Undoing recent GOP leadership efforts, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) downplayed the urgency of the COVID-19 vaccine during a Thursday radio interview.

“For the very young, I see no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” Johnson said to radio host Vicki McKenna. “I certainly am going to vigorously resist any kind of government use or imposing of vaccine passports…. That could be a very freedom-robbing step and people need to understand these things.”

Johnson’s comments come days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) spent time during the Senate recess urging Republican men, the group most unlikely to get vaccinated, to seek a COVID-19 vaccination.

“The science tells us the vaccines are 95% effective, so if you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” Johnson told the host. “What is it to you? You’ve got a vaccine and science is telling you it’s very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine? And it’s to the point where you’re going to shame people, you’re going to force them to carry a card to prove that they’ve been vaccinated so they can still stay in society. I’m getting highly suspicious of what’s happening here.”


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The medical concept of herd immunity that explains that after a majority of a population is immunized, a virus cannot spread through a population as effectively. The CDC and WHO have said that a COVID-19 herd immunity threshold would require more than 70% of people to be vaccinated. Johnson’s own state only has a full vaccination rate of 30%.

Johnson issued a statement Friday responding to the controversy. “Everyone should have the right to gather information, consult with their doctor and decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated,” Johnson said. “Now I believe government’s role (and therefore my role) is to help ensure transparency so that people have as much information as possible to make an informed decision for themselves.”

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