Premium

Study: Low-vax counties were more likely to get their shots when they heard Trump endorse the vaccines

The effect of his endorsement wasn’t a night-and-day thing, reportedly. But every shot counts. Especially if you’re the child of a parent who isn’t in the best of health and otherwise wouldn’t have gotten the jab if not for Trump’s recommendation.

The study here was simple. Step one: Create a very short and to-the-point ad highlighting Trump’s praise for the vaccines.

Step two: Pay $100,000 to run the ad on YouTube, targeting users who live in counties with less than 50 percent vaccination rates and fewer than a million residents. That adds up to around 1,000 counties. YouTube viewers in half of those counties were exposed to the ad when they watched certain videos, like Fox News clips, while users in the other half didn’t see it. They were the control group.

Step three: Tabulate the vaccinations in each group and compare.

In the counties where the ad was shown, about 103 more vaccinations were given, on average, than in counties that didn’t get ads…

“That’s where so much of the need is,” said Steven Greene, a professor of political science at North Carolina State University, and one of the authors of the paper. “Where are the people speaking to the Trump supporters?”…

In total, counties where the ad was shown recorded about 100,000 more vaccinations. The team spent about $100,000 to buy the ads, meaning the cost per shot was about $1

“We were neophytes at how to run an online advertising campaign,” Greene said. “I’m sure professionals could do significantly better.”

How much more influential would the Trump ad have been if it were subject to a huge buy, airing on network television for weeks in low-vax counties, instead of randomly on a single online platform where practically none of the locals got to see it? Trump’s endorsement won’t convince anyone of the scientific virtues of the vaccine but not everyone who’s refused it has bothered familiarizing themselves with the scientific ins-and-outs. For some, vaccine resistance is a function of partisan tribalism and suspicion of the public health bureaucracy. Trump’s “permission” to get immunized would have cracked that tribalism among some who were made aware of it. And did crack it, if you believe this study.

But forget Trump. The data here is proof of concept that political figures, not just public health officials, can change minds. That being so, how much higher would vaccination rates in red counties be today if Republican politicians and conservative populist media had mobilized aggressively behind a pro-vax message instead of hedging or scaremongering with misreadings of the VAERS data or hyping alternative miracle cures like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin?

Which they’re still doing, apparently:

Ivermectin doesn’t work. Yet another clinical trial published last week re-confirmed it:

In a new study published on Wednesday, the TOGETHER team reported on its ivermectin data. Between March and August 2021, the researchers provided the drug to 679 patients over the course of three days.

The results were clear: Taking ivermectin did not reduce a Covid patient’s risk of ending up in the hospital.

The researchers zeroed in on different groups of volunteers to see if they experienced benefits that others didn’t. For example, it might be possible that ivermectin only worked if taken early in an infection. But volunteers who took ivermectin in the first three days after the onset of Covid symptoms turned out to have worse outcomes than did those in the placebo group.

The TOGETHER researchers bent over backward to give the drug a chance, increasing the regimen from one day to three days and using a high dose comparatively for maximum effect. No dice. Yet outfits like Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s group have scrambled in the aftermath to cast doubt on the study, which illustrates why the ivermectin craze was so pernicious. Contra Stephen Miller in the clip with Tucker, the problem with the drug was never that it was unsafe (at least not the kind prescribed to humans rather than horses). The problem is that anti-vaxxers were using it in lieu of vaccination rather than in addition to it.

That’s the study we really need. How many people eschewed immunization in the belief that good ol’ ivermectin would be there for them if and when they needed it, only to suffer what doctors delicately describe as a “poor outcome”?

The fact that ivermectin proponents like Bret Weinstein have also disparaged the study illustrates the point above about Trump fans being swayed by his endorsement. For those invested politically or emotionally in vaccine skepticism, a new study isn’t going to shake you out of it. Studies can always be spun. The endorsement of someone in whom you’re also invested politically or emotionally might, however. If I had to choose between running an ad in red counties that listed how many studies have shown the vaccines to be effective and an ad showing Trump praising “the big, beautiful vaccines, the best vaccines ever, many people are saying,” I’ll take Trump any day.