By Ali Zaslav, CNN
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is taking his coronavirus vaccine plea directly to his constituents.
The Kentucky Republican is airing an ad across 100 radio stations in his state urging people to get vaccinated, as the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 ravages parts of the country, particularly red states with higher rates of unvaccinated people.
The 60-second ad, narrated by the highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, began airing on Thursday morning, according to a source familiar with the plans, who also said that this is just the first part of a larger effort that McConnell is undertaking to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.
In the ad, obtained by CNN, McConnell references his personal experience with polio, recalling how as a young boy he “faced a different disease. I contracted polio,” and “back then, it took decades for us to develop a vaccine.”
He called the creation of three safe and highly effective Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year “nothing short of a modern medical miracle.”
“Every American should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated. It’s the only way we’re going to defeat Covid,” he says in the advertisement, which was paid for by the McConnell Senate Committee.
The 7-day average of coronavirus cases in Kentucky compared to the previous week is up 74%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Asked why he’s using his campaign funds to encourage Kentuckians to get inoculated, McConnell said, “I think this is awfully important that we continue to push to get more Americans vaccinated, and I represent Kentucky and I want to get that message to as many people as possible.”
Reuters first reported McConnell’s plans to air the ad.
The rise in cases and hospitalizations has spurred an effort by many Republicans on Capitol Hill to ramp up their vaccine messaging to encourage constituents to get the shot. McConnell has long supported vaccines and has been urging people to get the shot all year in stops across his home state and in remarks at the US Capitol.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who’s also been encouraging vaccinations across his state that’s been overwhelmed by the Delta variant, read three tragic news stories about constituents whose unvaccinated family members are now dead after contracting the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidance to urge vaccinated people in areas of high transmission to resume mask-wearing in public areas indoors, Sen. Lisa Murkowski posted a video on Twitter asking people to get the shot so we don’t need to wear masks again.
“I do not want to go back to mask wearing inside, and I know you don’t either. So, get the vaccine,” the Alaska Republican says in the video as she takes off a blue and white mask.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, also recently took to Twitter to reiterate his message to unvaccinated people in his state, saying: “I encourage ALL eligible Iowans/Americans to get vaccinated The Delta variant scares me so I hope those that haven’t been vaccinated will reconsider.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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