TORONTO — While speaking at a rally in Alabama this weekend, former U.S. President Donald Trump was booed by supporters after he said he recommended they get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you gotta do what you gotta do,” Trump said, receiving cheers with the statement.
“But I recommend taking the vaccines. I did it, it’s good, take the vaccines,” he continued.
When supporters began to boo him, Trump waved a hand, saying, “That’s OK, that’s alright. You got your freedoms. But I happened to take the vaccine. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be the first to know.”
Trump received sharp criticism while in office for consistently down-playing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health risks associated with the virus.
His record on vaccination has also received criticism.
Trump has encouraged Americans to get vaccinated several times before. However, he received his own vaccination in private in January instead of taking the chance to set an example for Americans by receiving it in public, as many other politicians have done.
According to several surveys, Republicans are less likely to be vaccinated than Democrats, a partisan divide that highlights how the COVID-19 response has become politicized.
An analysis done by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit that does polling, found that counties that voted for Trump in the 2020 U.S. election had a 35 per cent vaccination rate in early July compared to the 47 per cent vaccination rate of counties that voted for President Joe Biden.
Another survey done by Public Religion Research Institute, which conducts research on the intersection of religion and public policy, in late July found that the group most likely to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, at 46 per cent, was Republicans who consume far-right television programs.
The results found that Republicans who have embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory — a wide-ranging fiction that believes the word is run by Satan-worshipping pedophiles and that Trump will save America from them — were also significantly more likely to reject the vaccine, at 37 per cent, than Republicans who do not believe in QAnon.
Trump’s weekend rally took place in Cullman, Ala., which declared a state of emergency last Thursday due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Local authorities had expressed concern prior to Trump’s rally that it could become a super-spreader event.