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Scalise Joins Bandwagon Of Right-Wingers Suddenly Eager To Tout COVID Vaccines

Talking Points Memo logo Talking Points Memo 7/20/2021 Summer Concepcion
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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) finally came around to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Sunday after remaining tight-lipped for months about his vaccination status.

According to NOLA.com, Scalise received his first shot of the Pfizer-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. The House minority whip cited the spread of the contagious Delta variant, that has prompted a resurgence in hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated nationwide, as rationale for the finally getting the shot.

“Especially with the delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it,” Scalise told NOLA.com. “When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90 percent of people in hospital with Delta variant have not been vaccinated. That’s another signal the vaccine works.”

Scalise said that testing positive for COVID antibodies previously led him to believe that he had immunity against the coronavirus, which he said he saw as justification for holding off on getting vaccinated.

Scalise now touts that COVID-19 vaccines are “safe and effective,” citing his support for the funding of Operation Warp Speed under the Trump administration.

“It was heavily tested on thousands of people before the FDA gave its approval. Some people believe that it might have been rushed. That’s not the case,” Scalise told NOLA.com. “I’ve been vocal about that for months. I know their process has high standards. The FDA approval process is probably the most respected in the world.”

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the Delta variant is estimated to make up 83 percent of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the country, and that fatalities have risen by nearly 48 percent over the past week to an average of 239 per day.

Scalise’s pivot to vaccine promotion after appearing reluctant to do so for months comes as right-wingers have also began trading in their vaccination skepticism for advocacy as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise. Recent polling has shown that Republicans, especially men, are significantly more resistant to getting vaccinated against the infectious disease that has killed more than 600,000 Americans thus far.

Fox News has notably in the last 24 hours gone from peddling vaccine skepticism rhetoric to some key hosts hyping the efficacy of the vaccine. The network’s human resource department reportedly encouraged employees recently to voluntarily report their vaccination status to the company in order to avoid daily, mandatory health screenings required to work in company offices.

Newsmax’s owner has also come around to hailing the Biden administration’s wartime effort to getting Americans vaccinated against the infectious disease.

The call for more vaccinations against COVID-19 from right-wing media comes after those same outlets routinely fear-monger over “vaccine passports” — a right-wing boogeyman term for some states and private businesses’ vaccination requirements. The Biden administration has made it clear for months that it will not issue federal vaccination mandates.

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