If only there were a way to safely administer the vaccine to people who are immunocompromised.
Because if we could stop them from being infected by anti-vaxxers, what we’d have here is a solution in search of a problem.
A thought I frequently have while reading news stories in the coronavirus era is, “I wonder which viral YouTube conspiracy theory video led people to believe this.” A vaccine is the only thing that’ll rid us of this plague of death and economic ruin, yet of course — of course — a gigantic percentage of the public doesn’t want it. I’m guessing there’s a clip out there with 25 million views about how Bill Gates is planning to turn us all into pedophiles via the combination of an arm jab and widespread 5G. New from Yahoo News and YouGov:
Asked whether they plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if and when a vaccine arrives, a majority of Americans (55 percent) say yes.
The rest — a significant minority — say they won’t get vaccinated (19 percent) or they’re not sure (26 percent).
If those results were to hold, tens or even hundreds of millions of unimmunized Americans could ultimately undermine any vaccine’s ability to stop the spread of the virus.
Believe it or not, that’s the optimistic poll of the two new ones out today. ABC/Ipsos found this:
My guess was that those numbers skewed Republican. Not because anti-vaxxers generally lean right; there are plenty of New-Agers on the left who reject vaccinations as “unnatural.” I assumed that in this case vaccine skepticism was a subset of skepticism about the extent of the threat from coronavirus, and coronavirus skepticism is largely a right-wing phenomenon. For instance, polls show huge percentages of Democrats have begun wearing masks and are reluctant to reopen the economy for business. Republicans are more standoffish about masks and most have come to oppose lockdowns. Righty media outlets are also far more likely than left-wing ones to believe that coronavirus deaths are being overcounted. Anti-vaxxers have begun turning up at right-wing anti-lockdown protests too. Put it all together and it stands to reason that if you don’t think COVID-19 is as dangerous as scientists say, you’ll be less inclined to get vaccinated for it.
But that assumption is incorrect. According to ABC, there isn’t a partisan split here, with “equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans saying they were likely to get the vaccine.” (Yahoo News/YouGov didn’t provide partisan numbers.) This appears to be old-fashioned anti-vaccination paranoia at work, not anything to do with coronavirus in particular.
What’s strange about this is that there are a ton of polls out today showing how skeptical the public is about reopening soon. Sixty-four percent of Americans told ABC/Ipsos that reopening now isn’t worth it because it’ll mean more lives being lost. (Among Dems, 92 percent(!) said so versus 35 percent of Republicans.) Yahoo News found 59 percent who agreed that Georgia, Florida, Minnesota and Texas are reopening too soon, with 73 percent saying they’ll “voluntarily continue to practice social distancing even after official restrictions are lifted.” Pew offers this:
Yet another poll finds 71 percent worried that states will lift restrictions too quickly versus 29 percent who worry that they’ll do it too slowly. And although the share of Americans who say it’s right for states to tell people to stay home is decreasing, HuffPost notes that “An overwhelming 83% majority say they’re trying to stay home as much as possible, down only slightly from a high of 89% at the start of April.” Put all of that data together and you come away with two surprising conclusions. One: For a population that’s been in lockdown for nearly two months with cataclysmic economic repercussions, Americans remain highly reluctant to reopen right now. They’re scared. And two: Although there are obvious partisan differences, both Democrats and Republicans are more skeptical of reopening than you might think. I would not have guessed that a huge supermajority of Dems would oppose it in mid-May; they need to pay the bills too, after all. But I also wouldn’t have guessed that so many Republicans would continue to resist Trump’s daily efforts to support getting back to work. He’s wearing them down, but six weeks of daily “we need our economy back” rhetoric from the president hasn’t yet made this a 50/50 blue/red issue.
I wonder if that’s because right-leaning senior citizens know what sort of special risk awaits them in a second wave of the epidemic. And whether they’ll hold it against Trump this fall for being willing to bet their lives that it won’t materialize.
Anyway, the point is this: A public that’s as anxious about the virus as Americans are should be gung ho for a vaccine as its salvation, one would think. If you’re so afraid to go shopping that you’re willing to accept 20 million people out of work as the price of that, the natural reaction is to crave that vaccine as if it’s the holy grail, your release from the bondage of virus-inspired terror. Instead we have a quarter of the public shrugging and saying, “No thanks.” What’s their play here? Are they counting on herd immunity and the giant body count that would require to deliver them instead? Or are they just planning to free-ride on the herd immunity of the rest of us once we’re all vaccinated?