GOP Sen. Ron Johnson criticized for 'dangerous' comments calling COVID-19 vaccine push 'suspicious'

Ron Johnson
(Image credit: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) is facing criticism after suggesting there's something "suspicious" about there being a "big push" to ensure Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Republican senator spoke about COVID-19 vaccines during an interview with conservative radio host Vicki McKenna, seeming to float the idea of a nefarious motivation behind the urging of all adults to get vaccinated in order to put an end to the pandemic, per Forbes.

"The science tells us that vaccines are 95 percent effective, so if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" Johnson said. "I mean, what is it to you? ... Why is [there] this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"

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Health experts would likely tell Johnson that Americans should care because a certain percentage of the population must receive a COVID-19 vaccine in order to achieve herd immunity in the United States. But the Republican senator went on to criticize the idea of Americans needing to "carry a card to prove that they've been vaccinated so they can participate in society" and then added, without elaborating, "I'm getting highly suspicious of what's happening here." Johnson also suggested the vaccine's distribution should have been "limited" to vulnerable populations.

Epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding criticized Johnson's "dangerous words," while Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) slammed "this anti-vax rhetoric" and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin dubbed the senator a "dangerous conspiracy theorist." Amid this criticism, Johnson in a new statement on Friday said Americans should "decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated" and reiterated his belief that it's a "legitimate question as to whether people at very low risk" for COVID-19 "should be encouraged to take" the vaccine.

Johnson's comments came during an interview that opened with him saying it "blows me away" that he's "accused of being anti-science."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.