Dr. Fauci Says Donald Trump Missed 'Good Opportunity' to Encourage COVID Vaccine Uptake

Donald Trump missed an "extraordinarily good opportunity" to encourage Americans to get vaccinated when he reportedly received the jab in January, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said.

CNN's Erin Burnett asked Fauci on Wednesday whether the former president could have convinced those who are vaccine-hesitant to get inoculated against COVID at the start of the year.

Fauci said: "That would have been an extraordinarily good opportunity to get a signal to the people who would clearly have listened to him the way they listen to him in many other ways.

"It was unfortunately a lost opportunity because he could have gotten a lot of people who are hesitant about getting vaccinated, vaccinated. I'm sorry he didn't do that."

Fauci's comments come after Trump and his wife Melania Trump reportedly received COVID vaccinations before they left the White House in January, according to the New York Times citing an adviser to the former president. Newsweek has contacted Trump's representatives for comment.

Fauci's comments follow polls suggesting Republicans are more vaccine-hesitant than other groups in the U.S. A KFF Vaccine Monitor survey of 1,676 U.S. adults found vaccine hesitancy was highest among Republicans (42 percent) when it was conducted between November 30th and December 8th 2020.

KFF found 27 percent of the general public as a whole were vaccine-hesitant at that time, judging by those who said they probably or definitely would not get a COVID vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.

A more recent poll conducted by KFF between February 15 and 23 found that out of 1,874 U.S. adults polled, 55 percent said they had received at least one vaccine dose or wanted to as soon as possible.

15 percent said they would "definitely not" get vaccinated, and a further seven percent said they would only do so if it were required. Nearly four in ten Republicans fell into one of these two camps, KFF said, though the survey polled twice as many Democrats (764) as it did Republicans (328).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80.5 million COVID vaccines were administered in the U.S. as of March 3.

In a separate part of the CNN interview with Burnett, Fauci hit back at Texas senator John Cornyn, who claimed the federal government was making "arbitrary rules that do not have any demonstrable connection to the public health" regarding COVID.

On March 2, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he was lifting the state's face mask mandate despite warnings from health officials.

Fauci said: "First of all they're not arbitrary, they're based on evidence and data from science. We know that these interventions work. It's very clear; when you implement them, you see the cases go down. When you pull back, the cases go up."

Donald Trump speaking
Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. He reportedly received a COVID vaccine in January. Joe Raedle/Getty