Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was booed over the weekend by a crowd of South Carolina Republicans after he encouraged them to consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
Graham on Saturday had begun to suggest to the group that they consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine when he was interrupted by the crowd, who responded at a volume high enough that he was briefly forced to stop speaking.
“If you haven’t had the vaccine, you ought to think about getting it because if you’re my age...” Graham said during the event, hosted by a local Republican Party group in the state.
“No!” members of the crowd yelled back at him.
“I didn’t tell you to get it,” Graham responded, holding his hand up. “You ought to think about it,” he said, eliciting more reactions from the crowd, according to a video of the exchange posted by The Daily Beast.
“Well, I’m glad I got it,” Graham continued. “Ninety-two percent of people in the hospitals in South Carolina are unvaccinated.”
The comment drew more pushback from the crowd, with some responding: “false!” and “that’s not true!”
The exchange highlights how politicized COVID-19 vaccines have become in the United States, with skepticism about the vaccines especially pronounced among among Republicans, leading to scenes such as the one Graham found himself in playing out around the country.
Graham was vaccinated against the virus in December. He took to Twitter at the time to post photos of himself receiving the shot and to praise nurses who administer the doses and those who developed the vaccines.
“If enough of us take it, we will get back to normal lives,” Graham wrote at the time. “Help is on the way.”
Graham later tested positive for the virus in August, sharing on Twitter that he had a breakthrough case and expressing relief that he was vaccinated.
“I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now,” Graham wrote. “My symptoms would be far worse.”
Graham then told the crowd that he was against vaccination mandates for members of the military and health care workers, saying he was concerned that the mandate would drive people out of their jobs. He also questioned whether they were constitutional. As Graham continued to speak, he was interrupted by a man in the crowd who said he was a civilian employee of the Navy and would lose his job by not complying with the military’s vaccine mandate.
Graham pivoted to asking the crowd how many of them have been vaccinated for measles, prompting many to respond that “it’s not the same” and one to falsely claim that “it’s experimental.” The vaccines approved for use by federal health agencies went through a rigorous review process in which manufacturers submitted extensive data on the shots from clinical trials before they were rolled out to Americans. In August, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine after it was initially cleared for emergency use.
Graham is just the latest Republican to face a crowd hostile to vaccines. Former president Donald Trump and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson were among those recently booed at events as they either promoted the vaccine or spoke to constituents about it.
“You know what? I believe totally in your freedom, I do. You got to do what you have to do,” Trump said at an August rally in Alabama. “But I recommend: Take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.”
When the crowd started to boo him, Trump said: “That’s OK. That’s alright. You got your freedoms, but I happen to take the vaccine.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in September that 52.8 percent of people in counties that voted for Democrat Joe Biden for president were fully vaccinated, compared with 39.9 percent of people in counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump, and that the gap had widened over time.
In Graham’s South Carolina, 55.7 percent of people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 47.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Across the country, 65 percent of people have received at least one dose of a vaccine while 56 percent of people are fully vaccinated.