William A. Galston makes a stunning series of observations in The Wall Street Journal on June 9. In a piece called “What Drives GOP Resistance to Vaccines?” he notes that the typical demographic of a Republican voter ought to predict that that voter would be vaccinated. It does not.
First, some basic statistics he presents.
About 20% of Americans are opposed to getting the vaccine against covid. Many are violently opposed. Many are just in the wait and see group. Of those not getting vaccinated, most are Republicans. About 80% of Democrats are vaccinated, but only 49% of Republicans are. Many of the unvaccinated Republicans are in the never vaxx club.
Interestingly, 20 of the 20 states with the highest percentage of vaccinated people were carried by Joe Biden in 2020. Trump carried 17 of the 20 with the lowest rates of vaccinations.
This would seem illogical as Republicans are older and whiter than Democrats and the elderly and the white are the most likely to have been vaccinated. Why the partisan gap?
The white evangelical Protestants are largely Republicans and that group is far behind in getting vaccinated. The same is true of Americans without college degrees. They are more Republican and less likely to have been vaccinated.
What does this say about our country?
It says that the racial, age and education gaps that are so apparent have bled over to the basic sense of trust between the scientific community and those who refuse vaccination. The libertarian Republicans believe vaccination is a matter of individual liberty and herd immunity be damned. Vaccination is viewed as a personal choice among many Republicans and they are unwilling to give that up even if it puts the population at large at greater risk. Republican populism has leaked into the health decisions of otherwise intelligent adults. Evangelicals are not big on science according to Galston and don’t tend to trust the “authority figures” rolled out by the CDC and NIH.
It is indeed sad that everything in America has become political, even public health. This is, frankly, ridiculous.
I have been educated that lecturing and ranting to the unvaccinated is both a bad idea and ineffective. I am afraid that the country is going to have to tolerate a certain percentage, most of whom are Republicans, who refuse vaccination and will protest any attempt to force them to get shots against covid. This is the reality of a free society that harbors a true multicultural, multiethnic assortment of people from all over the world. It is the natural outgrowth of the American experiment and should sadden only those who want science to rule every decision and “logic” to dominate. People are not always logical.
At this point, with over 170 million Americans receiving at least one dose of vaccine, I think we can safely say that the vaccine is safe. The plunging hospitalization and death rates from covid suggest that the vaccine is effective as well. Thus, it is indeed unfortunate that the issue of vaccination has become politicized, but, alas, it has. My great worry is the Indian delta strain that has invaded the U.K. and is probably headed this way with the unvaccinated painting a bull’s eye on their backs, but there is little more that can be done. The vaccine is cost-free and available widely. If people, mostly Republicans, choose to remain vulnerable there is little anyone can do. That is except for Methodist Hospital which will fire the unvaccinated. My thoughts? Good for them. A hospital is no place to increase the risk of illness. Now if all schools would do that, we’d be on the right path.