GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy'

Four Republican senators wrote to the White House on Wednesday claiming the Biden administration “created confusion and exacerbated vaccine hesitancy” with its COVID-19 strategy.

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (R-N.C.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Yellen confident of minimum global corporate tax passage in Congress MORE (R-Idaho) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Hartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (R-Mo.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) said in their letter to White House COVID-⁠19 response coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsGOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates Industry groups warn vaccine mandate could worsen holiday supply chain issues Walensky: CDC will 'not articulate a preference' for which booster to get MORE that the administration had “no clear strategy to bring this pandemic to an end” and that progress toward ending the pandemic had been “interrupted.”

“Over the last few months, our progress towards combating COVID-19 has been interrupted — cases of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant are surging across the country, mounting pressure on health care systems and forcing hospitals to turn away patients,” the senators wrote.

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The senators asked Zients to answer a series of COVID-19-specific questions by Sept. 30, including why the administration advertised a nationwide rollout of booster shots before they were federally approved, how the it was preparing for possible new variants and why it was limiting access of monoclonal antibody treatments in states. 

The senators said they were aware of the White House’s latest COVID-19 action plan, in which President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE mandated vaccines for federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees, but argued that Americans deserve more details on how the administration will use vaccines to "combat the disease with clear and concise plans that put science ahead of politics."

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Republican governors have pledged to fight Biden's vaccine mandates at the state level, and Republicans in general have been far more skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine than Democrats. As of Sept. 13, 52.8 percent of people in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated, versus 39.9 percent in countries that voted for Trump, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

However, McConnell and his co-signers have been outspoken proponents of the COVID-19 vaccine in recent months. 

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The senators’ letter comes as the Biden administration was dealt a blow last week when a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel said it would recommend a third COVID-19 shot to older Americans but declined to endorse boosters for broader use. The Biden administration had hoped to start rolling out boosters on Monday.

There was also confusion about the timeline for when such boosters would be administered — including comments from the president last month suggesting it could be shortened from eight months to five months after a second shot.

Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthySunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Communities are the front lines in the battle against misinformation Fauci says it's recommended to get same vaccine for COVID-19 boosters MORE said prior to the FDA panel's vote that the White House would adhere to whatever decision the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended. "We will follow that evaluation and their recommendations. We will make sure our final plan reflects it," he said.