Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Cullman, Alabama, U.S.
Marvin Gentry | Reuters
Former President Donald Trump was booed at a rally on Saturday in Alabama after telling supporters they should get vaccinated.
“And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You’ve got to do what you have to do,” Trump said. “But, I recommend: take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.”
Some boos rang out from the rally crowd, who were largely maskless.
“No, that’s okay. That’s all right. You got your freedoms,” Trump said, echoing rhetoric from opponents of mask and vaccine mandates. “But I happen to take the vaccine. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be the first to know. Okay? I’ll call up Alabama, I’ll say, hey, you know what? But [the vaccine] is working. But you do have your freedoms you have to keep. You have to maintain that.”
Large swaths of the South are experiencing a surge in Covid cases and hospitalizations because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Cullman, where the rally was hosted, is experiencing a rise in cases that has matched its previous peak from late December. The city declared a Covid state of emergency on Thursday to provide extra emergency support for the rally.
Alabama has the lowest vaccinated rate in the U.S., with just more than 36 percent of its population fully inoculated, according to an NBC News tracker. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has said “the unvaccinated folks” are to blame for Covid’s resurgence in the state.
Nationwide, the overwhelming majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among unvaccinated Americans, The New York Times reported this month.
A Kaiser Family Foundation vaccine tracking poll released earlier this month found that Republicans were the second-least likely demographic group to be vaccinated, only above uninsured Americans under 65. While 57 percent of Republicans have received at least one dose of the vaccine or say they will get a shot as soon as possible, 40 percent say they either never will, will only do so if it’s required or are still in wait-and-see mode. That 40 percent total is the second-highest of the 23 demographic groups surveyed.
Trump has endorsed vaccination previously but has often matched it with similar caveats. Just last week, after promoting the vaccines in an interview with Fox Business personality Maria Bartiromo, Trump claimed upcoming booster shots recommended by the Biden administration as “a money-making operation for Pfizer.” (The Biden administration recommended booster shots for those who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.)
Pfizer, which Trump has attacked in a similar manner previously, was not a part of his administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” the public-private partnership to accelerate vaccine development. Trump did not mention Moderna, which was a part of the program.