Mitch McConnell Draws on Childhood Battle with Polio in Ad Urging People to Get Vaccinated: 'Modern Medical Miracle'

·3 min read
Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

TOM BRENNER/POOL/AFP via Getty Sen. Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging residents of his native Kentucky to get vaccinated against COVID-19, drawing on his own childhood polio diagnosis in a new radio ad airing in the state.

In the ad, McConnell, 79, references his personal experience, saying as a child he "faced a different disease."

"I contracted polio," McConnell says in the ad, which was obtained by CNN, adding, "back then, it took decades for us to develop a vaccine."

Noting that it took almost 70 years to find a Polio vaccination, McConnell calls the COVID-19 shot a "modern medical miracle."

"Not enough people are vaccinated. So we're trying to get them to reconsider and get back on the path to get us to some level of herd immunity," McConnell says in the minute-long ad, airing on more than 100 Kentucky radio stations and paid for by his reelection campaign, according to a Reuters report.

McConnell continues: "There is bad advice out there. Apparently you see that all over the place: people practicing medicine without a license, giving bad advice. And that bad advice should be ignored."

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The Republican, who was vaccinated against COVID-19 in December, compared his own polio fight to the COVID-19 virus in 2020, when he spoke to The Associated Press prior to the release of the vaccines.

"Why does this current pandemic remind me of that? I think No. 1 is the fear," McConnell said. "And the uncertainty you have when there's no pathway forward on either treatment or a vaccine and that was the situation largely in polio before 1954."

McConnell was diagnosed with polio in 1944 after coming down with flu-like symptoms and recovering, only to see that his left leg had become paralyzed.

Speaking to ABC News last year, McConnell opened up about some of his earliest memories, which include the day he left his Warm Springs, Georgia polio treatment center for the last time.

With his father deployed to World War II at the time, it was up to his mother to care for him and after two years of receiving care, they were told the young McConnell would be able to walk without ab race.

"I was lucky," he told ABC News, saying his mother "was determined to see me walk again," and had instilled in him the importance of "tenacity, hard work and not giving up."

He continued: "My mother instilled all that in me before I was 4 years old and I think it's been a guiding principle in how I lead my life."

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In recent weeks, cases of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 have surged around the country, particularly in regions that supported former President Donald Trump. Those areas show the lowest rates of vaccination and higher rates of hospitalization and deaths from the virus.

As a result of those trends, many Republicans have recently begun urging Americans to get their shots.

"If there is anybody out there willing to listen: Get vaccinated," McConnell said earlier this month, at one of his weekly press conferences at the Capitol.

He continued: "These shots need to get in everybody's arms as rapidly as possible or we're going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for — that we went through last year. This is not complicated."

Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.