Biden glad some conservatives now support COVID vaccines

U.S. President Joe Biden said he was grateful that some conservative TV pundits and Republican leaders were finally urging Americans to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

"Rather than be critical of it, I thank them for it. I think it's a matter of, first of all in truth, I don't know how many of them believe what they were saying. They may have really believed it."

Right-wing Fox News commentators such as Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and others have often cast doubt on the vaccines' safety and efficacy, sowing skepticism among the cable network's millions of nightly viewers.

One of those singled out by the network hosts was Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine.

In a segment on Ingraham's show at the beginning of July, Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis derided Dr. Hotez and other health experts who warned this summer could see a spike of new cases among the unvaccinated.

Speaking to Reuters, Dr. Hotez said that had Republican officials and conservative pundits heeded his warnings, they might have saved lives.

"This is why I predicted it and I've been mocked, especially on Fox News and even the governor of Florida for it. But that, unfortunately, is the reality."

But this week the conservative anti-vaccine sentiment may be finally shifting: some Fox hosts - such as Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy - encouraged viewers to protect themselves by getting vaccinated as quickly as possible.

"Getting the vaccine is important."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell this week also implored people to do the same, as did Republican House Whip Steve Scalise.

"I've been vaccinated, many of my colleagues have been vaccinated."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, Biden appeared relieved that the changing tone from Republicans might save lives.

The turnaround among some conservative U.S. figures comes months into a nationwide vaccine rollout that has since slowed.

Just under half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have averaged 239 per day over the past week, nearly 48% higher than the week before.

At a CNN townhall on Wednesday night, Biden said children under 12 may be eligible for vaccines by August or September.