In Congress, Republicans who once praised the Trump administration for its work facilitating the swift development of the vaccines now wage campaigns of vaccine misinformation, sowing doubts about safety and effectiveness from the Capitol.
And this week, Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee successfully pressured health officials to stop outreach to children for all vaccines. The guidance prohibits sending reminders about the second dose of a Covid vaccine to adolescents who had received one shot and communicating about routine inoculations, like the flu shot.
A wave of opposition to Covid vaccines has risen within the Republican Party, as conservative news outlets produce a steady diet of misinformation about vaccines and some G.O.P. lawmakers invite anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists to testify in statehouses and Congress. With very little resistance from party leaders, these Republican efforts have elevated falsehoods and doubts about vaccinations from the fringes of American life to the center of our political conversation.
Anti-vaccination sentiment isn’t new to Republican voters. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary race, a number of candidates, including Donald J. Trump, repeated debunked theories that vaccines caused autism in children. Around that time, Republican state legislators began opposing laws that would tighten vaccine requirements for children.
But over the past few months, the shift within the party has accelerated, as some supporters of Mr. Trump embrace the belief that the national effort to promote Covid vaccinations is harmful, unconstitutional or perhaps even a sign of a nefarious government plot.
“Think about what those mechanisms could be used for,” Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said of the Biden administration’s plan to go door-to-door to reach millions of unvaccinated Americans, going on to claim without evidence: “They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
In a report this month, the Kaiser Family Foundation found a growing vaccination divide between Republican and Democratic areas, with nearly 47 percent of people in counties won by President Biden fully vaccinated, compared with 35 percent of people in Trump counties. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 47 percent of Republicans said they weren’t likely to get vaccinated, compared with just 6 percent of Democrats.
The differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans have long cut along educational and partisan lines.— CBS News Poll (@CBSNewsPoll) July 18, 2021
We now see some partisan pushback against the wider effort, too, as most Republicans think the Biden Admin is doing too much in trying to urge Americans to get it. pic.twitter.com/DLnA6SMA0P
Vaccination rate correlates with POTUS vote down to the county level. Hard to see this and assume politics and media diets have nothing to do with vaccine decisions.— Nicholas Grossman (@NGrossman81) July 18, 2021
Turning Fauci into a caricatured villain, wanting Biden to fail, Fox blaring conspiracy theories: all factors.