In an interview with NBC News' Meet The Press on Sunday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended President Joe Biden's latest steps on getting more Americans vaccinated.
"Basically before he even took the oath of office, President Biden was very skeptical, said there wouldn't be a mandate, said he didn't think the federal government would get involved in mandates, there shouldn't be mandates, etc. Now he's changed his mind. Why?" said Meet The Press host Chuck Todd.
"Well, Chuck, from the beginning the president and all of us have said we've got to use every lever we have in order to fight this pandemic. And that's what you see happening right now," Murthy responded.
"Over the last several months, we've been working hard to get vaccines out to the public, partnering with the private sector, using every power the government has. And now in the face of Delta, we've got to move to the next phase of that response," he continued.
"And that involves focusing not just on expanding the vaccination effort through a combination of mandates and access, but it also involves focusing on increasing our testing capacity, shoring up our health care systems which are really struggling in the face of this Delta variant," Murthy said.
Todd, noting this pushback, asked Murthy to respond to the fact that "some people take the mandate as not a moment of unity, but as sort of a divisive weapon."
"Well, I'd say, Chuck, that the requirements for vaccination are part of a long tradition that we have in this country of taking steps as a collective to keep people safe," said Murthy.
Murthy added that schools have had vaccine requirements for years, also adding that the government has other regulations, like speed limits, to keep people safe.
"So we have a tradition in our country, Chuck, of taking steps, you know, as a collective to protect the broader community. And that's what these requirements represent," said Murthy.
"We know that when people wear masks all together, that gives us our greatest chance of reducing infection. When people get vaccinated, that gives us our greatest chance of keeping workplaces and schools safe. And that's what we've got to do, Chuck, during this pandemic. We've got to be all in together. And that's how we'll get through," Murthy concluded.