After months of deliberation, House
Minority Whip Steve Scalise
(R-La.) received the COVID-19 vaccine
on Sunday, encouraging those who are hesitant to get vaccinated in the face of a new wave of infections.
Scalise received his first dose of the Pfizer
vaccine this past weekend at a clinic in Jefferson Parish, according to NOLA.com. He had previously stated that he would get vaccinated "soon."
“Especially with the delta variant
becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike,” the No. 2 House Republican
told the outlet, explaining why he waited so long to get vaccinated.
“When you talk to hospital
administrators in New Orleans
or other states
, 90% of people
in [the] hospital with [the] delta variant have not been vaccinated,” he continued, “and that’s another sign
the vaccine works.”
Scalise also stated that he waited because he had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and believed he already had immunity from a mild case of the virus.
While antibodies derived from virus infection may provide some protection, they are not a replacement for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to public health
Due to the extremely contagious delta variant, new COVID-19 cases have been increasing significantly since May, with an average of 35,547 new cases as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
. The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, prompting some areas of the country to reinstate public health measures to protect against the virus.
Department of Health reported on Monday that area hospitals have seen the most COVID-19 patients since February, when the deadly winter surge began to subside; the state is seeing an average of 1,425 new cases per day, a significant increase from the previous week's average of 903 cases per day.
Scalise told NOLA.com that the politics
of getting vaccinated were not a factor in his decision. However, the former President Donald Trump
ally has publicly supported conspiracy theories
that undermine public health officials' efforts to encourage vaccination
, including the baseless claim that leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci
covered up the virus's origin.
According to a Washington
poll conducted earlier this month, 86% of Democratic
respondents said they had received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 45% of Republican respondents; 47% of Republican respondents said they are unlikely to get vaccinated, compared to 6% of Democrats
. Scalise said that while he would encourage people to get vaccinated, he does not believe it should be mandatory.
“It’s safe and effective,” Scalise said, adding that it was heavily tested on thousands of people before the FDA
approved it. “Some people believe it was rushed, but that is not the case.”