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Fauci rebukes Johnson over questions on vaccine effort: 'We are dealing with an emergency'

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Overnight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines Average US daily COVID-19 cases below 40K for first time since September MORE, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, rebuked Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE (R-Wis.) over his comments questioning the “big push to make sure everybody gets the vaccine,” explaining that the vaccination effort is key to bringing the coronavirus under control.

“There’s a pretty good reason. We have 567,000 people who’ve died so far in this country from this disease. That is a really, really good reason to get people vaccinated with a vaccine that you’ve shown is highly efficacious and quite safe," Fauci said on MSNBC. "And that’s the reason for the emergency use authorization.

“We are dealing with an emergency," he continued. "How can anyone say that 567,000 dead Americans is not an emergency?”

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The comments come a day after Johnson raised eyebrows for seemingly questioning the importance of vaccinating the nation against COVID-19, saying he’s getting “highly suspicious” of the pressure to inoculate “everybody.”

“The science tells us that vaccines are 95 percent effective, so if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” Johnson said during an appearance on “The Vicki McKenna Show.” He also asked “what’s the point” of striving to get “everybody” the COVID-19 shot.  

“Why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine, and it's to the point where you better impose it, you’re gonna shame people, you’re gonna force them to carry a card to prove that they’ve been vaccinated so they can just be in society,” he added.

Public health experts have propped up vaccinations as a key tool in preventing further community spread of the virus. While more than 40 percent of the adult population has now had at least one shot, experts have said more than 70 percent will have to be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Johnson’s comments also came as the government grapples with vaccine hesitancy among various demographics, including Republican men, prompting criticism that his remarks could dissuade people from getting shots.

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“Ron Johnson’s rhetoric is dangerously irresponsible and will prolong the pandemic by discouraging people from getting vaccinated,” Zach Hudson, a spokesperson for the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, said. “More people will get COVID and die due to Ron Johnson’s comments yesterday. He’s a disgrace and Wisconsin can’t get rid of him soon enough.”

Johnson defended his comments earlier Friday, saying he strongly supported the Trump administration’s efforts to stand up the country’s vaccination effort and that the government’s role is to “help ensure transparency.”

"Everyone should have the right to gather information, consult with their doctor and decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated," the senator said.

"It is a legitimate question as to whether people at very low risk of suffering serious illness from COVID, particularly the young and healthy, should be encouraged to take a vaccine that is being administered under an Emergency Use Authorization — in other words, before it has been fully tested and fully approved," he added.