There has been a noticeable shift in tone among some prominent conservative voices in recent days when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.
What You Need To Know
- There has been a noticeable shift in tone among some prominent conservative voices in recent days when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines
- Public health officials have repeatedly noted that the surge in cases — triple what they were just three weeks ago — is mostly affecting the unvaccinated
- There has been a clear political divide in attitudes toward vaccines, with Republicans more reluctant than Democrats to get vaccinated
- In recent days, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Steve Scalise and Fox News host Sean Hannity have urged people to roll up their sleeves
Vaccination rates have been slowing for months in the U.S., which has become more problematic as the highly contagious delta variant spreads at an alarming rate.
Public health officials have repeatedly noted that the surge in cases — triple what they were just three weeks ago — is mostly affecting the unvaccinated. And there has been a clear political divide in attitudes toward vaccines.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month found that 93% of Democrats have received at least one vaccine dose or are likely to do so, compared to just 49% of Republicans.
Of the 25 states with the lowest vaccination rates, 22 supported Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election. Of the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates, all went to Joe Biden.
Despite that studies have consistently shown that the vaccines available in the U.S. are safe and effective, some Fox News hosts have used their shows to cast doubt on the shots.
Meanwhile, some Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, have shared vaccine misinformation.
It is worth noting that many Republican lawmakers have consistently endorsed the vaccines, but few have done so both adamantly and clearly.
For example, when Trump has been asked in interviews about the vaccines, he has said people should get them, but he has quickly segued into suggesting that children should not be inoculated or making his case for why he deserves credit for developing the vaccines. He and his wife also were given their shots in private and did not publicly disclose they had been vaccinated until several weeks later.
Nevertheless, some conservatives are starting to speak up. Among them is Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has been consistent in his support for the vaccines, but he issued a call to action at his Wednesday news conference.
“These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible, or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for, that we went through last year,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”
On Sunday, the No. 2-ranking Republican in the House, Steve Scalise, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and urged others to follow his lead.
“Especially with the delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it,” Scalise told NOLA.com. “When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of people in hospital with delta variant have not been vaccinated. That’s another signal the vaccine works.”
Federal health officials actually have put the number even higher than that — north of 95%.
According to data from The New York Times, Scalise’s home state of Louisiana currently has the most per-capita COVID-19 cases while ranking in the bottom five states in vaccination rates.
Scalise said he waited to get vaccinated, in part, because he had antibodies and believed he had some protection from the virus.
“It’s safe and effective,” Scalise said of the vaccine. “It was heavily tested on thousands of people before the FDA gave its approval. Some people believe that it might have been rushed. That’s not the case. I’ve been vocal about that for months. I know their process has high standards. The FDA approval process is probably the most respected in the world.”
And Fox News host Sean Hannity made headlines Monday night when he told his audience it “absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated and, “I believe in the science of vaccination.”
“I can’t say it enough: Enough people have died,” Hannity said. “We don’t need any more death.”
Hannity has made similar remarks before, but Monday’s comments seemed to garner more attention.
Fox News is also airing a public service announcement, in which anchor Harris Faulkner says, “If you can, get the vaccine.” It directs viewers to a section on the network’s website to get more information about getting vaccinated.
The Biden administration has said it welcomes Republicans encouraging people to roll up their sleeves.
At a news briefing last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether the president might ask Trump to record a vaccine PSA.
“We don't believe that requires an embroidered invitation to be a part of,” she said. “But certainly, any role of anyone who has a platform where they can provide information to the public that the vaccine is safe, it is effective, we don't see this as a political issue. We'd certainly welcome that engagement.”
During his CNN town hall in Cincinnati on Wednesday night, Biden alluded to Fox’s recent vaccine push.
“I shouldn’t make fun,” he said. “It’s good. It’s good. Just have to keep telling the truth.”