Rep. Steve Scalise Rep. Steve Scalise
Steve Scalise, a Trump ally and the No. 2 Republican in the House, got his first COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday following months of waiting. Why now and not before? Namely, the spike in cases of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The Louisiana Republican, 55, had previously told reporters "soon," when asked when he planned to get vaccinated.
Scalise told The Times-Picayune he waited because he had earlier tested positive for COVID antibodies. But with cases of the Delta variant on the rise, he decided to move forward with the vaccine — which doctors highly recommend even for those with COVID antibodies.
On Sunday, the U.S. representative received his first Pfizer vaccination at a clinic in Jefferson Parish.
"Especially with the Delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it," Scalise told the paper. "When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of people in hospital with Delta variant have not been vaccinated. That's another signal the vaccine works."
Scalise actually understated that figure: According to the CDC, more than 97% of those currently hospitalized for severe COVID-19 infections are unvaccinated.
While cases of the virus and hospitalizations are on the rise, vaccinations have become a dividing line in the U.S., with many conservative-leaning Americans choosing not to get vaccinated despite the scientific consensus that the COVID vaccine is extremely safe and extremely effective.
Some political scientists have attributed the polarization to former President Donald Trump's public downplaying of the virus, even as he was sickened and hospitalized with COVID-19 and has since gotten the vaccine himself.
Though cases of the virus had gone down steeply as vaccines were rolled out around the world, they've shot up in recent weeks, with CDC currently warning of a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
The current average of approximately 26,000 new cases per day is up 70% from the previous week, according to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who spoke in a recent press briefing. Hospitalizations are also up (36%), while COVID-19 deaths are up 26%.
The most severe cases are almost exclusively impacted those who are not vaccinated, and case numbers are highest in regions of the country where overall vaccination rates are low.
Last month, the World Health Organization advised that vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and practice other safety precautions due to the Delta variant.
"Vaccine alone won't stop community transmission," Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said in a news briefing. "People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene ... the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you're vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing."
Simao continued: "People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves."
Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.