Dr. Francis Collins: I 'never imagined' so many people would be skeptical of vaccine

Former NIH director: 'You know, maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior'

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Outgoing National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told PBS on Monday he was shocked by how many Americans are skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine.

Asked by "NewsHour" anchor Judy Woodruff what he wished he could have pursued more during his tenure at NIH, Collins said he should have invested more in studying human behavior. He suggested it may have given him a better understanding as to why so many people are hesitant about getting the shots.

"You know, maybe we under-invested in research on human behavior," Collins said. "I never imagined a year ago, when those vaccines were just proving to be fantastically safe and effective, that we would still have 60 million people who had not taken advantage of them because of misinformation and disinformation that somehow dominated all of the ways in which people were getting their answers."

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

OUTGOING NIH DIRECTOR DISMISSES WUHAN CORONAVIRUS LAB-LEAK THEORY AS A ‘DISTRACTION’ ON LAST DAY IN OFFICE

Social media commentators immediately questioned his comments.

Physician-geneticist doctor Francis Collins, director of NIH (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Physician-geneticist doctor Francis Collins, director of NIH (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Others told Collins that it was the elite attitude of medical professionals tasked with overseeing the U.S. response to the pandemic that may have turned off Americans.

OUTGOING NIH DIRECTOR SAYS ‘HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS WOULD HAVE DIED’ IF US HADN'T LISTENED TO HIM

Analysts continued to mock Collins for telling Woodruff he took a "spiritual approach" to his work and that he considered the lab a "cathedral."

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron during a visit to the National Institutes of Health on Dec. 2, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. Biden plans to stress in a Dec. 21 speech the importance of getting vaccinated to protect from a wave of COVID-19 infections tied to the new omicron variant as Christmas approaches. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron during a visit to the National Institutes of Health on Dec. 2, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. Biden plans to stress in a Dec. 21 speech the importance of getting vaccinated to protect from a wave of COVID-19 infections tied to the new omicron variant as Christmas approaches. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Collins also made a few headline-making remarks on Sunday – his last day in office – including how believed the Wuhan lab-leak theory to be a "distraction" and that the country should have listened to him and his colleagues and not "fringe epidemiologists." 

"We won’t know unless China decides to open up on this which they have not done, and shame on them for that," Collins said on "Fox News Sunday," saying "this has been a huge distraction" for the scientific community. He also claimed that if Americans had listened to "fringe epidemiologists" arguing in favor of herd immunity, then "hundreds of thousands of people would have died." More than 800,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP