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Sen. Johnson doubles down on comments questioning vaccination push

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MADISON (WKOW) -- One day after saying the it was "highly suspicious" of government officials to encourage all adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) stood by his remarks Friday.

During an interview with conservative talk radio host Vicki McKenna on 1310 WIBA-AM Thursday, Johnson questioned why public health officials around the country wanted adults vaccinated instead of focusing on the elderly and people who pre-existing conditions, who've been more susceptible to severe Covid infections.

"Because it's not a fully-approved vaccine, I think we probably should've limited the distribution to the vulnerable," Johnson said. "To people that really aren't- to the very young, I see no reason to be pushing vaccines on people."

Public health experts have been explaining the reason for some time now. They've repeatedly said maximizing the percentage of people who are vaccinated will reduce the chances of more variant strains forming, which can undermine how well the current vaccines work.

Johnson went on to say in Thursday's interview he did not understand why anyone who is vaccinated would concern themselves with whether someone else is getting the vaccine.

"The science tells us the vaccines are 95 percent effective," Johnson said. "So if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?"

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin held a press call Friday to blast Johnson's remarks.

Chair Ben Wikler said it was a continuation of Johnson's recent tendency to give oxygen to unfounded conspiracy theories, likening Johnson's comments to his choice to use a hearing on the January 6 insurrection to as an opportunity to relay the account of someone who suggested those who breached the U.S. Capitol weren't actually supporters of former President Donald Trump.

"This is a reminder of how focused Ron Johnson is on appealing to the most extreme parts of the right-wing base instead of serving the Wisconsin voters he was elected to represent," Wikler said.

On Friday, Johnson doubled down on his previous comments. He released a statement again defending his skepticism of efforts to vaccinate all adults.

"It is a legitimate question as to whether people at very low risk of suffering serious illness from COVID, particularly the young and healthy, should be encouraged to take a vaccine that is being administered under an Emergency Use Authorization," the statement read.

Department of Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said Thursday people should not shame others for holding out on getting the vaccine.

However, Westergaard added anyone having those conversations would be right to note the early returns have shown the vaccine is not only effective, but that severe reactions are extremely rare.

"We've been giving hundreds of millions of doses around the world for these new vaccines and have gotten a pretty good sense they're highly effective and they're very safe," Westergaard said.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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