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Photo: Florida Rep. Val Demings considering run against Rubio or DeSantis

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Thursday that because the COVID-19 vaccines are not fully approved by the FDA, the U.S. government "probably should have limited the distribution to the vulnerable" — questioning the "big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine."

Why it matters: Vaccine hesitancy — especially among white Republicans — is viewed as one of the major barriers to reaching herd immunity in the U.S. and bringing the pandemic to an end.

Driving the news: Johnson told Wisconsin conservative radio host Vicki McKenna that he supported Operation Warp Speed and acknowledged that the "the science tells us that vaccines are 95% effectives," but then added: "So if you have a vaccine, quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not? What is it to you?"

  • Health experts have cautioned that it's still not clear whether the vaccine fully reduces transmission of the virus, meaning it's important to continue taking precautions around unvaccinated people.
  • The CDC also recently published an analysis finding that an unvaccinated worker at a Kentucky nursing home caused "breakthrough" infections among vaccinated staff and residents, underscoring the importance of widespread vaccine uptake among the American public.

The big picture: Johnson echoed Republican criticisms of "vaccine passports," condemning the idea as "freedom-robbing" and suggesting that COVID — like climate change — is being wielded by Democrats as a way to exert control.

  • "[W]hy this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine, to the point where you better impose it, you're going to shame people, you're going to force them to carry a card to prove that they've been vaccinated so they can participate in society?" Johnson asked.
  • "I'm getting highly suspicious of what's happening here," he added.

Go deeper: Assaulting the Truth, Ron Johnson Helps Erode Confidence in Government (N.Y. Times)

Go deeper

Biden's quick-trigger COVID problem

Seems like last year, but this was Thursday in Orlando. Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation.

Why it matters: The past year and a half have left Americans cynical about the government's COVID response, and — in many cases — misinformed or uninformed. We're getting fog and reversals when steady, clear-eyed, factual information is needed more than ever.

Updated Aug 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated

Graphic: Axios Visuals

Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

The big picture: The federal Government in May said it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

Updated Jul 31, 2021 - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans tested positive for COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and state Covid dashboards via NBC. Dani Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001% have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.