Republican governor says ‘time to start blaming unvaccinated’ for rise in cases

The Republican governor of Alabama has said it is “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for rising cases of Covid-19, amid concern that months of misinformation over the need and efficacy of vaccines is fueling a resurgence of coronavirus infections in several states.

Kay Ivey said that vaccines are “the greatest weapon we have to fight Covid” and added that a surge in new cases of the coronavirus in Alabama is due to a reluctance among many people in the state to get inoculated.

Only about a third of eligible people in Alabama have got a vaccine shot, one of the lowest rates in the US.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense,” said the Alabama governor. “But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Ivey added that nearly all the new hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid are unvaccinated people. “These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain,” she said.

The criticism of those who are eligible to be vaccinated and have chosen not to get the shot despite vaccines being available follows a concerted effort among conspiracy theorists and others on social media and conservative media outlets such as Fox News to sow baseless doubt over the safety or need for vaccinations despite a slew of evidence over their ability to shield people from the worst effects of the virus, including death.

Some of these falsehoods have been embraced by elected Republicans, while other senior party members have refused to actively endorse the uptake of vaccines, citing personal choice.

Others, such as the Senate minority leader and Kentucky Republican, Mitch McConnell, have stated their support for vaccinations all along, though in an understated way and without publicly calling out more boisterous voices seeking to sow doubt.

And in Alabama and neighboring Mississippi, for example, reluctance to take the vaccine can be driven by economic factors as well as politics or simple fear of a new vaccine.

But also, for many Black residents, they struggle to overcome a historical mistrust of the government and the health system because of a history not just of neglect but of racist medical abuse, such as the decades-long, government-sponsored Tuskegee study, where African American men were coerced into a syphilis experiment.

Ivey’s comments on Thursday came as it has emerged that more than nine out of 10 Covid deaths in the US are now people who haven’t been vaccinated.

Nonetheless, just 56.2% of eligible Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, only 51% of Republicans said in mid-June that they had received at least one vaccine dose, versus 83% of Democrats, according to an AP-NORC poll.

But in recent days some leading conservatives have started to call for vaccinations following a surge in infections in several states.

In Florida, the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, this week pointed to data showing the vast majority of hospitalized Covid-19 patients hadn’t received shots. “These vaccines are saving lives,” said DeSantis, who recently began selling campaign merchandise mocking masks and medical experts, such Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading public health official in the US and adviser to the US president.

The White House, which is trying to push higher rates of vaccination, said that it is beginning to see a slight rise in uptake in some states, such as Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada, where Covid cases are soaring.

One doctor in Birmingham, Alabama, has told of how patients dying with Covid have pleaded to be vaccinated, despite it then being too late to do so.

The uptick in infections has inundated some hospitals in the US south, leading to increasing calls for people to take the available shots.

“The fourth surge is real, and the numbers are quite frightening at the moment,” John Bel Edwards, governor of Louisiana, said on a New Orleans radio show. Edwards, a Democrat, added: “There’s no doubt that we are going in the wrong direction, and we’re going there in a hurry.”

More than 600,000 people in the US have died so far due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the worst death toll in the world, and Republican strategists have warned that the party may be blamed by its voters if this total keeps climbing with further Covid outbreaks.

“I think they’ve finally realized that if their people aren’t vaccinated, they’re going to get sick, and if their people aren’t vaccinated, they’re going to get blamed for Covid outbreaks in the future,” said the GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

But polling of those who are unvaccinated has shown that many have made up their minds not to get the jabs.

Comments are closed.