White House on unvaccinated Americans: Our role is not to ‘place blame’

The White House on Friday said it would not place blame on unvaccinated Americans as coronavirus cases rise around the country, but press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration empathizes with the frustration of leaders in states that have lagged behind in vaccination rate.

Psaki was asked about comments from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who earlier Friday said, “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down” as her state ranks last in terms of vaccination rate.

“I don’t think our role is to place blame, but what we can do is provide accurate information to people who are not yet vaccinated about the risks they are incurring not only on themselves, but also the people around them,” Psaki said.

Psaki said it’s not the role of the federal government to encourage vaccine mandates as some states have seen vaccination rates stagnate. Instead, the administration sees its role as distributing vaccines and disseminating accurate information about the shot.

“I will say, we understand her frustration, and we understand the frustration of leaders out there and public voices who are trying to say the right thing, advocate for the efficacy of the [vaccine], save people in their communities,” Psaki said.

The White House has in recent weeks faced repeated questions about whether it can or should take a more hands-on role in encouraging Americans to get the coronavirus vaccine, particularly as the number of cases has roughly tripled over the past two weeks.

But the administration has steered clear of any involvement with vaccine mandates, instead deferring to private companies and institutions to set their own requirements for the shot if they choose.

Roughly 66 percent of Americans ages 12 and up have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to New York Times data.

Ivey, asked in Birmingham what more could be done to encourage residents to get the shot, appeared exasperated.

“Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks,” she told reporters. “These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

Tags Alabama Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine Jen Psaki Kay Ivey Vaccine hesitancy
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