President Biden during his first address to a joint session of Congress urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But one expert thinks he left an opportunity to encourage vaccination on the table.
Dr. Leana Wen, a physician and CNN medical analyst, in a Washington Post op-ed argued the president “missed his biggest opportunity to reduce vaccine hesitancy” with the address, pointing to the fact that there was a limited number of attendees in the House chamber who still wore masks and maintained physical distance.
“If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was six months ago, before Americans had access to safe, highly effective vaccines,” Wen wrote.
While Wen said that she can “understand the need for caution,” she expresses concern that a “very damaging narrative is taking hold” that there’s no reason to get vaccinated given that there are still “so many precautions” for those who do, and she suggests the precautions taken for this address may have contributed to that.
Others might counter that this was appropriate because the CDC is continuing to recommend both vaccinated and unvaccinated people avoid large crowds. Wen, though, also takes issue with the CDC’s “overly-cautious” guidelines, urging the agency to “clearly distinguish between events in which anyone can attend and events that allow only those fully vaccinated.”
Wen concludes by arguing that had lawmakers been required to be fully vaccinated to attend the speech but were then permitted to remove their masks and sit side-by-side like they might have pre-pandemic, this could have “sent an unequivocal message that vaccines are safe, effective and the key to ending the pandemic.”
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist, echoed Wen’s sentiments, writing that “we have to start putting our money where our mouth is in signaling, messaging, modeling the effectiveness of the vaccines.” Read the full op-ed at The Washington Post.
Imagine if only vaccinated people could attend–but they don’t need to mask or distance. pic.twitter.com/wFTWUOq71O
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) April 29, 2021