U.S. President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on Sunday defended vaccination mandates to combat the coronavirus, dismissing objections from conservative Republican state governors that they infringe on people’s freedom to control their health care.
“When you are in a public health crisis, sometimes unusual situations require unusual actions,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “In this case, it’s things like mandating, be they masks or vaccinations.”
“They’re very important,” he said. “We’re not living in a vacuum as individuals. We’re living in a society and society needs to be protected. And you do that by not only protecting yourself, but by protecting the people around you by getting vaccinated.”
Biden has directed businesses across the United States with 100 employees or more to force their workers to get vaccinated or undergo frequent testing for the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, although it will be weeks before his directives take full effect. In addition, Biden has ordered members of the country’s armed forces and civilian government workers to get inoculated on a quicker time frame under the threat of being fired if they do not comply.
Biden’s orders have drawn opposition, from some rank-and-file military service members who have refused the vaccinations and civilian government workers who have filed suit against the mandate.
In addition, several Republican state governors, chiefly Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida, two possible 2024 Republican presidential foes of Biden, have assailed the mandates. Both are trying to block all mandates in their states even though some large businesses and municipal school districts have ignored the governors’ directives and imposed their own vaccination or face-mask requirements.
In banning mandates in his state, Abbott last week said Biden’s orders are “another instance of federal overreach” and what he characterized as the “bullying” of private businesses.
Fauci declined to criticize Abbott personally for the governor’s opposition to any governmental or private business vaccination mandate in Texas, the country’s second most populous state.
But Fauci said, “From a public health standpoint, that is really unfortunate, because we know how effective vaccines are in preventing not only illness for the individual, but for diminishing the dynamics of the infection in society.”
“The data are very, very clear,” Fauci said. “Look at the difference between people who get vaccinated and people who are unvaccinated, in cases, in hospitalizations and in deaths.”
The number of new U.S. coronavirus cases has fallen to about 84,000 a day, with about 1,500 deaths a day being recorded, but health officials say unvaccinated people represent the overwhelming share of the victims in both groups of people.
“The more people we get vaccinated, the less likelihood there is going to be another surge as we go into the winter,” Fauci said.
Fauci has come under increasing attacks from conservatives who claim their freedom to control their health care outweighs public concerns.
Asked why he has become a polarizing figure, Fauci responded, “People [who] have conspiracy theories, who deny reality that’s looking them straight in the eye, those are people that don’t particularly care for me. And that’s understandable… sometimes the truth becomes inconvenient for some people.”