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Trump-era HHS secretary wants Republicans to get the vaccine. Here’s what he said

In a letter published by The New York Times, former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says vaccines could end the coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump listens to Vice President Mike Pence as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks.
President Donald Trump, second from left, listens to Vice President Mike Pence, left, as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a COVID-19 press briefing at the White House on Monday, March 16, 2020, in Washington.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

A former Trump-era White House Coronavirus Task Force member is encouraging Americans, including his fellow Republicans, to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Alex Azar, the former Department of Health and Human Services secretary who oversaw Operation Warp Speed, wrote in The New York Times that the coronavirus “makes no judgment about one’s political leanings and that “vaccines that were developed to fight this virus have no political bias.”

In an opinion essay that published Tuesday titled “I Was the Architect of Operation Warp Speed. I Have a Message for All Americans,” the former GOP White House Cabinet member continued:

  • “And yet the reluctance and even refusal of many Americans — including many of my fellow conservatives and Republicans — to get a COVID-19 vaccine is a frustrating irony for those of us who worked to expedite these vaccines.”
  • “While the vaccines have had doubts cast upon them by politicians throughout their production and rollout, whether a person lives in a red or a blue state has no bearing on the vaccines’ efficacy.”

Politicians have made the pandemic political

Azar’s letter comes as coronavirus cases surge in the U.S. (and the world) because of the delta variant and while some Americans are still hesitant, or outright refuse, to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Complications of getting Americans vaccinated against the virus and societal support of masking requirements, as Azar points out, are somewhat political and have been difficult from the time vaccines and masking guidance rolled out of the Trump administration.

Azar writes that the Trump White House made efforts to ensure vaccine clinical trials included a diverse group of people and that messaging about the vaccines reached those same populations. “But we did not predict the politicization of vaccines that has led so many Republicans to hold back,” he writes.

  • He adds that Republican leaders are beginning to takes steps to encourage their constituents to get the COVID-19 vaccine and that conservative pundit and Fox News host Sean Hannity has told his viewers to “please take COVID seriously.”

Azar wants Republicans and Democrats to work together

The Operation Warp Speed leader said the pandemic has killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and that getting the vaccine — which he said was “arguably one of his (Trump’s) greatest accomplishments” — is needed so that the pandemic can come to an end.

Azar went on to say he wasn’t naive to partisanship, but encouraged Republicans and Democrats to work together to fight the deadly virus. He said President Joe Biden’s White House “must find voices that will be trusted in conservative communities to explain the data and integrity of the vaccine programs.”

  • “In seeking to end this pandemic, the Biden administration is exhorting all unvaccinated adults in our country to get their shots, and I fully support it in this call. It would be tragic to see more lives needlessly lost when we are so close to beating this virus once and for all.”

Read Azar’s full guest essay published by The New York Times here.