Americans divided over need to be vaccinated

Apparently the Delta variation of Covid-19 has found Idaho.  In three weeks the state’s 7-day average of new cases has jumped from 69  to 94 to 146 (July 16).

This surge, which the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has  called the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” could be worse for Idaho. Though only five states have rates of fully vaccinated residents lower than Idaho’s 36.78%, Idaho’s new cases per 100,000 residents are below the national average. Is it because we have a younger population?  Or perhaps we’re better at social distancing or staying home when we’re sick?

Or is it simply that the Delta variant showed up here later and the numbers will be worse soon?

One baffling question is how did vaccines become so divisive. Just four decades ago we reached the critical mass of smallpox vaccinations needed to eradicate the disease worldwide. In 1952, polio’s worst year in the U.S., 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with some paralysis. Thousands of kids across the country joined long lines in school gyms to get polio shots.

 You might think, then, with over 600,000 Covid-19 deaths in 18 months, Americans would be fighting to see everyone vaccinated. But a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 47% of Republicans and 6% of Democrats say they are unlikely to get vaccinated.

Yet, many Republican leaders support the vaccine.

Former President Trump is proud of this administration’s role in speeding development of a vaccine. Even though he’d had Covid, he got shots in January.

In March Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed he’d been vaccinated and urged others to do so. According to Business Insider, 46 of the 50 Republican U.S. Senators say they’ve been vaccinated. In the U.S. House, however, 95 Republicans have disclosed they’ve had shots, but most won’t say.

Rupert Murdock, founder of FOX News, got his shot in December and urged others to do so. Even now, with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham disparaging the vaccines, the network plays a 30-second spot featuring four FOX hosts and anchors encouraging everyone to get their shots.

And Gov. Brad Little gave Idaho state employees four hours off to get vaccinated.

Although a great many state officials have taken stands against vaccination–Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is selling shirts saying, “Don’t Fauci My Florida”–the anti-vax movement seems to be coming from the grassroots and being seized upon by political opportunists.

Perhaps Republicans are more apt to avoid vaccination because they fear needles or really believe Covid-19 won’t strike them, but it’s obvious many are actively opposed to vaccines.

The anti-vax movement has been around as long as the science. In the 19th century, opponents of the smallpox vaccine claimed that “the vaccine didn’t work, the vaccine would make you sick…, and mandatory vaccinations were akin to medical despotism.”

Television, plus the introduction of five major vaccines, led to a growing anti-vax movement in the 1980s.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently blamed anti-vax propaganda on social media delivering misinformation in a  “highly emotional” way that is an “urgent threat.” The Center for Countering Digital Hate claims that “65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media have come from just 12 people.”

But that’s hardly an explanation. People choose what they want to view and to believe. The anti-vax movement seems strong mainly with people who distrust the government and believe that thousands of citizens across the nation have conspired in election fraud.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no quick cure for that.

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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