WASHINGTON – Sen. Mitt Romney has a word for the politicization of the COVID-19 vaccine: "moronic."
"Politicizing vaccinations is moronic," the Utah Republican told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill. He said it's "grossly" unfortunate and a "huge" human cost to have vaccination become a political issue.
"After all, President Trump and his supporters take credit for developing the vaccine, why the heck won't they take advantage of the vaccine they received plaudits for having developed?" he said.
The senator's comments came on the heels of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas over the weekend where attendees applauded the federal government's inability to hit its vaccine goals.
Author Alex Berenson, who The Atlantic labeled the "pandemic's wrongest man" in an article in April, drew clapping and cheers crowd when he said on stage that "the government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated, and it isn't happening."
On CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, called the cheering "horrifying."
"They're cheering about someone saying that it's a good thing for people not to try and save their lives," he said.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found a sharp difference between Republicans and Democrats over the COVID-19 vaccine. The national survey showed that while 86% of Democrats have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, only 45% of Republicans have. It also found that 47% of Republicans said they would probably not be inoculated, compared to 6% of Democrats.
A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted in late June found 89% of Utahns who identified themselves as Democrats have been vaccinated, compared to 59% of Republicans. The survey also showed that 18% of Republicans say they will never get the vaccine. The number for Democrats was zero.
On Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox apologized, saying "we screwed up" by declaring the state had hit his goal of getting 70% of Utah adults vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose by July 4 when the actual number was just over 67%.
In response to a question Tuesday about conservative commentators and some Republicans who have questioned the vaccine's efficacy, GOP congressional leaders urged Americans to get the shot.
"I'm a huge fan of vaccinations," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters. "I'm perplexed by the difficulty we have in finishing the job. ... We need to keep preaching that getting the vaccine is important."
Operation Warp Speed, he said, produced three highly effective vaccines.