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Utah's Republican governor said anti-vaccine rhetoric from some on the right is 'literally killing their supporters'

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Spencer Cox in a black suit and blue tie speaking at a microphone.
Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during a briefing at the Utah State Capitol on Jan. 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News, via AP, Pool, File
  • Some outlets and lawmakers are casting doubt on COVID-19 vaccines.

  • GOP Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah denounced the rhetoric and said it is "killing people."

  • The US is struggling to get more Americans vaccinated as misinformation about vaccines spreads.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Utah's Republican governor said Friday that anti-vaccine messaging is "killing people" and pleaded with his state's residents to get vaccinated.

During a news conference Friday, a reporter asked Governor Spencer Cox how harmful anti-vaccine rhetoric, particularly from right-wing sources, has been to the state's vaccination effort.

"I think it's ridiculous," Cox said after praising former President Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed. "I don't think we can take credit for the vaccine and then tell people that there's something wrong with the vaccine."

"We have these - these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine. That kind of stuff is just, it's ridiculous. It's dangerous, it's damaging, and it's killing people," Cox said. "I mean, it's literally killing their supporters. And that makes no sense to me."

Read more: Governors of all 50 states are vaccinated against COVID-19

Conservative media outlets and some Republican lawmakers have sought to cast doubt on the vaccines, despite overwhelming evidence of their safety and effectiveness at preventing severe cases of COVID-19.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson lambasted President Joe Biden's vaccine outreach efforts, saying he wanted to "force people to take medicine they don't want or need." In another segment, he highlighted people who died after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, implying, without evidence, that the vaccine itself was "killing" them.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has repeatedly emphasized rare side effects of the vaccine and spread false claims about the safety and effectiveness of the shot.

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has also disparaged the safety of the vaccine, urging people in a tweet last week to "just say no!" Her spokesperson told Savannah Morning News in March that Greene did not "see a reason" to get vaccinated. When asked by reporters in June if she had been vaccinated, Greene declined to say.

About 45% of Utahns are fully vaccinated, close to the national rate of 48%, according to the CDC. But COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising, a trend also occurring in other states as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.

Cox said that the only way to address the rising cases is for more people to get vaccinated.

"The disease is far worse than the vaccine," Cox said. "We desperately need you to get vaccinated."

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