Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is blaming President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for vaccine hesitancy in the US as she urges members of her home state to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
In an op-ed published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday, the former top aide in the Trump White House blamed comments made by Ms Harris and Mr Biden on the campaign trail for the skepticism many Americans are still showing toward the Covid-19 vaccine, despite such hesitancy being pronounced in many states where conservative politics dominate such as Arkansas, where Ms Sanders is running for governor.
“The New York Times ran an opinion piece claiming that whatever the Trump administration released would likely be a dangerous political stunt. CNN did the same. But no one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be "real”, while Harris said in a nationally televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating”, Ms Sanders wrote.
“If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time,” she added.
Her comments conflict with the reality of Mr Biden and Ms Harris’s vocal and persistent advocacy for vaccinations throughout 2021, and obscure the truth about Ms Harris’s comments. In a vice presidential debate against Mike Pence in 2020, she said that she would be one of the first lined up to take a vaccine endorsed by Dr Anthony Fauci or other top US health officials, while adding that she would not take a vaccine solely endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
"If Dr Fauci, the doctors, tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it,” Ms Harris said. "But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I'm not going to take it."
Ms Sanders went on in her op-ed, urging Arkansans to get the Covid-19 vaccine if they had not done so already.
“Recent data demonstrates that those Arkansans who are not vaccinated are at significantly greater risk for serious illness from covid. In fact, 98 per cent of covid patients currently hospitalized in our state and 99 percent of recent covid deaths were people who were not vaccinated. It's clear that the Trump vaccine works and is saving lives,” she wrote.
“So to anyone still considering the merits of vaccination, I leave you with this encouragement: Pray about it, discuss it with your family and your doctor. Filter out the noise and fear-mongering and condescension, and make the best, most informed decision you can that helps your family, community, and our great state be its very best,” Ms Sanders concluded.
Roughly 45.5 per cent of Arkansas’ total population has received one dose of a two-shot Covid-19 vaccine, while 36 per cent are fully vaccinated against the disease.
The spread of the Delta variant is driving rates of new Covid-19 cases up across the nation, and in Arkansas the rate of new infections has spiked to levels not seen since early this year, when the state recovered from a massive surge over the winter. More that 2,000 cases were reported in a single day on Saturday for the first time in months.
The state’s current governor, Asa Hutchinson, blamed misinformation surrounding vaccines and the disease in general for vaccine skepticism during an interview with CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
"I don't know if I underestimated it, but, certainly, the resistance has hardened in certain elements, and is simply false information,” he said of opposition to vaccinations.
After remarking that some have spread wild conspiracy theories about the jabs including claims of government “mind control”, Mr Hutchinson added: “What's holding us back [from reopening] is a low vaccination rate”.