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The most powerful elected Republican told Reuters that misinformation is to blame for low rates of COVID-19 vaccination among Americans.
In an interview with Reuters, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "there is bad advice out there, you know... And that bad advice should be ignored."
The 79-year-old Kentucky Senator was vaccinated for COVID-19 in December and has been promoting vaccination in public remarks ever since:
"I don't know how many times you've heard me say this. I'm a huge fan of vaccinations." [ FLASH ] "These shots need to get in everybody's arm as rapidly as possible."
McConnell often cites his own experience with polio in praising vaccination, and told Reuters that when it comes to the novel coronavirus, "not enough people are vaccinated... So we're trying to get them to reconsider and get back on the path to get us to some level of herd immunity."
"I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice."
But many elected Republicans have refused to push the public to get immunized, and some have attacked the shots as unnecessary or dangerous.
Last month, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson questioned their safety and said he didn't take a position of either encouraging or discouraging vaccination:
"I think that people who want to get vaccinated have gotten vaccinated and I just don’t see the issue here."
Amid a spike in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among the unvaccinated, a few prominent Republicans, including Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, have begun speaking out against false claims and conspiracy theories promoted in conservative media that are leading some Americans to reject vaccines:
"My message remains clear and simple. Everybody in Alabama ought to, that can get the vaccine, ought to get it."
McConnell told Reuters he was "encouraged by what the governor of Alabama said.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans have had at least one dose, according to the Reuters COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker, leaving tens of millions of American vulnerable to the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease.
McConnell's home state of Kentucky lags the national average at 51%, and Ivey's Alabama is farther behind at 42%. Four of the five states with the lowest vaccination rates have Republican governors.
McConnell plans to run 60-second radio ads on more than 100 Kentucky radio stations in the coming days promoting the vaccine with money from his re-election campaign.