Senator booed for asking Republicans to consider Covid vaccine

<span>Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA</span>
Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
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A Republican senator was booed and catcalled when he told a party audience in South Carolina to think about getting a vaccine against Covid-19.

Lindsey Graham was speaking at the Summerville Country Club in Dorchester county. Video of his remarks was first published by the Daily Beast.

Related: ‘Fascist and tyrannical’: US vaccine mandates induce rightwing hysteria

“If you haven’t had the vaccine,” the 66-year-old said, “you ought to think about getting it because if you’re my age …

“No!” yelled audience members.

“I didn’t tell you to get it,” Graham said. “You ought to think about it.”

“No!” people in the crowd yelled again.

Graham said he was glad he got the vaccine, and said 92% of people hospitalized in South Carolina with Covid-19 were not vaccinated.

“False!” the crowd cried. “Not true!”

The overwhelming majority of hospitalisations and deaths from the coronavirus in the US are among unvaccinated people. The US death toll recently passed 700,000.

Graham has been vaccinated. Other Republican senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin prominent among them, have not, and continue to spread misinformation. The GOP is fighting vaccine mandates, issued by government bodies and businesses, on the grounds that they violate individual freedoms and as an attack line against the Biden administration.

Graham is not the first prominent Republican to be booed for suggesting an audience get a vaccine. It happened to Donald Trump in August, at a rally in Alabama.

“I’m with you on … [vaccine] mandates,” Graham said. “I’m with you that it’s probably unconstitutional … The truth is that unvaccinated people …”

“I’m gonna lose my job in 60 days,” a man shouted. “You’ve got to stop it now.”

“From who?” Graham asked.

“From the US government,” the man said. “The navy.”

“OK,” said Graham, who was once an air force lawyer. “I’m a veteran too. How many of you have taken measles shots?”

“It’s not the same!” audience members cried.

Graham pressed on: “In the military, they can say you’ve got to get vaccinated.”

Related: New York mandates vaccines for health workers – how will it play out?

The Department of Defense currently administers 17 vaccines “for the prevention of infectious diseases among military personnel, where appropriate”. The Pentagon has mandated vaccination against Covid-19.

“I think that’s a dumb idea,” Graham said. “You know why? You shouldn’t be driving people away from serving. Like if you’re a healthcare worker and you don’t want to get vaccinated. Why do you want to get people to quit being nurses? I trust you to make a decision that’s good for you.”

Across the US, healthcare systems have fired staff members, both frontline hospital workers and those who provide services in support, for refusing to get a vaccine.