Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said on Sunday he hopes former President Donald Trump will push his supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reports.
The comments follow a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released last week which showed that about half of US men who identified themselves as Republicans said they had no plans to get the vaccine.
Asked whether Trump should speak to his supporters directly, given those poll numbers, Fauci was quoted as having said on the “Fox News Sunday” program, “I think it would make all the difference in the world.”
Fauci added that Trump “is a such a strongly popular person ... it would be very helpful for the effort for that to happen.”
Reuters noted that Trump told attendees at a conservative conference last month to get vaccinated - saying, “everybody, go get your shot”. This marked the first time he had encouraged people to do so.
Earlier this month it was reported that Trump and former first lady Melania Trump quietly received the COVID-19 vaccine at the White House in January, before Trump left office.
While Trump received the vaccine behind the scenes, his Vice President Mike Pence received the vaccine in front of the cameras.
President Joe Biden publicly received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in an effort to boost confidence about its safety and efficacy. Vice President Kamala Harris received the vaccine in public as well.
Fauci is the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an adviser to Biden.
Fauci had a strained relationship with Trump, who reportedly at one point considered demoting the top doctor after he criticized his policies.
In October, Trump was heard criticizing Fauci in a call with campaign staffers, suggesting he was an "idiot" and saying, "He's been here for, like, 500 years.”
In interviews he has given since Biden took office, Fauci has acknowledged that it was difficult at times to work for Trump. At his first press briefing after Biden took office, Fauci promised transparency when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.