Top infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday issued an impassioned warning about the danger of a divided vaccine rollout as a new poll highlighted how hesitancy around the shot has become deeply tied to party affiliation.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Fauci, who served as President Biden’s chief science officer, deemed it “frustrating” and “tragic” that inoculation rates aren’t higher in the U.S. when the vaccine is so widely available.
He said it is particularly “terrible” from the perspective of those who have “dealt with diseases where you don’t have an effective countermeasure,” highlighting: “We do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective.”
Fauci also emphasized that hospitalizations and deaths linked to Covid-19 are now almost entirely preventable, as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data signals 99.5% of the people killed by the virus in the past six months were unvaccinated.
All this—plus the accelerating threat of the delta variant, which now makes up more than 20% of the U.S.’s new cases—make it imperative to put aside their differences immediately, Fauci said.
“Whatever the reasons … some of them are ideological, some of them are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science or what have you,” said the top infectious disease doctor, “we just have to put that aside now.”
“For goodness’ sake, put aside all of those differences and realize that the common enemy is the virus,” Fauci said. “We have enough vaccines to vaccinate essentially everybody in the country, and there are people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccines.”
Fauci’s appeal came as an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Sunday morning revealed a massive partisan divide regarding the vaccine. Some 93% of Democrats surveyed said they either have been vaccinated or definitely or probably will do so. Meanwhile, that number was just 49% among Republican respondents. Furthermore, Republicans were also among the most likely groups—along with white Protestants and rural residents—to think the government is exaggerating the risk of the more infectious delta variant.
The mounting divide in the vaccine rollout is also reflected in the political makeup of the states that met Biden’s goal of having 70% of their residents at least partially vaccinated by July 4. All 18 states that surpassed the threshold voted for Biden in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the states with the lowest inoculation rates in the country are overwhelmingly red. Just three of the 32 states left to meet Biden’s goal did not vote for former President Donald Trump.