The 66-year-old Republican, who is fully vaccinated, announced last week that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild flu-like symptoms.
In remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Graham thanked colleagues for their well wishes. He said there had been a “couple of really bad days” but he was doing better.
“I think the worst is behind me,” he said. “I want to reinforce a simple message: If you haven’t been vaccinated regarding the COVID problem, you need to get vaccinated.”
“I’m confident if I hadn’t had the vaccine it would’ve been a lot worse,” he added.
It’s rare for fully vaccinated people to contract the virus, though infections can still occur, since no vaccine is 100% effective. In these breakthrough cases, the vaccine helps reduce the severity of illness and significantly lowers the chances of hospitalization or death.
Graham went on to note that in his state of South Carolina, about half of the residents remain unvaccinated. According to the state’s Department of Health, 45.3% of eligible residents in the state are fully vaccinated and 52.8% have received at least one dose.
“Just for your own good and the good of our state, I would urge you to consider getting vaccinated. I think the vaccine is safe, it works,” Graham said, addressing constituents. “I’m glad I had it, and the sooner we get to herd immunity through vaccinations and other means, the better off we’ll be.”
Graham was vaccinated in late December and has previously encouraged others to get their shots.
Numerous polls have shown a partisan gap on the subject of vaccinations. Polling has repeatedly shown Republicans are much less likely to say they’ll get vaccinated than are Democrats.
The vaccine gap is not helped by conservative media personalities who stoke vaccine hesitancy, GOP lawmakers who spread vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories, and the Republican Party’s reluctance to call it out.
A number of prominent conservatives have only recently begun to publicly voice support for vaccines, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).