Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s claim that getting a Covid vaccine “doesn’t impact me or anyone else” was “completely incorrect,” Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday, highlighting the critical role vaccines play against disease outbreaks.
“If he feels that vaccines are not important for people, that they are just important for some people, that’s completely incorrect,” Dr Fauci, the director of the US’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview to CNN.
Vaccinations have been the solution to every major public health issue, including smallpox, polio, measles, the country’s top infectious diseases expert said.
“I’m not sure what people are talking about when they push back on vaccinations. It [vaccines] is historically, over decades and decades and decades, shown to be the way you control an infectious disease.”
During a news conference earlier on Friday, the Republican governor said, while vaccines have helped people avoid severe illness, they were “about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”
Dr Fauci, responding to Mr DeSantis’s remarks, said they were “not true at all”, pointing out that those who remain unvaccinated were “part of the problem”.
“I mean, obviously it’s important for you as an individual for your own personal protection, safety and health,” he said.
“But when you have a virus that’s circulating in the community and you are not vaccinated, you are part of the problem because you are allowing yourself to be a vehicle for the virus to be spreading to someone else.”
Dr Fauci then pointed out that those who were unvaccinated could be asymptomatic and could pass on the coronavirus infection to others who were much more vulnerable healthwise, compared to them. He also said getting vaccinated was not just a responsibility towards individual health, but a collective responsibility.
“It isn’t as if it stops with you. If that were the case, then it would be only about you. But it doesn’t,” he said.
“You can get infected even if you get no symptoms or minimally symptomatic and then pass it on to someone who in fact might be very vulnerable – an elderly person, a person with an underlying disease. So when you’re dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn’t only about you. There is a societal responsibility that we all have.”
Earlier, an editorial published by The Miami Herald offered a stinging rebuke of the governor’s remarks.
The piece, titled “Your ‘personal choice’ not to get COVID vaccine is putting our ‘healthcare heroes’ at risk”, by the paper’s editorial board slammed the governor’s statement, calling it a “profile in selfishness” for ignoring the role the vaccine plays in reducing the community spread of the virus.