Surgeon General Murthy: Gun Violence a ‘Public Health Crisis’

Surgeon General Murthy: Gun Violence a 'Public Health Crisis' vivek murphy testifies in hearing Vivek Murthy, then-nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee February 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. (Caroline Brehman/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Monday, 19 April 2021 09:35 AM

Gun violence is a "public health crisis" that must be solved in a way that brings Americans together and recognizes the issue is not a fight that pits gun owners versus non-gun owners, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Monday.

"There's a vast majority of gun owners in our country who are responsible individuals," Murthy said on CNN's "New Day." "But we have to understand and invest in science to understand and treat gun violence and we have to have the courage to take that at the state, local, and federal levels. We've got to recognize that none of us are safe until all of us are safe."

Mass shootings slowed drastically in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, but already this year, there have been dozens killed in shootings nationwide, prompting President Joe Biden last week to announce several executive actions to fight back against an "epidemic and an international embarrassment" of gun violence.

"Every time a mass shooting like this takes place in our country, it is absolutely heartbreaking," Murthy said Monday. "I come at this as a doctor who has cared for many who have been victims of gun violence and family who have gone through that tragedy It's not the immediate aftermath of those who lose their lives but the years and years of trauma. I think we need to take action as a country … it's way, way overdue."

Murthy also commented on the ordered pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a handful of recipients ended up suffering from blood clots after getting their shots.

He said he predicts a decision will come this week that will allow the shots to be given again, but it may involve restrictions with age and gender, considering the rare blood clots have happened in younger women.

"More than 7 million people who have gotten the vaccine will be fine," said Murthy, noting the shot pause was a signal that the safety systems behind the inoculations is working.

"That's what you want, to know that your vaccines are both safe and effective," he said.

Meanwhile, more than half of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and Murthy said Monday that as the vaccine is the most important pathway to ending the pandemic, "that means we've got to get everyone in our country."

"A year ago when many of us were looking at the emerging pandemic and seeing how bad it was getting, we knew we needed a vaccine, but to know a year later we would have a vaccine and have over 200 million shots actually administered in the country, that's extraordinary," said Murthy. "Today every adult above the age of 16 in all 50 states is now eligible to get a vaccine. Now what we've got to do is, number one, get the vaccine, number two, turn around and look at our family and friends and ask if they're going to get vaccinated. If they need help, that's what we've got do."

The proof the vaccine is working is shown in the dramatic drop in cases among the nation's elderly, he added.

"That tells us that this vaccine is ultimately a good thing for us and the consequences of getting COVID in terms of death, long-term symptoms, those far outweigh any concerns, I believe, with the vaccine itself," said Murthy.

Meanwhile, Israel has lifted its outdoor mask mandate, and that is because it has vaccinated a far greater number of people and has seen cases drop dramatically, said Murthy.

But in the United States, where case numbers are growing again, "that's why we still have to wear our masks, keep distance, and avoid close indoor gatherings," he said. "The more we get vaccinated, the sooner we can loosen the restrictions."

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