The nation’s top infectious disease expert expressed horror on Sunday over attendees of a conservative political conference loudly applauding the inability of the federal government to hit its vaccine goals.
With new variants of COVID-19 now surging in areas with low vaccination rates and right-wing media promoting vaccine hesitancy to its viewers, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas invited noted “Covid Contrarian” Alex Berenson to fearmonger about the safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.
Speaking on the CPAC stage on Saturday, Berenson—who The Atlantic once labeled the “Pandemic’s Wrongest Man”— prompted cheers from the crowd when he boasted that “the government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated, and it isn’t happening.”
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Biden chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci lamented over the “inexplicable pushing back” against the vaccines from certain sections of the population. Furthermore, he took issue with accusations that the Biden administration was going to go door-to-door to force people to get vaccinated.
“We’ve got to put aside this ideological difference or differences thinking that somebody is forcing you to do something,” Fauci said. “The public health officials, like myself and my colleagues, are asking you to do something that will ultimately save your life, and that of your family and that of the community.”
He added: “I mean, it’s ideological rigidity, I think. There’s no reason not to get vaccinated.”
Anchor Jake Tapper then brought up the CPAC crowd cheering on the government falling short of its vaccine goals, noting that Berenson is someone who “just says things that are not true about the vaccine” before asking Fauci for his reaction to the moment.
“It’s horrifying,” the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director exclaimed. “I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives!”
Fauci continued: “It’s almost frightening to say, ‘Hey, guess what? We don’t want you to do something to save your life. Yay!’ Everybody starts screaming and clapping. I just don’t get that. I mean, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that. What is that all about? I don’t understand that, Jake.”
Tapper, meanwhile, pointed out that while conservatives are becoming increasingly hesitant to getting vaccinated, many on the other side of the political spectrum are pushing for businesses and public schools to mandate vaccines.
“I know you’ve been very clear that the government isn’t mandating vaccines, but do you think it’s generally a good idea for businesses or schools to require vaccinations?” Tapper wondered aloud.
“I have been of this opinion, and I remain of that opinion, that I do believe at the local level, Jake, there should be more mandates,” Fauci replied. “There really should be.”
The public health expert went on to say that once the Food and Drug Administration officially approves the vaccines—they are still currently only approved for emergency use—then “you’ll see a lot more mandates” on vaccination.