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Group looks to GOP women lawmakers to help boost COVID-19 vaccinations

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Washington — An organization that aims to elect Republican women to office is launching a new campaign aimed at encouraging unvaccinated Americans to get their shots, focusing on the efforts by GOP women to push vaccinations to protect against COVID-19.

The campaign from the group Winning for Women, to be amplified by female Republican lawmakers on social media, centers around Congresswoman Julia Letlow, a Republican from Louisiana whose husband, Luke, died from complications of COVID-19 in December. 

Luke Letlow was elected to Congress to represent Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, but passed away before taking office. Julia Letlow ran in the special election to fill her late husband's seat and with her win became the state's first Republican woman elected to Congress. In an interview with "CBS Mornings" in August, Letlow recalled how she and her husband had prayed for the vaccines to become available, but he died before the shots were rolled out to the broader public.

A one-minute long digital ad from Winning for Women features Letlow and spotlights other GOP women lawmakers who received their COVID-19 vaccines and are encouraging those who have not yet received their shots to get inoculated. Among those highlighted in the ad are Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa and Representatives Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Ashley Hinson of Iowa and Young Kim of California. 

"We have the answer," the ad says. "Get vaccinated."

As of Wednesday, 77% of eligible Americans — those ages 12 and over — have received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Republican voters in particular have reported getting vaccinated at lower rates.

A June CBS News poll found 29% of Republican adults said they will not get vaccinated, while 13% are still deciding whether to do so. Among adults who won't get vaccinated or are still deciding, 50% said their top reason for not getting their shots is that the vaccines are too untested.

"In the United States, we are lucky to have easy access to three highly effective and safe vaccines," said Olivia Perez-Cubas, the group's spokesperson. "Winning For Women is proud to highlight Republican women who are leading by example and encouraging their constituents to get the shot. As Representative Letlow said, these vaccines are the answer to preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19. If you're on the fence, now is the time to talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated." 

The Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer's two-dose vaccine in August, and lawmakers are hoping the move will drive more people to get vaccinated. Since late July, when Mr. Biden rolled out new vaccine requirements, the number of eligible Americans who are unvaccinated dropped by roughly one-third, from 97 million to 66 million people, according to Jeff Zients, White House COVID response coordinator.

Still, the highly contagious Delta variant drove a rise in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations this summer, and the U.S. is still averaging more than 1,400 deaths from the virus per day. Federal health officials have warned the nation is in a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and said the solution is for more people to get their shots. 

But vaccination rates are lagging in red states, and particularly in the Southeast, where states battled the latest outbreaks of the pandemic.

In Mississippi, which has one of the nation's lowest rates of vaccinations, 60% of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose, and in Louisiana, 62% of those 12 and up have gotten their first shot.

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