Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for all workers on his reelection effort, a move aimed at drawing attention to the differences between his handling of the pandemic and his Republican challengers, who oppose coronavirus mitigation mandates.
“The J.B. for Governor campaign is requiring full vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of employment,” Mike Ollen, the first-term governor’s reelection campaign manager, said in a statement.
“We are leading by example and following the same science and medical advice from doctors, nurses and medical professionals that has guided Gov. J.B. Pritzker in his strong leadership to protect the lives and livelihoods of Illinoisans during this deadly pandemic,” Ollen said.
Pritzker has made his handling of the pandemic the centerpiece of his bid for a second term as his Republican challengers have attacked his use of executive authority to impose business restrictions and vaccination and masking requirements for health care workers, educators and students.
Pritzker’s campaign believes the majority of voters back his actions amid growing resentment of those who have chosen not to be vaccinated even as the delta variant has led to a surge in cases and a rise in hospitalizations, particularly in Republican-leaning rural areas downstate where many residents haven’t been inoculated.
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Two of the four announced candidates for the June 28 Republican nomination for governor, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia an Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, have said they are not vaccinated.
Bailey has unsuccessfully sought court action to block Pritzker’s mitigation rules, calling the governor a “tyrant” for his executive actions. Last year, Bailey was voted off the House floor by his colleagues for failure to follow a masking mandate rule. He was allowed to return a day later when he agreed to wear a mask.
Rabine has said he previously had COVID-19 and does not need to be inoculated, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the contrary. Rabine also has spread misinformation claiming “thousands” of deaths were caused by the vaccine alone.
Two other announced Republicans, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, have said they are vaccinated and encourage vaccines. But both men have criticized statewide vaccination or masking mandates from the governor, saying such decisions should be made at the local level.