Former president Donald Trump said Wednesday that coronavirus vaccines are effective and that more Americans should get the shot, but that mandates are unnecessary because “this thing is eventually going to go away.”

“The vaccines do work,” he said on the “John Fredericks Show,” a conservative talk radio program. “And they are effective. So here’s my thing: I think I saved millions and millions of lives around the world. We would have had another Spanish flu.”

“And now countries are using our vaccines, and it’s tremendous,” Trump added. “It’s tremendously successful.”

Trump said he knows many people personally who have died of the coronavirus and praised his administration for the role he says it played in making vaccines available earlier than expected.

“I’m very proud of it. I saved millions of lives — but people have to have their freedoms,” he said.

On Trump’s last full day in office, the number of Americans who had died of the coronavirus totaled just over 400,000. He was widely criticized for playing down the seriousness of the pandemic, suggesting early on that it would just disappear. He also promoted drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, a medicine for malaria, as a coronavirus treatment and repeatedly refused to follow health guidelines such as wearing a mask.

Trump has said he intentionally played down the deadly nature of the rapidly spreading virus to avoid a “frenzy.”

According to an August poll from Fox News, about a third of Americans who voted for Trump in 2020 said they do not plan to ever get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Some politicians and medical experts have suggested that vaccination rates among some groups that have shown support for Trump might have remained low because the former president — who was vaccinated before leaving office months after contracting the virus — was slow to champion the vaccines.

At a recent rally in Alabama, Trump encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated but was met with boos.

While Trump encouraged more Americans to get inoculated, he said he’s opposed to mandating the shots.

“I’m a conservative person,” he said. “And you have to maintain your freedoms.”

“I love our people, so I want our people to take the vaccines. But at the same time, I have to tell you, you can’t mandate it. You can’t force it. And I don’t think it’s going to be necessary because this thing is going to eventually go away.”