--Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Recent polls reveal that 49 percent of Republican men say that they will not get vaccinated against Covid-19. That means that the quest for herd immunity—when a sufficient majority of the population gets vaccinated and we can mostly put the pandemic behind us—may go unrealized. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief coronavirus advisor, says that close to 90 percent of the country may need to be vaccinated in order to reach that goal. In any event, we are left with tens of millions of people who remain to be convinced that vaccination is vital.
U.S. public health and economic revival depend on the Covid-19 vaccines. The initial supply problem that the Biden administration inherited is quickly receding as a roadblock. The new administration has done a good job getting manufacturers to accelerate production. That leaves skepticism about the vaccines along with outright refusal to take them as the remaining obstacles.
Responsible Republicans, a diminishing cohort, are worried about this. They are taking steps to launch a campaign to convince their fellow party members to get vaccinated. Frank Luntz, the dean of Republican pollsters, is putting together a focus group in an attempt to come up with persuasive messages.
This is unlikely to work. The only thing that could change minds and get us to where we need to be as a country would be if Donald Trump went on Fox, Newsmax and OANN and (1) urged his followers to get the shot(s), and (2) told them why it is so important. He needs to tell them that all of the vaccine studies have found that there is nothing particularly worrisome about them and that all three of the vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are safe, highly effective, keep people out of hospitals and dying, and have only minor, passing side effects.
Fat chance of him doing that. It was revealed recently that Donald and Melania Trump secretly received their Covid-19 vaccinations in January. Doing so clandestinely rather than in public, like Presidents Biden, Obama, Bush and Clinton and their respective first ladies did, was purposeful, given Trump’s long history of flirtation with the anti-vaxxer crowd followed by his constant downplaying and politicization of the virus. Unfortunately, although Trump retains enormous influence over his cult following, he never rises to the occasion by providing a positive role model.
Persuading the hesitant, overcoming the science deniers, and converting those who think that we have already turned the corner and thus there is no need to get vaccinated are the keys to beating back the pandemic. It does not help that, at this writing, 16 Republican state governors are re-opening their states, a reckless move that will not end well. A vigorous public relations effort needs to be the highest priority of both the administration and the dwindling population of sensible Republicans, as well as healthcare providers, clergy, media and all other influencers.
If we cannot achieve herd immunity, the herd may be culled of the very folks who refuse vaccination.
March 12, 2021