Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia. AP Photo/John Bazemore
Gov. Brian Kemp called out Biden for not working harder to push the FDA to fully approve COVID-19 vaccines.
The governor pointed to the vaccine emergency authorization to explain some of the hesitation.
Kemp was also critical of the CDC’s new guidance on mask-wearing among vaccinated people.
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GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia on Thursday attempted to shift blame to President Joe Biden for the state’s low COVID-19 vaccination rate as the highly-infectious Delta variant continues to spread, according to The Associated Press.
While speaking to reporters, Kemp said that Biden needed to push harder to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to upgrade its emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccines to full approval.
Kemp, who won his first race for governor in 2018, also stated that asking people to wear masks once again sends a “mixed message” and might cause people not to take the vaccine.
He encouraged Georgians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and said he would look into other solutions if hospitals in the state became overwhelmed with patients.
Only 38% of Georgia’s total population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“We know that the vaccines work,” Kemp said on Thursday. “I want to encourage people to get vaccinated if you’re comfortable doing that.”
Democratic state Sen. Michelle Au, an anesthesiologist, told The Associated Press that the state needed to do more to increase access to the vaccine and promote testing among residents who are unvaccinated.
“We aren’t trying hard enough,” Au told the news organization. “We like to blame the unvaccinated.”
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On Thursday, Georgia posted over 4,800 positive COVID-19 tests, a high-point that was last reached in early February, when the vaccine wasn’t as readily available to the general public.
With the Delta variant spreading throughout Georgia, similar to the US as a whole, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state rose above 1,800.
COVID-19 infection rates have remained elevated in southeast Georgia.
Charlton County Administrator Hampton Raulerson told The Brunswick News that interest in the vaccines has not been robust.
“There’s a lot of distrust when it comes to the vaccine,” he said. “A lot of people thought (COVID-19) was going away.”
Kemp said that many people are reluctant to take the vaccine since it has still not been fully approved by the FDA.
“I’d love to see the Biden administration put an ‘Operation Warp Speed’ on moving away from the emergency use authorization,” he said on Thursday, referring to the Trump-era public-private vaccine development initiative that manufactured and distributed COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation, told The Washington Post on Friday that the agency is redeploying staff to accelerate their effort in fully approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“This will remove one more layer for the vaccine-hesitant,” Marks said. “If all this does is get five to 10 million more people vaccinations down south, that will save lives.”
The CDC earlier this week shifted their guidelines on mask-wearing, recommending face coverings for vaccinated people indoors in areas with high transmission of the virus.
The agency also called for mask-wearing in schools, which has been opposed by Kemp and other Republicans.
Kemp said that the CDC’s new guidance didn’t inspire confidence.
“When you tell them they can get vaccinated and then take their mask off and then you turn around weeks later and reverse that, who’s gonna trust anybody, any politician, Republican, Democrat, or otherwise?” he said.
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