endorsed vaccination previously, but he has often matched it with similar caveats. Just last week, after he promoted the vaccines in an interview with Fox Business personality Maria Bartiromo, Trump claimed that coming booster shots were recommended by the Biden administration as "a money-making operation for Pfizer." (The Biden administration recommended booster shots for those who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccine shots.)
Pfizer, which Trump has attacked in a similar manner previously, wasn't part of his administration's Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership to accelerate vaccine development. Trump didn't mention Moderna, which was part of the program.