Honour President Trump by getting vaccinated

Keep telling Trump supporters that their hero wants them to get the shot.

Bad news: states that voted for Trump are lagging behind states won by Joe Biden in getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Good news: another newly developed vaccine against COVID-19, from Novovax, is performing extremely well in clinical trials.

Confusing news: Donald Trump, whose bumbling, incompetence, misinformation and pure spite are largely responsible for America’s devastating death toll from COVID-19, deserves some of the credit for the vaccines his dedicated supporters refuse to take.

Not only is Novavax a small company, it hadn’t successfully brought a vaccine to market in more than 30 years of trying when it won its contract with the feds under OWS. Its setbacks from having some of its other vaccine candidates go bust during trials led it to lay off a third of its staff at one point and nearly saw Nasdaq delist its stock. It even sold its manufacturing facilities to a competitor when it needed cash. That’s not an obvious racehorse for the federal government to bet big on. In fact, this NYT piece from last summer about Novavax’s huge contract — bigger even than the one given to AstraZeneca — strongly implied that the company may have drummed up interest from the feds via cronyism, as much by trying to pull strings with friends in the industry as for the promise of its COVID vaccine.

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…Novavax may become a vaccine of choice for poorer countries looking for an easy-to-store option instead of J&J. The sooner we can get shots into arms in the third world, the lower the risk of new immune-resistant variants like B.1.617 developing abroad and then migrating back here to haunt us at home. Novavax may be one of the world’s best hopes to do that once it’s approved.

Without Operation Warp Speed, the company may have never found the funding it needed to get off the ground. It may end up being one of Trump’s most meaningful achievements.

Trump spent four years in the White House getting almost everything horribly wrong, but Operation Warp Speed is looking more and more like a rare unparalleled success.

And Trump himself hasn’t hesitated to give himself the credit for it. So why are so many of his cult followers still refusing to get vaccinated?

The New York Times noticed this phenomenon late last year, and suggested that Trump’s dismissive and conspiratorial rhetoric about COVID-19 have influenced his dedicated followers more than Operation Warp Speed:

In any other era, Mr. Pence’s vaccination, administered by a technician from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in images beamed across the country, would have been a moment to bring the nation together. He took the shot in front of a giant blue poster declaring in white block letters: “SAFE and EFFECTIVE.”

His wife, Karen Pence, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams were also vaccinated.

“I didn’t feel a thing — well done,” the vice president said afterward, adding that he wanted to “assure the American people that while we cut red tape, we cut no corners.”

But Mr. Trump was notably absent. One reason for the partisan divide over vaccination, experts said, is the president himself. His repeated denigration of scientists and insistence that the pandemic is not a threat, they said, have contributed to a sense among his followers that the vaccine is either not safe or not worth taking.

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Mr. Trump’s own flirtations with vaccine skepticism are well known. He repeated the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism as far back as 2007, when he said he had slowed his son Barron’s vaccination schedule, and as recently as 2015 while first running for president.

“Trump helped re-energize the anti-vaccine movement,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert on vaccines, “and now he wants to pivot and make this his greatest accomplishment.”

Some conservative news media outlets are reinforcing the skepticism, tapping into suspicion of government by raising questions about whether officials are leveling with the public about the risks of the vaccines.

Tucker Carlson, the Fox News commentator, railed on Thursday against the “corporate image campaign” promoting vaccination, suggesting incorrectly that isolated instances of allergic reactions to the vaccine were being censored.

In interviews, Trump supporters said they felt the pandemic had been blown out of proportion. Mr. Lofgren said several of his co-workers had recovered from Covid-19, “with really no more than just cold symptoms.” Mr. Palmer said that if he “had an issue with breathing or a heart issue or a lung issue,” he might consider it, but does not want to take a chance.

Conspiracy theories — including the notion that the virus was created by the Chinese and Democrats to hurt Mr. Trump politically, or that the vaccine contains a microchip allowing the government to track people — cropped up in several conversations. Ms. Graves, who has diabetes, a risk factor for Covid-19, and has a master’s degree in library science, said such thoughts were creating doubts in the back of her mind.

An old joke about conspiracy theorists: two JFK assassination conspiracy theorists are killed in a car accident and go to Heaven. They’re granted an audience with The Lord, who tells them they can ask him any questions they may have about the mysteries of existence. Of course they ask him who really killed Kennedy, and God responds, “Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, of course.”

One theorist turns to his friend and says, “this cover-up goes even higher up than I thought.”

Unfortunately, once you’ve dipped your toes in the conspiracy waters, it’s very hard to avoid being pulled under. There’s a hardcore QAnon-adjacent wing of the Republican Party - some of them in Congress - who cannot be reached when it comes to getting vaccinated. It was hard enough getting Marjorie Taylor Greene to agree that comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust might not be appropriate.

That leaves quite a few “soft” Trump supporters - the ones who like his policies but not his “tone,” or say they voted against Clinton and radical socialist Joe Biden more than they voted for Trump - who may still be reachable. And these are the ones we should be targeting non-stop with this kind of thing:

You know how I feel about the guy. I hate giving him credit for anything. But sometimes you have to take one for the team.

But I’m in enlightened Massachusetts/CaliforniaNew York, you might be saying. Why should I care if these red-state hicks won’t get vaccinated? Aside from it just being the right thing to do, the American divide isn’t so much between red and blue states as it is between urban and rural areas. Big cities in deep-red states vote Democrat. People in the countryside in deep-blue states vote Republican. Trump got over 4 million votes in California, and Biden won over 5.2 million votes in Texas.

I’d be very interested to see a county-by-county breakdown of vaccination rates, and compare them to how they voted in 2020. I bet you there are large pockets of largely unvaccinated people even in the most progressive states. Even if you’re a blue state, vaccine-resistant Trump supporters are still very much your problem, and you’d be cutting off your nose to spite your face if you don’t try to change their minds.