First on CNN: McConnell urges Americans to get vaccinated in new TV PSA

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(CNN)Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is expanding his efforts to convince more Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 with a new public service announcement available for TV stations to air nationwide.

The ad aims to target vaccine hesitant Republicans and pushes back against skepticism about the shot promoted by many members of his own party. This comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise and unvaccinated patients infected with the highly contagious Delta variant overwhelm hospitals across the country -- particularly in red states.

This is the second commercial McConnell has taped in an effort to convince Americans to get inoculated. Earlier this summer, McConnell used funds from his reelection campaign to air a radio ad across 100 radio stations in his state to encourage Covid vaccinations.

    In the new 30-second PSA, McConnell again draws on his personal experience as a polio survivor, which he's done throughout the pandemic to encourage people to get the life-saving shot.

      "As a boy, I fought polio," the Kentucky Republican says in the PSA. "Today, America's been polio-free for 40 years — thanks to vaccinations. We'll beat Covid-19 with vaccines, too. Protect yourself and your family. Get vaccinated."

      The PSA, which is a joint effort by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Kentucky Broadcasters Association, began airing last week and has already run more than 100 times across local TV stations in Kentucky, according to McConnell's office. The PSA is available for television stations across the country to air, his office added.

      These 5 states have less than 10% of ICU beds left as Covid-19 overwhelms hospitals

      Asked by CNN in July why he used his own campaign money to air the ad, McConnell said that he believes it's "awfully important that we continue to push to get more Americans vaccinated."

      The PSA comes as Covid-19 hospitalizations have reached the highest point since January with more than 100,000 people hospitalized in the US, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, with virtually all of those hospitalized being people who are unvaccinated.

      In McConnell's home state, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Monday that they're getting "hit harder than we ever did during that winter peak."

      At the same time, as cases and hospitalizations have increased across the US, a greater number of Americans are deciding to get the shot.

      A new Axios-Ipsos poll published on Tuesday found the number of Americans saying they aren't likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine is declining. Twenty percent of Americans say they are not very likely or at all likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, which dropped from 34% in March, according to the poll results.

      McConnell, the highest-ranking Senate Republican, has called the country's speedy development of three safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines a "modern medical miracle."

      He's also addressed how challenging it has been to get more people vaccinated, stating several times that it never occurred to him that it would be so difficult to get people to take it.

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      While McConnell has repeatedly urged Americans to get vaccinated, he has declined to directly criticize many in his party, as well as numerous conservative media stars, and several GOP-run TV and digital networks that have widely peddled disinformation and skepticism about Covid-19 vaccines and mask-wearing throughout the pandemic.

      Asked on Monday by a reporter in Kentucky why he has not been more critical of other Republicans who have downplayed the vaccine or pushed back on wearing masks, McConnell said he doesn't believe it "serves any particular purpose to start criticizing others."

        "I think the best thing for me to do is to say how I feel about it, and to try to encourage those people who care what I think to do right thing," McConnell added, after a local event in Lexington, Kentucky.

        When asked a similar question by a reporter at a July press conference at the US Capitol, McConnell said people "can say whatever they choose" -- but he will continue to encourage vaccines and Americans should "ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice."

        CNN's Clare Foran, Sam Fossum, Manu Raju, Ben Tinker, and Kiely Westhoff contributed to this report.

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