As I write this article, over 80 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. The speed with which the Biden Administration has been able to roll out vaccines is fantastic and it shows just how much it matters who’s in the White House. Good governance gets things done. With each passing day, we get closer to going back normal, or at least relatively normal. But there’s something troubling not about the data showing where people are getting vaccinated, but where people aren’t.
The New York Times published an article today that says it plainly: “Least Vaccinated U.S. Counties Have something in Common: Trump Voters.” The article explains that “[t]he disparity in vaccination rates has so far mainly broken down along political lines . . . [data show] that both willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where a majority of residents voted to re-elect former President Donald J. Trump in 2020.”
I doubt you find this surprising. I certainly don’t. But it’s a simple illustration of how Trump was and continues to be a plague on our nation, metaphorically and literally in this case. Undoubtedly, some people who voted for Trump never would choose to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but even without hard data, it seems foolish to deny that Trump’s anti-vaccine rhetoric had an effect on his acolytes’ willingness to be vaccinated. Trump didn’t just doubt the efficacy of the vaccine, he doubted its very necessity. And naturally, at the same time, he tried to take undue credit for the speedy vaccine development.
What’s clear from these data on vaccination rates is that the thing that stuck, the thing that seems to have had stronger guiding force on people’s willingness to be vaccinated, was anti-vaccine rhetoric. Knowing how deadly COVID-19 can be, this vaccine recalcitrance will take lives. How many remains to be seen.
In this sense, Trump has yet more blood on his sad little knobbly hands. Even though he’s out of the White House and even though his media appearances are (very mercifully) limited, his propagation of fringe ideologies, conspiracies, and contagious uninformed doubt linger like the foul musk of a second breakfast Filet-o-Fish.