Alabama governor says it's time to blame unvaccinated for COVID rise

·2 min read

Alabama's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, and Governor Kay Ivey is venting her frustration with the choice many in her state are making not to get vaccinated.

At an event in Birmingham Thursday, she was asked by a reporter, "What is it going to take to get people to get shots in arms?" Ivey retorted, "I don't know — you tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down."

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Alabama is 47th in vaccination rates — just under 52% of residents 18 and older have received at least one dose. Alabama also tops the nation in the highest rate of positive COVID tests, with 40%, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Health experts do not recommend that states reopen until their rate of positivity drops below 5%.

"Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks," Ivey said, according CBS Birmingham affiliate WIAT-TV. "And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain."

THE RESPONSE HEARD 'ROUND THE STATE: Watch @JChapmanCBS42 ask Gov. Ivey the question that got her riled up about low vaccination rates. https://t.co/jLnCVmnH0a pic.twitter.com/RL92yuCDMh

— CBS 42 (@CBS_42) July 23, 2021

Ivey, a Republican, added, "I've done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can't make you take care of yourself."

While the federal government has been working hard to change the minds of those resistant to being vaccinated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a gentler tone Friday when asked by CBS News' Nancy Cordes about Ivey's remarks. 

"I don't think our role is to place blame," she said. "But what we can do is provide accurate information to people who are not yet vaccinated about the risks they are incurring not only among on themselves, but also the people around them." 

Psaki conceded that "we understand her frustration, and we understand the frustration of leaders out there, and public voices who are trying to say the right thing" and said the federal government would continue to do its job by making the vaccine available, fighting misinformation about the vaccine and working with officials and others to get people vaccinated. 

Last week, Alabama and most states saw a slight increase in the number of people getting a first shot.

Alexander Tin contributed to this report.

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