It was obvious more than a year ago that we had to have a vaccination program in place to head off this Covid-19 nightmare. And President Trump, for all his foot dragging when it came to acknowledging the pandemic (can you believe that on February 24, 2020, Trump said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA . . . the stock market is starting to look very good to me!”), did finally make an assertive move against Covid-19 when he announced that he was setting off Operation Warp Speed, intended to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible. That was May 15, 2020, and the program has to be judged a huge success, especially when you consider that widespread vaccinations were taking place before Trump left office.
You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to appreciate his initiative on this one, but you do have to wonder why the rate of vaccinations has dropped off so significantly in recent weeks, especially in areas where Trump has had his greatest political success.
Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the gap in vaccination rates between red and blue counties in this country has been growing in recent months, with blue counties showing significantly higher vaccination rates than their red counterparts. KFF explains the gap by noting that that “there is a hardcore group of vaccine resisters who are disproportionately Republican and will be difficult to move.”
This is a shame, because as it’s turning out, the unvaccinated are accounting for a vast majority of new Covid cases and deaths. AP reported three weeks ago that “nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated.”
Last week the Louisiana Department of Health said 94% of new cases are occurring among individuals who were not fully vaccinated.
There’s a lot of mythology circulating about vaccines, and it appears to have the force of Gospel among many people. The American Association of Family Practitioners published and refuted 10 of the most widely circulated, some of which seem bizarre (the vaccine will alter my DNA, the vaccine will deliver a microchip into my body) and others that seem based on misinformation (the vaccine was developed too fast to be safe, there weren’t enough clinical trials).
Why these myths have a more favorable reception in red counties than in blue ones isn’t much of a mystery. Paranoid alienation fostered by some conservative media has always been the staple of disinformation campaigns, and that tradition goes back a long ways, back even to the mass market manipulators of a century ago when modern fascism took its form in Germany, Italy and Japan. Finding a bogeyman that scares the daylights out of people and gaining power and money by promoting the conspiracy du juor, in this case vaccinations, is a tried and true technique of those who seek control by plowing through the democratic process.
Vaccination numbers show that not all residents of red counties are buying the right-wing pitch, but apparently enough of them are paying heed to make a significant difference in the data on who is getting the shots and who isn’t. Meanwhile, we have a pandemic among the unvaccinated.
The conundrum this time around is why the consumers of vaccine paranoia messaging won’t come to grips with the fact that Donald Trump was the source of their obsession. They’re effectively spitting in his eye. Considering that Trump still holds so much sway over the Republican mindset, you’d think a positive development like the Covid vaccine would be something for his followers to support, mainly by getting vaccinated.
Either their memories are short or they just want to be bamboozled.
John Tsitrian is a businessman and writer from the Black Hills. He was a weekly columnist for the Rapid City Journal for twenty years. His articles and commentary have also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post and The Omaha World-Herald. Tsitrian served in the Marines for three years (1966-69), including a thirteen month tour of duty as a radioman in Vietnam.