The messenger matters.
That’s the consensus emerging in conservative circles as they try to combat vaccine hesitancy among GOP supporters.
Many people in the South are “sick of Democrats in Washington thinking they know what’s best,” explains Politico.
In a recent op-ed, Sarah Huckabee Sanders agrees, blasting “pundits and politicians” who “have resorted to bribing, mocking, and even name-calling to coerce people into taking the vaccine.” Instead, the former Trump administration official wants to frame the vaccines as a Trump-era accomplishment with the hope of persuading the MAGA base to get jabbed.
“If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time,” she wrote.
Some Republicans are so vehemently opposed to anything supported by Biden and Democratic lawmakers, that public health officials wonder if the left’s pro-vaccine advocacy has backfired.
“To say that politics doesn’t play a part would be wrong,” Mike Melton, Lauderdale County, Alabama’s vaccination manager, told Politico. “I think the national figures get people talking about the vaccine and that can sometimes take the wrong fork in the road and go the wrong way.”
Chris Christie, the former GOP governor of New Jersey, made a similar point on ABC News’s This Week, saying “What they don’t want is to be indoctrinated. They’re willing to be vaccinated. They don’t want to be indoctrinated. So let’s be smart about this. I think that one of the places where our leaders have fallen down is they’re not explaining it. They’re just saying, get vaccinated. And these — these folks do not respond to being ordered to do those things.”
As The New York Times explains, “From the start, vaccinations in counties that voted for Donald J. Trump lagged those in counties that voted for Joseph R. Biden, and the gap has only widened — from two percentage points in April to nearly 12 points now, according to one recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.”
The gap is particularly acute given the highly contagious delta variant, which has caused COVID-19 infections in the U.S. to quadruple this month.
The Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise, the House’s No. 2 Republican, posed for a photo of himself getting a vaccine shot, many months after he was eligible, and urged others to do the same. “Get the vaccine,” Scalise said, at a press conference on Thursday. “I have high confidence in it. I got it myself.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a polio survivor who was never on board with his party’s vaccine denialists and anti-maskers, warned, during his own press conference: either get vaccinated or get ready for more lockdowns. “This is not complicated,” McConnell said. Fox News, which, along with Facebook, has been among the country’s premier platforms for vaccine disinformation in recent months, started promoting a new get-vaccinated public-service announcement. Its prime-time star, the Trump confidant Sean Hannity, stared straight into the camera on Monday night and said, “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated.”
But what about the most powerful voice on the right, Trump himself? CNN explains:
The former President, despite claiming rightful credit for his administration’s role in developing highly effective vaccines, did “recommend” to his supporters at a teeming Arizona rally on Saturday that they get their shots. But he also showed that he was unwilling to spend political capital on an issue that might put him at odds with the base voters on whom he relies for a comeback.”
I also believe in your freedoms 100%,” Trump said, giving indirect blessing to those who spurn the vaccines. He further sabotaged the public health effort by claiming that the reason people were not taking advantage of it was because of his successor. “Because they don’t trust the President, people aren’t doing it,” Trump said. No one has sowed more distrust in the Biden administration than Trump himself with his endless and false claims of election fraud.