This is the kind of signaling one would hope to see from party leaders as the means to end the pandemic emerge. With polls showing entrenched reluctance to accept the inoculation highest among Republican men, Mitch McConnell decided to step up last night and issue this call to arms, so to speak:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on vaccine hesitancy: "I saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine. I'm a Republican man, and I want to say to everyone: we need to take this vaccine." https://t.co/Mu6HgDiML5 pic.twitter.com/BexisYcCn1
— ABC News (@ABC) April 6, 2021
“I saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine. I’m a Republican man, and I want to say to everyone: we need to take this vaccine. These reservations need to be put aside,” McConnell said in the video. …
“As a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that,” McConnell said during an event in Kentucky to promote vaccine use. “So there’s no good argument not to get the vaccination. I would encourage all men, regardless of party affiliation, to get the vaccination.”
It’s indeed curious, as is reluctance among Republicans much closer to McConnell to lead the way. After all, Operation Warp Speed was among the most glowing of successes in Donald Trump’s administration, producing several safe and effective vaccines within months of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. One would think that Republicans would take every opportunity to remind voters of this success by promoting vaccinations, but noooo. Just three weeks ago, a quarter of the Republicans in the House had demurred on getting vaccinated, casting it as defiance against a mandate — even though no mandate had been imposed.
Has that improved much since then? Possibly, but most of the GOP has either been quiet or openly skeptical about vaccinations all along. Even after Donald Trump issued a renewed call for vaccinations among his supporters, the party has shown no enthusiasm for promoting their use. However, the new debate over vaccination “passports” might be provoking a new backlash against vaccines on the Right, NBC News warns:
Growing conservative backlash to the idea of “vaccine passports” — proposed by some private-sector industries to promote a safer environment as states begin to ease coronavirus restrictions — could make Republicans even less likely to get their shots, experts warned.
Last month, multiple polls found that about half of Republicans or those who identified as having voted for former President Donald Trump either want to wait and see before getting vaccinated or say they will never get the shots. So-called vaccine hesitancy among Republicans could stand in the way of the U.S.’s ultimately achieving herd immunity, which scientists estimate will be reached when 70 percent to 85 percent of the population has Covid-19 antibodies.
“The idea of a vaccine passport has become politicized quickly, making it a wedge separating people rather than a bridge to our goal of increasing vaccination,” said epidemiologist Brian Castrucci, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, which has partnered with a longtime Republican pollster to study and create pro-vaccination messaging aimed at conservatives.
It’s entirely possible to separate these two issues. Vaccination passports might be unworkable, intrusive (especially under HIPAA), and pointlessly easy to fake. That doesn’t have anything to do with the value of the vaccinations themselves, which is the shortest path to normalcy for the US and the world. The reluctance to take the vaccination will contribute to slowness of restriction removals as we wait for herd immunity to crash transmission rates to the flatline. If we have to wait for the disease to infect a significant amount of the population before we completely reopen, we will wait a very long time for that threshold.
McConnell knows this, which is why he’s going more public with his campaign. Will it help? McConnell’s not exactly beloved by the MAGA wing of the party despite McConnell’s critical role in Trump’s successes over the last four years, but it can’t hurt. Although, the White House’s quick embrace probably won’t help either, even as understandable as their appreciation might be.
Senator McConnell is right — and we thank him for his leadership. It’s important every American do their part and get vaccinated when it’s their turn. https://t.co/EaFt3WfwLW
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 5, 2021