There’s one way to end the Covid-19 pandemic that has gripped the country (and the world) for the last year-plus: Get vaccinated against it!
Which is why the latest numbers from a Monmouth University national poll about the vaccination – and peoples’ plans (or not) to get it – is so, so baffling and troubling.
Here’s the topline: More than half of people polled (51%) reported that they already had at least one shot of the vaccine. Another 14% say they plan to get one of the vaccines as soon as they can. Another 12% said they are waiting and seeing whether to get the vaccine. And finally, 1 in 5 (21%) said they will “likely never” get the vaccine.
It’s that last group I want to focus on – especially because Monmouth broke out the “nevers” by party. And here’s what they found: More than 4 in 10 (43%) of self-identified Republicans said they would “likely never” get the vaccine. That’s up from 1 in 3 (36%) of Republicans who said the same in March. And the GOP number is roughly double the 22% of independents who say they never plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine and more than 8 times higher than the 5% of Democrats who say the same.
Take a breath. Go back and read that last paragraph. And consider what it is we are talking about here.
The vaccine – whether it’s Moderna, Pfizer or, yes, Johnson & Johnson – is our only path back to normal. Every expert says so. Unless and until we reach herd immunity, the virus will constrain our ability to get back to some semblance of what life was like before March 2020.
The only other way we get there is if lots and lots more people get Covid-19 – like somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population. Which, if past is prologue, would mean a lot more deaths before we got to that point.
Given those two choices, getting the vaccine seems like the better one! Right? Right!
So, why do nearly half of Republicans say they will “never” get it?
Some part of that group is either broadly suspicious about vaccines or has their doubts about the Covid-19 vaccine in particular because it was developed far faster than any previous vaccine.
But my educated guess is that those sort of skeptics likely fall more heavily in the “wait and see” category in the Monmouth poll. The large number of Republicans who say they never will get the vaccine seems to me to be better explained by the fact that, unfortunately, the coronavirus has been politicized – largely by ex-President Donald Trump – almost since it arrived on our shores.
After dismissing the virus – and its impacts – in early 2020, Trump repeatedly promised that things were getting better and that we would be back to normal very, very soon. (Remember when he said he wanted to see church pews filled for Easter 2020?) Then once it became clear that until a vaccine was developed masks were our best defense against the virus, Trump spent months downplaying the need for masks and mocking the likes of Joe Biden for wearing one. And in the waning days of his presidency – and after he had left office – Trump publicly questioned the judgment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and sought to undermine the broader views of infectious disease experts.
(Sidebar: To Trump’s credit, he did promote Americans getting vaccinated during a Fox News appearance last month.)
The politicization of the virus is how we get to the point where more than 4 in 10 Republicans are willing to say that they will never do a thing that is the only serious path back to normal. It didn’t have to be this way – and more people could die, who didn’t need to, because of it. And what’s worse? It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to change that reality.