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NIH director says asking for proof of vaccination is a step in ‘the right direction’

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.Pool/Getty

As cases and hospitalizations rise across the United States, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that businesses asking employees for proof of vaccination or regular testing were taking steps “in the right direction.”

“I think anything we can do to encourage reluctant folks to get vaccinated — because they’ll want to be part of these public events — that’s a good thing,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Collins said he was pleased to see companies such as Disney and Walmart asking their employees to get vaccinated. And he expressed support for President Joe Biden’s decision this past week requiring federal workers to get the vaccine or, “if they’re not, to get regular testing, which is inconvenient.”

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“All of those steps, I think, are in the right direction,” Collins said.

When asked whether airlines should require proof of vaccination for passengers, Collins said that the decision was up to the airlines but that it could motivate people to get vaccinated if they want to be able to travel.

Proposals for business and government agencies to recommend or require employees to get vaccinated have come as coronavirus infections are surging across the country. In the past two weeks, new infections have risen by 148% in the United States, and hospitalizations have increased by 73%, according to New York Times data.

The surge has been largely attributed to the highly contagious delta variant and to low vaccination rates in some states.

In an interview on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized the importance of getting more Americans vaccinated as the country faces a more contagious variant of the virus, implicating the unvaccinated in the rise in delta cases.

“We’ve really got to get those people to change their minds, make it easy for them, convince them, do something to get them to be vaccinated, because they are the ones that are propagating this outbreak,” he said.

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Fauci also addressed recommendations this past week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Americans to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in areas where transmission rates are high. The recommendation was issued days before the agency released a report, on Friday, suggesting that fully vaccinated people are capable of spreading the virus to others just as readily as unvaccinated people.

“We’re now dealing with a virus that has an extraordinary capability of spreading from person to person,” he said. “So when you superimpose one on the other, you have a very difficult situation: a pool of unvaccinated people and a virus that spreads very efficiently.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.