As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish

As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish
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As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish

As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish

WASHINGTON – As the coronavirus rises in their states and districts, fueled by a more contagious variant exploiting paltry vaccination rates, many Congressional Republicans have refused to push back vaccine skeptics in their party who sow suspicion of safety and the effectiveness of the shots.

Amid a growing partisan divide over the coronavirus vaccination, most Republicans have fueled or ignored the flood of disinformation reaching their constituents and instead focused their vaccine message on President Biden’s bashing, calling his will to vaccinate Americans from politically motivated and brutal.

On Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the House who said he only received his first Pfizer vaccine on Sunday, blamed the reluctance on Mr Biden and his critics on the regard to Donald J. Trump’s vaccination campaign last year. Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville said skeptics would not have a chance until “this administration recognizes the efforts of the last.”

And Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas pointed out White House press secretary Jen Psaki and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr Anthony S. Fauci.

“Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr Fauci opens her mouth,” he said, “10,000 more people say I’m never going to get the vaccine.”

Some elected Republicans are the ones who spread the lies. Senate candidate Jason Smith of Missouri cautioned on Twitter about “KGB styleAgents knocking on the doors of unvaccinated Americans – a reference to Mr Biden’s door-to-door vaccination campaign.

Such statements, and the widespread silence of Republicans in the face of vaccine skepticism, are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders.

“The way to avoid going back to the hospital is to get vaccinated,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican leader and polio survivor, one of the few members of his party to take an approach. different. “And I want to encourage everyone to do that and ignore all these other voices that are obviously giving bad advice.”

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Nationally, the average of new coronavirus infections increased nearly 200% in 14 days, to more than 35,000 on Monday, and deaths – a lagging number – were up 44% from two weeks ago. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Tuesday that the Delta variant accounted for 83% of all new cases.

The political disparity in vaccine reluctance is striking. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late June that 86% of Democrats had had at least one bullet, compared to 52% of Republicans. A New York Times analysis in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

“There’s a big gap, and it’s growing,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We know that more unvaccinated people are self-identified Republicans, so they are at a much higher risk of disease, death and continued spread than fully vaccinated people. “

Conservative parts of the country are particularly affected. Critical care units in southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas fill up or fill up quickly, while 40% of new cases occur in Florida.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, where a vaccinated assistant to President Nancy Pelosi tested positive for the coronavirus, the resident doctor warned lawmakers and staff members that the Delta variant was now present. He pleaded with unvaccinated lawmakers to get vaccinated and warned that a mask mandate may need to be reimposed.

Amid these disturbing trends, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has been temporarily suspended from Twitter for writing that Covid-19 is not dangerous to people unless they are obese or over the age of 65. . Tuesday, she declined to answer a reporter’s question about whether she had been vaccinated, calling it a violation of federal health care information privacy law. (The law does not prohibit a person from speaking about their own health condition, nor does it prohibit anyone from making inquiries.)

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Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Republican from North Carolina, suggested the Biden administration’s door-to-door effort was just a first step. Then, he said in an interview with Right Side Broadcasting Network, they would “go door to door to get your guns.”

“Then they could go door to door to get your Bibles,” he added.

Still, many prominent Republicans are paying little attention to the resurgence. In a hearing before the Senate Health Committee, Republicans spoke little of how to deal with vaccine hesitation, except for comments by Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who lamented the “false conspiracy theories” and wondered if “the enemies of our country” spread disinformation.

At a press conference by Republican House leaders on Tuesday, the coronavirus was not heard anywhere amid inflation “crises”, the southwest border and out of control spending by “socialist” Democrats.

Even lawmakers who have expressed concern have said there is little that politicians can do.

“I’m monitoring it daily, and it’s not good,” said Senator Josh Hawley, whose home state of Missouri is now a Covid hotspot. But he categorically ruled out mandates to inoculate more Missourians, saying it would only backfire on conservative voters.

“Where you run into trouble is where they say, ‘You have to do the following,” Mr Hawley said. “That’s why the President’s door-to-door speech is so alarming to people that it has the opposite effect. “

Mr Marshall, a doctor who has organized other elected Republican doctors to encourage voters to get vaccinated, concluded that “there is nothing anyone can say here that can convince someone to get vaccinated. “.

Off Capitol Hill, some conservatives have become considerably more forceful. Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has accused conservative “talking heads” of “literally killing their supporters” with their vaccine skepticism.

Conservative personality Sean Hannity told viewers Monday night to take the virus seriously and get vaccinated. Steve Doocy, co-host of Mr. Trump’s favorite news show “Fox & Friends,” had a similar message Tuesday morning.

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But messages on Fox remain mixed, as do those from the Republican Party.

Kentucky Republican and physician Senator Rand Paul is trying to change the subject. At Tuesday’s health committee hearing, he stepped up his long-standing attacks on Dr Fauci over whether the National Institutes of Health was funding research into “gain-of-function” – experiments designed to identify genetic mutations that could make a virus more potent – in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.

Mr Paul accused Dr Fauci of lying to Congress when he said in May that the NIH was not funding such work. Dr Fauci replied that he was not lying and accused the senator of spreading lies by implying that American scientists were to be blamed for the pandemic.

Mr Marshall took advantage of the hearing to consider whether children should be vaccinated. He later said he would encourage anyone over 50 to get the vaccine, but added that there were “pros and cons” for anyone younger than that, directly contradicting the guidelines. CDC, which said anyone over 12 should be vaccinated.

The senator added that those who are not yet vaccinated should get tested to see if they had antibodies from a previous infection, and if they did, they might not need an injection. . This too flies in the face of the CDC, which recommends vaccination for those who have recovered from Covid-19.

But Republicans’ concerns still focus primarily on the tactics of those trying to get more people vaccinated.

“You see some people trying to bully people into doing things instead of just encouraging them,” Mr. Scalise said. “There is even talk of putting mandatory masks on people in some states when the vaccine is widely available, it is safe and effective.

“We should be encouraging people to get it,” he added, “but not trying to threaten people.”

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