Republican lawmakers are under increasing pressure to tell their constituents that Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective amid the spread of the new, more contagious Delta variant.
Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant and remain the most widely available tool to prevent infection with the highly contagious disease.
However, more than a year of mixed messages and misinformation have worried experts that Republican messages about the Covid-19 vaccine are confusing at best and that skepticism has hardened among the Republican base.
In recent press conferences and statements, some prominent Republicans have been imploring their constituents to put aside lingering doubts. In Washington, the so-called Group of Physicians gathered on Capitol Hill for an event to combat doubts about vaccines. And in Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this week pointed to data showing that the vast majority of hospitalized Covid-19 patients had not received injections.
“These vaccines are saving lives,” said DeSantis, who recently began selling campaign merchandise mocking masks and medical experts.
The scope comes as Covid-19 cases have nearly tripled in the US over the past two weeks, fueled by the explosion of the new delta variant, especially in areas of the country where vaccination rates are high. low. Public health officials believe the variant is at least twice as contagious as the original version, but the injections appear to offer strong protection against serious illness for most people.
Indeed, Almost all Covid-19 deaths in the US are now unvaccinated. However, only 56.2% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, just 51% of Republicans said in mid-June that they had received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with 83% of Democrats, according to an AP-NORC poll. And many seemed to have made a decision. Forty-six percent of those who had not been vaccinated said they definitely would not. Among Republicans, even more than 53% said they definitely would not; only 12% said they planned to do so.
“I think they have finally realized that if their people are not vaccinated, they will get sick, and if their people are not vaccinated, they will be blamed for the Covid outbreaks in the future.” said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who has been working with the Biden administration and public health experts to create effective messages to get vaccinators off the fence.
But Luntz, who led another focus group Wednesday night with those without vaccines, said there has been a noticeable shift in recent weeks as skepticism has turned into hardened rejection.
Hesitation has turned into opposition. And once they are opposed, it is very difficult to change that position. And that’s what is happening right now. “ he said.
For months now, many conservative lawmakers and experts have been actively fueling vaccine hesitancy, refusing to inject themselves or minimizing the severity of the virus. Republican governors have signed bills protecting the unvaccinated from having to reveal their status and have tried to reverse the masking mandates. And on social media, disinformation has run rampant, prompting President Joe Biden to claim that platforms like Facebook were “killing people,” a claim that he later backtracked.
At a recent conservative gathering, attendees applauded the news that the Biden administration was not meeting its vaccination goals. Invoking the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, cautioned that the government: “Don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci Ouchie! You leave us alone to hell. “
But there were indications that the messages were changing this week, as conservative leaders advocated the shooting. On Fox News, host Sean Hannity implored his viewers to “take Covid seriously,” saying, “Enough people have died.” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley on Twitter encouraged “ALL eligible Iowans / Americans to get vaccinated.”
“The Delta variant scares me, so I hope those who have not been vaccinated will reconsider,” he wrote.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican whip of the House of Representatives, distributed photos of himself receiving his first dose of the vaccine last weekend after months of holding out.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a polio survivor who has consistently advocated on behalf of COVID-19 vaccines, this week urged the unvaccinated to ignore “all these other voices that are giving demonstrable bad advice.”
But the press conference called by Republican House leaders on Thursday highlighted mixed messages from Republicans about the virus.
Initially billed as an event where Republican doctors in Congress would address the rapidly spreading delta variant, the group spent most of its time criticizing China and making unverified claims that the coronavirus came from a lab leak. in Wuhan, a theory initially popular today. -circles on the right, but now scientists are seriously considering it. They also attacked Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Biden administration, for not doing more to get to the bottom of the lab leak theory.
“The question is, why are the Democrats hindering our efforts to discover the origins of the COVID virus?” said New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House.
Eric Ward, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center who studies extremism, blamed vaccine reluctance on “nearly a year and a half of rhetoric of the right-wing anger machine “.
“Even conservative leaders are now having a hard time figuring out how to stop what had been primarily a propaganda campaign, and now they are realizing that their constituents are particularly vulnerable.” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism