Jul 22, 2021 - Health

Prominent Republicans find new enthusiasm for COVID-19 vaccines

Illustration of an elephant's trunk holding a syringe.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Some GOP lawmakers and media figures have been making a point to be publicly supportive of coronavirus vaccines as the Delta variant rips through parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Why it matters: Vaccine resistance is much higher among Republicans than Democrats, and some party leaders have been openly hostile to the U.S. vaccination effort despite the effectiveness of the shots.

Driving the news: Members of House GOP leadership and the GOP Doctors Caucus are having a press conference this morning to "discuss the need for individuals to get vaccinated, uncover the origins of the pandemic, and keep schools and businesses open," per a press release.

  • Attendees include Reps. Elise Stefanik and Steve Scalise, who received his first shot of the vaccine last weekend.
  • “Especially with the delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it,” Scalise told NOLA.com.

Other prominent conservatives have also spoken up about the merits of the vaccine this week.

  • “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations," Fox News' Sean Hannity said on his show Monday.
  • “These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible, or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for, that we went through last year,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday.

The big picture: Among the unvaccinated — who are disproportionately likely to be Republican or live in red counties and states — the pandemic is far from over.

Yes, but: Even among supporters of the vaccine, messaging can be confusing or contradictory.

  • Hannity followed up his Monday pro-vaccine statement with an interview with a woman protesting her college’s vaccine requirement, per AP, and other Fox hosts have continued to criticize the vaccine or the vaccination effort.
  • Governors and state lawmakers have passed or are pushing measures that would prohibit vaccine requirements and protect the unvaccinated from "discrimination."

What Trump's saying: The former president's latest statement regarding the vaccines didn't exactly encourage them.

  • "People are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don't trust [Biden's] Administration, they don't trust the Election results, and they certainly don't trust the Fake News, which is refusing to tell the Truth," Trump said last weekend.

The bottom line: The vast majority of Americans who are still dying from the virus are unvaccinated, and it's ultimately not in anyone's best interest for political figures to dissuade their followers from getting the vaccine.

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