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White House’s ‘partisan comments’ to blame for state’s low vaccination rate, Louisiana senator suggests

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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) has argued people in his state are not getting vaccinated because of “partisan comments” on Covid-19 from the White House, but his governor has pointed to “bad information” as the reason.

“People are surprised when citizens don’t trust [the] government,” Cassidy told Fox News on Sunday when asked about the low vaccination rate in Louisiana, which has also seen a spike in Covid-19 cases. 

Cassidy cited comments from the current administration “regarding the next Jim Crow laws” – a reference to President Joe Biden’s opposition to new state voting laws – and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) “in the White House not cooperating on a bipartisan bill” as examples of the “incredibly partisan statements” fueling vaccine hesitancy. 

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The senator also blasted the White House’s vaccine promotion strategy, which has included Vice President Kamala Harris and others traveling to states and health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci talking up vaccinations on cable news and in social media videos with celebrities

“You need to have your doctor, your nurse, your physician’s assistant who’s speaking to the patients they normally care for they see at the PTA meeting they otherwise communicate, this is good, it saves lives,” Cassidy said. 

The senator later tweeted that Louisiana “needs” to get its vaccine rate up to “fully beat this pandemic.”

Though he’s urged vaccinations himself, Cassidy received pushback for blaming the White House.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has also addressed the Covid-19 situation in his state, though he pointed to misinformation on social media as a primary cause of low inoculation rates, echoing similar comments made this week by both the president and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

“Bad information about the Covid-19 vaccine is slowing our efforts to end the pandemic,” he said at a Friday press conference urging vaccinations. “The misinformation out there about vaccines is literally costing lives.”

Biden accused Facebook of “killing people” this week after Psaki outraged many with a fiery press conference where she blasted Facebook for allegedly costing lives. She went on to call for people found to be spreading “misinformation” regarding Covid-19 be banned not just from one social media platform, but all, a comment that has received vocal pushback from journalists and activists, as well as the tech giant itself.

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Louisiana was one of multiple states to use a lottery to convince people to get vaccinated and despite the concern about overall rates, the governor claimed on Friday it has helped boost inoculations in the state. Over the next five weeks, $2.3 million will be awarded to 14 people who received their vaccination. 

The Louisiana Department of Health has warned residents about a spike in cases among unvaccinated people, who make up a vast majority of new cases in the state. Dr. Joe Kanter, the state’s chief public health officer, said this week that “the data is overwhelmingly conclusive that we’re in a surge right now.”

Approximately 36% of adults in Louisiana are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, more than 10% behind the national average.

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