“America is now in the hands of the vaccine hesitant,” said Daniel Engber in TheAtlantic.com. With hundreds of millions of doses rolling out by May, the problem will soon change from getting enough vaccine to “a dearth of arms” to inject. Myriad polls show that only about 60 percent of U.S. adults are planning to get a coronavirus vaccine—with a huge partisan divide. Multiple polls find that nearly half of Republican men do not plan to be vaccinated. Another 20 percent of all Republicans are unsure. This is very bad news for herd immunity, which is our country’s “pathway out of the pandemic.” With pockets of people to infect, the virus will continue to circulate and “a miserable uncertainty will linger,” perhaps for years to come.
Fox News deserves a lot of the blame, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. The network has repeatedly aired interviews with anti-vaxxers, while host Tucker Carlson falsely claims night after night that there are questions about safety and efficacy that Americans are “not allowed to ask.” There have undoubtedly been some “irresponsible voices on the Right,” said Isaac Schorr in NationalReview.com. But Republicans’ hesitancy has more to do with experts’ lack of credibility. After saying masks were unimportant, experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci insisted on mask mandates and draconian lockdowns. Now the “experts” are saying the vaccinated must continue to mask and avoid crowds and traveling until the virus is eradicated—which may be never. Given so little incentive, “why should an already nervous group be eager to get vaccinated?”
Ridiculing the hesitant as “Neanderthals” will only backfire, said Frank Luntz and Brian Castrucci in The Washington Post, but our research indicates there is a way of reaching them. We convened a focus group of 19 such Trump Republicans and gave them the chance to ask questions of people they trust, such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). These sources explained why Covid is so dangerous, and why they personally chose to be vaccinated. Many of the hesitant found it very persuasive that “more than 90 percent of doctors who have been offered the vaccine have taken it.” After having their fears respectfully addressed, all 19 said they were more ready to take the vaccine. For the good of the country, we must avoid insults, derision, and “polarizing political rhetoric” on vaccination.