‘I don’t need the vaccine’: GOP concerns threaten fight against virus Food and Drug Administration Donald Trump Joe Biden Rhode Island Chris Christie
In this rural part of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, former President Donald Trump remains deeply in admiration, with lawn signs and country flags still dotting the landscape. Vaccines aimed at taming the coronavirus, however, are not that popular.
Laura Biggs, 56, who has already recovered from the virus, is hesitant to get vaccinated. Assurances from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have done little to alleviate his concern that the vaccine could lead to death.
“What I feel about it is: I don’t need the vaccine right now,” she said. “And I’m not going to get the vaccine until it’s well established.”
This sentiment demonstrates the challenge facing public health officials as the United States steps up efforts for widespread vaccinations that could end a devastating pandemic that has claimed more than 530,000 lives. The campaign could fail if it becomes another litmus test in the culture wars raging in the United States, just as mask-wearing warrants were a point of polarization at the start of the virus.
While polls have shown vaccine reluctance to decline overall, opposition among Republicans remains stubbornly strong. A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 42% of Republicans say they probably or certainly won’t get the hang of it, compared to 17% of Democrats – a 25-point split.
While the demand for vaccines still far exceeds the available supply in most parts of the country, there are already signs in some places of a slowdown in registration. And the impact is expected to increase when supply begins to exceed demand in late April or early May, said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
“That will be the big deal,” he said. “And if we get stuck at 60 or 65% vaccinated, we will continue to see major epidemics and real challenges in our country, and it will be much, much more difficult to get back to what we think is normal unless we are. cannot increase that number. ”
Ron Holloway is one example of the obstacles facing health officials. The 75-year-old Forsyth, Missouri resident and his 74-year-old wife are at higher risk of contracting the virus. But he was firm in insisting that they “don’t do vaccinations.”
“This is all disproportionate and a bunch of nonsense,” he said of the virus. “We still haven’t lost 1% of our population. It’s just ridiculous.”
Biggs is a Virginia Conservative who voted for Trump. She said partisan differences were evident among her friends and family in all aspects of the pandemic, including vaccine acceptance.
“The family members who lean to the left haven’t left the house for a year,” she said, as she and her husband “went everywhere. We traveled more in 2020 than I have in any year of our life … I just think there was some hysteria about it. And people put themselves in boxes, so to speak.
For Holloway, who works in real estate, the opposition runs even deeper. He is very skeptical of vaccines in general, as well as the government and pharmaceutical companies. He believes the virus was exaggerated to deny Trump, whom he supported, a second term.
“I just don’t think we need vaccines. I don’t think that’s the way God wanted us to be, ”Holloway said. “The majority of my friends and the people I associate with, the people we go to church with, we don’t wear masks, we don’t get the photos. I don’t know why people are so terrified of this. It’s nothing worse than the flu. COVID 19 is, in fact, much more deadly.
Republicans have always been skeptical of the pandemic. AP-NORC polls have shown they worry less than Democrats about the infection and express more opposition to restrictions and the wearing of masks. In interviews this week, many wondered why they should be the first to adopt vaccines with potential side effects when they weren’t worried about the virus and had already moved on.
But vaccine resistance worried GOP pollster Frank Luntz who convened a focus group on Saturday with 20 vaccine-skeptical Trump voters to try to figure out what types of messages might persuade them to take the photos. The session were attended by Republican Congressional leaders, including Parliamentary Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
“The general message from this session is that it’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said. “The people who voted for Trump and don’t want to take the vaccine are committed to their opposition. They don’t trust the science. They don’t believe the media and they think everything is politicized.”
To change your mind, “you have to start with the facts and then superimpose the emotion”.
“You have to recognize and understand their hesitations and concerns,” he said.
Some have blamed Trump, who has spent much of the pandemic downplaying the dangers posed by the virus, even after being hospitalized and required to receive supplemental oxygen and experimental treatments. Trump received the vaccine before leaving office, but did so in private and in secret, refusing to disclose the fact until this month.
And although he urged Americans to get vaccinated in a recent speech, he did nothing else to promote the efforts and is notably absent from an ad campaign featuring former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and their wives.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, said on Sunday that Trump using his “incredible influence” with Republicans “would make all the difference in the world” to overcome the reluctance.
But Luntz said he thought it was too late. In her focus group, an ad featuring past presidents made attendees less likely to want to be vaccinated. And attendees said they trusted their doctors much more than the former president.
“My advice to politicians is to step back and let your doctor take over,” he said.
Meanwhile, administration officials Biden and others say there are many outreach efforts underway to target Republicans, especially those who identify as evangelical Christians. President Joe Biden urged local doctors, ministers and priests to talk about vaccines in their communities.
“We need to think about how to reach people who may be more hesitant,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials.
Yet others are eager for blows as soon as it is their turn.
Lenton Lucas, 51, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, works for his brother’s restaurants at Front Royal and has spent much of the pandemic delivering meals to those too afraid to venture out. Lukas, who is black and Republican, voted for Trump but said where he lives access to vaccines is far more concerned than reluctance, with people desperate to get vaccinated, despite a long history of racism and mistrust.
And while he would love to learn more about vaccines because “there are pros and cons to everything,” he can’t wait to pick up his so he can spend more time with his family and his 70-year-old mother.
“In order for her to be comfortable, I have to do what I have to do,” he said. “It must be done.”
__ Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City. Associated Press editors Emily Swanson and Zeke Miller in Washington, Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, and Anila Yoganathan in Atlanta contributed to this report.