Like everything, the vaccination issue is political
That burst of bright light erupting at the end of that COVID tunnel last week, that was the Center for Disease Control announcing, out of the blue, that all fully vaccinated people can go without masks in public places, inside and outside.
If like me, your first thought was hallelulah. Your second might have been, who's going to know who's been vaccinated?
Over the weekend, businesses throughout the country had to figure out how to adjust, or if to adjust, their customer/mask policies. Certainly the CDC announcement was hoped to lift our COVID spirits. It also, though, throws yet another brick at retail businesses and restaurants tasked with keeping their customers safe, following governmental mandates while trying not to anger good customers that aren't real inclined to follow mandates, especially those issued by governments and governors they aren't particularly fond of.
Businesses have been through the wringer during the pandemic. Now, they get to play mask police to an even higher degree. I'm sure there'll be places that require vaccine cards, but it most likely will come down to an honor system. Certainly no one would lie about whether they've been vaccinated or not, right?
One line of thought was that the "take off your masks" announcement would inspire more people to get vaccines, just as vaccine rates have substantially slowed. Nearly everyone masking up in public, it was argued, made it easier to resist getting vaccinated. With people not wearing masks, the unvaccinated might get a bit more uncomfortable and become motivated to get the shot.
It's clear that most adults who have wanted to get a COVID shot have managed to get one. Initially, there were long lines to get one. Now, health officials are waiting for arms. Will the CDC mask announcement inspire many more to now step up?
Other incentive ideas are interesting: health officials going to homes to apply shots; businesses offering cash bonuses to employees who get vaccinated; cash to anyone who finishes a regiment; even out-of-the-box ideas like raffles among those who get vaccinated. Prizes of vacation packages and sports tickets make sense. It's not hard to imagine the good PR that the Blazers, Ducks, Beavers and Timbers could get by putting in tickets.
But Americans, in general, are both smart and stubborn. If a person hasn't gotten a vaccination yet, it's quite likely they don't plan to.
The vaccines are like nearly everything else in the United States: political and divisive. Among adults nationwide, about 80% of Democrats have been vaccinated or plan to while only 55% of Republicans polled have been or plan to be vaccinated. The 10 states with the highest vaccination rates are blue states; nine of the 10 states with the lowest rates went for Trump, with the exception of Georgia, which is about as purple as a state can be.
It doesn't take a political scientist to understand that Democrats and President Joe Biden continually pushing people to get vaccinated might just be having a negative impact at this point. Most Republicans loath Biden; him urging them to get a shot probably drives more not to. There is only one real strong leader in the GOP who can drive movement in the party, former President Trump, and he took his shot in secret and chooses not to promote vaccination much.
Another stark example of the political divide on vaccinations? Look no further than the U.S. Congress where 100% of Democrats are vaccinated and only 44.8% of Republicans, 95 out of 212, have taken shots. In April, a Monmouth University poll found that 43 of Republicans said they won't get vaccinated as opposed to just 5% of Democrats.
If you believe science and the vast, vast majority of doctors, everyone who hasn't gotten a shot, who can safety get one, should indeed get a shot. But if you believe your eyes and statistics, you'll know that right now it's going to take encouragement from a force other than a science/health professional and Democratic politicians to move the vaccine rate needle.
What would inspire more hesitant people and the more conservative-minded to vaccinate? The ability to walk into a store without a mask? We'll soon find out about that. Sports tickets, finding more GOP and conservative leaders to emplore people, restaurant gift certificates, a hundred spot?
Public health officials are eager to find out.
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