NIH chief says it's time to stop 'finger wagging' at Americans hesitant about the COVID vaccine, admits his agency is not requiring employees to get shots


The director of the National Institutes of Health told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that it’s time to stop “finger wagging” at fellow Americans who are hesitant to get a COVID vaccine. He also admitted on air that he is not mandating that NIH employees get vaccinated.

What’s going on?

There is an ongoing debate among Americans over whether or not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as millions of citizens have indicated they are hesitant to get an injection because they feel the testing for the vaccinations is incomplete and they have health questions or concerns.

NIH Director Francis Collins told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday that though he hopes to convince fellow citizens to get vaccinated, he does think it’s time for vaccine advocates to take a different approach.

Collins began by discussing the controversial pause — and subsequent restart — federal health officials recommended for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over possible connections to blood clots among women. He said that he believes that everyone should have access to the information about possible risks regarding the vaccine and understand the “potential very rare side effect” so that everyone has the facts. Then he added that when one considers the minimal nature of the vaccine’s risk and weighs it against the benefits of combatting COVID, it becomes clear that “the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, even for younger women.”

With that context, Todd asked Collins about vaccine hesitancy — noting that according to a new NBC poll, 4% of Democrats and about 25% of Republicans say they won’t get vaccinated — and what the NIH can do to help “depoliticize” the issue.

Collins indicated that instead of demonizing those with worries, health officials and commentators should try to listen to and understand Americans’ concerns.

“If we’re going to be able to put COVID-19 behind us, we need to have all Americans take part in getting us to that point,” Collins answered. “I think maybe one of the things we can do is to change the conversation a little bit. I think maybe