Top U.S. health officials expressed new warnings Sunday about the surging spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus across the country, amid a growing number of calls for vaccine mandates.
“Something bad is going on. We’ve got to realize that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show.
Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he does not expect there will be a national mandate for vaccinations.
But he said that as soon as regulators at the Food and Drug Administration give full authorization for the use of vaccinations against the coronavirus, possibly in the next few weeks, he strongly supports universities, businesses and other local enterprises imposing vaccination mandates.
“I believe that some people on their own,” once vaccines are fully approved, “will go ahead and get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “But for those who do not want, I believe mandates at the local level need to be done.”
More than 166 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the government. That is barely half the population, and children 12 and younger have yet to be cleared for inoculations. The vaccinations started last December under drug regulators’ emergency-use authorization while further review has been ongoing.
Even as the number of coronavirus cases has surged in Florida and Texas, two key U.S. states with a large number of infections, their Republican governors, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, respectively, have remained adamant in their opposition to vaccine or face mask mandates, saying they violate peoples’ right to individual freedom.
U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida supported DeSantis’s decision, telling the “Fox News Sunday” show, “We can’t go back to fears. Let people make their decisions.”
But Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a low-vaccination state with an increasing number of infections, told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” he made a mistake earlier this year by signing a face mask ban into law.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second biggest U.S. teachers union with 1.7 million members, told the NBC show that as schools are now opening for new terms across the country, "As a matter of personal conscience we need to be working with employers on vaccine mandates."
"The circumstances have changed,” she added. “It weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can't get vaccinated. I felt the need ... to stand up and say this as a matter of personal conscience."
Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told ABC News’ “This Week” show, “Please be clear about this: The vaccines have incredible evidence for their safety and effectiveness.”
Collins told those skeptical about getting vaccinated, “If you’re on the fence, get off the fence. Become part of the winning team.”
More than 100,000 more Americans a day are becoming infected because of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, a 10-fold increase in just the last few weeks.
Fauci called it the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Tests have shown that the existing coronavirus vaccines available in the U.S. are effective against the delta variant. But Fauci warned that left unchecked, the delta variant could mutate into other variants that could evade the effectiveness of the vaccines.
He said the 93 million eligible Americans who have yet to be vaccinated should think of their own health and their family’s but also about their communities. He said he is much in favor of requiring vaccinations for U.S. health care workers, millions of whom have refused to get inoculated.
“The time has come,” he said. “We’ve got to get people vaccinated. Even if you have had COVID, you need to be vaccinated.”