House GOP committee: "If the booster shots work, why don't they work?"

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

“Why are Republicans on a House committee tasked with judicial oversight posting about vaccination on social media?” you might ask.

Answer: Because this dumb party no longer has any policy agenda worth speaking of. It exists simply to own the libs and to flatter the prejudices of the most pigheaded wing of its populist base.


What else should a committee whose ranking member is Jim Jordan be doing with its time if not undermining confidence in vaccines?

They deleted that tweet finally, probably because some cooler head convinced them that an anti-vax message would be unhelpful in the midterms. That’s the only way to get through to the MAGA wing in Congress. You won’t convince them to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing but you might convince them to do the right thing, e.g., not discouraging people from getting shots that might save their life, by arguing that not doing so could threaten their hold on power. “We may end up with a smaller House majority in 2023 if you keep talking this way.”

For the record, the booster shots do work. A small study published two days ago by Israeli scientists found that health-care workers with three doses were much better able to neutralize Omicron than people with two doses were. Pfizer’s own study of the effect of three doses of its vaccine backs that up. You have little protection from infection by the new variant if you’ve had two doses but you have a decent amount if you’ve had three. And the less likely you are to get infected, the less likely you are to pass the virus on to someone else.

One doctor in New York City says he’s seen a difference between boosted patients and vaccinated patients in the emergency room, although of course not as much of a difference as between the vaccinated and unvaccinated:


If Omicron were the only strain circulating, one could argue that getting boosted isn’t that important given how mild its symptoms seem to be. But Delta is still out there and likely still responsible for the majority of serious hospitalizations. Quote: “Boosted folks are 90% less likely to die from a Delta infection than people relying solely on the initial two-dose vaccination, Israeli data show.”

The booster shots work. Why is Jim Jordan’s committee eager to argue otherwise?

What’s truly pernicious about their tweet is that it’s not designed to make the reader question boosters specifically. Whoever wrote it knows that skeptics will conclude that if the boosters don’t work, the vaccines don’t work, period. But they do, especially against the more dangerous variants:


The relative benefit from the vaccines may have diminished somewhat post-Omicron, which seems less likely to cause severe illness even among the unvaccinated. But as I say, Delta is still out there. And if Omicron blows through the U.S. as quickly as it has in South Africa, it may leave Delta behind and capable of becoming the dominant strain again eventually.

Since summer, Republican populists have argued that they’re not anti-vaccine, they’re anti-mandate. But re-read the tweet above, which has nothing to do with mandates, and ask yourself whether that’s still true. Or read this one, from another well-known populist:

Malone was banned from Twitter recently for spreading anti-vax misinformation. Yet here’s Ted Cruz touting his insinuation that the vaccines aren’t effective, ignoring that unvaccinated patients continue to account for a huge majority of serious hospitalizations. Just this morning, Ben Carson was on Fox News promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin knowing that anti-vaxxers cite those treatments and their alleged miracle-cure properties as a reason not to get the shots. None of this has anything to do with mandates. It’s just vax-skepticism being worn as a badge of right-wing authenticity.


Again, are GOP populists anti-mandate or anti-vaccine?

[T]he conservative position turns out not to be anti–vaccine mandate, but anti-anything that makes unvaccinated people feel bad.

I have seen this position expressed by Ben Domenech, Tucker Carlson, and two columnists at The Federalist. As Carlson puts it, Biden is treating the unvaccinated as “a kulak class — a group of reviled subhumans that the rest of us are free to hate and mock, and whose deaths we’re allowed to root for.”…

But the only people actively working to maintain this class system is the ecosystem of vaccine skeptics that is dominated by the political right. Having seen that a large, vocal claque of Trump fans distrusts the vaccine, conservative personalities vying for their approval have gleefully promoted vaccine skepticism. Ben Shapiro says he’s “not particularly interested in getting the COVID booster.” Ron DeSantis, asked if he got a booster shot, refused to answer and changed the subject. Sarah Palin told a cheering crowd she will only take the vaccine “over her dead body,” a grimly apt formulation.

I said this last night half-jokingly but it’s not really a joke: Donald Trump, a vaccine skeptic before he entered politics, has become one of the most responsible vaccine messengers in the GOP. Whether that’s out of political self-interest, credit-seeking for the vaccines’ success, or basic conscientiousness is unclear, but it’s not particularly important. If you’re looking for a loud-and-proud vaccine supporter among populist conservative influencers, there’s Trump and not much else.


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