WASHINGTON — With the nation seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, the most powerful Republican in Washington is amplifying a message he's conveyed for months: for a quicker return to normalcy, get vaccinated.

What You Need To Know

  • Mitch McConnell will run 60-second radio ads across Kentucky encouraging residents in his state to get vaccinated

  • Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine is applauding the effort 

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the effort is “long overdue”

  • Both McConnell and Pelosi were vaccinated in December​

"If you haven't been vaccinated, do the right thing for you, for your family, and get vaccinated right now,” says Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) in a new radio ad.

The one minute spot, paid for by McConnell's campaign arm with a five-figure placement, focuses on McConnell’s experience as a polio survivor. It's the first step of a larger effort encouraging vaccinations, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Campaign committees can donate to charity and run ads to support different political candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The ad will be heard on more than 100 Kentucky radio stations.

About 45% of eligible Kentuckians have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, lagging behind the national average.

Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine is applauding McConnell’s efforts.  

“We welcome, really, all of this participation, and all of this outreach to the public about the safety, the effectiveness and the importance of vaccinations as our way through and out of the pandemic,” Levine said in an interview with Spectrum News.

Polls show Republican voters are more reluctant than Democrats to get vaccinated, so this push from McConnell could help. But McConnell has been reluctant to publicly call out members of his own party who have downplayed the vaccine or spread misinformation about it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is criticizing the mixed messages on vaccines from conservatives. 

“I’m glad that he's doing those ads. Long overdue,” Pelosi said in response to a question from Spectrum News at a news conference Wednesday. "The Republican Party has been delinquent in embracing the science that people need to be vaccinated."

Two Republican members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie, have not been vaccinated, with Paul claiming it’s unnecessary because he already had the virus.

Health experts say people who’ve had COVID-19 should still be vaccinated. Both McConnell and Pelosi were inoculated in December.