Republicans Reluctant To Get COVID Vaccine Despite Safety

When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, Trump Republicans stand out from the rest. It's a side effect, a former GOP congressman says, of being conditioned by Trump to not believe scientific expertise and media.

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As public health leaders say the quickest way out of this COVID-19 pandemic is mass vaccination, resistance to the vaccine is emerging among one group people in particular:  Republican Trump supporters.

In one of several recent polls revealing that Republican reluctance, the Kaiser Family Foundation found Republicans led the pack in saying they would definitely not get the vaccine, or only get it if required.

Nearly 40% of the GOP voters surveyed were in that category, compared to 6% of Democrats, the cohort showing least resistance to the vaccines.

Less than 25% of Black respondents were as reticent as Republicans, but vaccine hesitancy among African-Americans has received much more attention than what is happening among Republicans.

Former GOP congressman, Carlos Curbelo, noted anti-vaccine sentiment can be found on either extreme of the political spectrum, but notes Republican Trump supporters are a special case.

"A lot of former President Trump's supporters tend to be people who are anti-establishment, who by nature are distrustful of institutions," Curbelo said. "Former President Trump was constant about inserting doubt, making people question basic advice and information being put out by major news organizations, by government agencies."

 A focus group run last weekend by pollster Frank Luntz and the de Beaumont Foundation tested for the right messages to persuade the reluctant.

When told, among other facts, for example, that "more than 95 percent of doctors who have been offered the vaccine have gotten it as soon as they can," resistance lessened.

The de Beaumont Foundation's chief executive explained why.

"Ultimately it gets down to a basic public health communications axiom: good stories and good data ready is the path to behavior change," said Brian Castrucci.

One mistake he said, would be trying to change attitudes about too much at one time.

"It makes controlling the virus more challenging," said Castrucci. "However when we’re talking about vaccination, I think it’s important to stay very focused on getting the vaccine. If we start talking about masking and social distancing and get into policy differences that divides us."

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