Repubs retreat from antivaxerism

by John Quiggin on July 28, 2021

A funny thing happened in the culture wars the other day. After taking steadily more extreme anti-vaccination positions over many months, leading rightwing commentators and Republican politicanss suddenly jumped ship, announcing that everyone should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

It would be encouraging to imagine that this shift was the result of a recognition of the surge in cases and deaths among the (predominantly Republican) unvaccinated population, and of the dangers posed by the Delta variant. But that explanation seems implausible, given that the same politicians and commentators watched half a million Americans die and opposed every conceivable measure that might reduce the death toll.

It seems even more unlikely that this shift is a response to the efforts of the Biden Administration to pressure organizations like Fox News into a more sensible position. The whole raison d’etre of the rightwing media is to ‘own the libs’. Rejecting such pressure and boasting about it would be par for the course.

A more plausible explanation is that Republicans have realised that, at least at the national level, this is a culture war that they can’t win, or even play out long enough to mobilise voters for an election win. The critical problem is that the vaccination debate no longer fits the standard culture war playbook in which an easily demonised outgroup is imposing their way of life on ordinary (that is, white, heterosexual and Christian) decent Americans.

Campaigns of this kind can naturally be presented in terms of the preservation of liberty not liberty in any abstract or universal sense, but the specific liberties of the dominant group to do things as they have always done them, whatever the effects on others.

As the proportion of American adults who have received at least one shot creeps towards 70 per cent, the proportion likely to join a fight against vaccine mandates declines.In particular, the old, who are normally the most reliable recruits for the culture war, are also the most vulnerable to Covid-19, with the result that their vaccination rates are close to 100 per cent

A final, but essential, factor is that Donald Trump has stayed on the sidelines. The development of vaccines was one of the few genuine success stories of his Administration, and he has shown himself unwilling to undermine it. As a result, Republicans who break ranks with the dominant anti-vax position are unlikely to suffer the consequences that would result from appearing on Trump’s list of enemies.



GCR 07.28.21 at 12:32 pm

I wonder if another reason is simply worry about reducing the numbers of their own voters through Covid deaths. Could this have a large enough effect to be electorally significant?


Gorgonzola Petrovna 07.28.21 at 1:07 pm

Could you share some examples of those “steadily more extreme anti-vaccination positions”? Do you mean that “against vaccine mandates” is an anti-vaccination position?


Trader Joe 07.28.21 at 1:36 pm

The latest flip-flop by the CDC on mask wearing is a game changer for the political calculus on this topic.

By suggesting vaccinated people must wear masks in various situations, you are now effectively punishing those who have adopted positive behaviors with no consequence to those who have not (as they will either not abide, or in theory were wearing them anyway).

This moves the midpoint of the discussion squarely into the political center who will have far greater incentive to villify non-vaccinated and oppose politicians that support that view.

Simply put, republicans need to re-take some of the center to re-win the House, re-take the Senate if they are able. The hard, right no vaccine crowd is going to vote Republican anyway. If they polarize the center against them on this issue they lose a chance to quickly retake congress and block Bidens agenda (not that I wish to see them succeed, but this is plainly the calculus).

There are plenty of issues Republican’s can slow-roll for two years, they have little hope of throwing blocks for 4 years.


BruceJ 07.28.21 at 3:34 pm

By suggesting vaccinated people must wear masks in various situations, you are now effectively punishing those who have adopted positive behaviors with no consequence to those who have not

And this is precisely the language perpetuating this stupid argument…that having to wear a mask is somehow “punishment”. It is a mild annoyance at worst. Damned straight I”m going to mask back up, because the plague rats are still among us in huge numbers, and all available evidence indicates they’re not hesitant, they’re defiantly opposed to getting the vaccine. Defiantly opposed to the point that ALL vaccinations are now suspect in their minds. In my state they passed a law outlawing mask, vaccination or even testing mandates in schools.

Classes start next month. Watch for Arizona to become the next Florida.

Yes, I’m angry, but not at the CDC, but at them.

Begging,pleading, and coddling them like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store hasn’t worked.

Time for No Shirt, No Shoes, No Shot, No Service.

Because the next variant these two-year-olds may brew up might be significantly worse.


Ivo 07.28.21 at 7:45 pm

Masking up when fully vaccinated is as useful as wearing a helmet when going for a walk. Yes, sometimes people trip, hit their head and die and a helmet would’ve saved them. No, people are not going to wear helmets because of that. No, not if their helmet would result in the same chance of saving someone else’s life either.

Masking up when fully vaccinated is a political statement, not a scientifically or morally superior stance.


Kenny Easwaran 07.28.21 at 7:52 pm

GCR: As of right now, no state has had more than 3 deaths per 1000 residents from covid (

In a state with 50% voter turnout rate, if all of those deaths were among voters who cast their ballot for the same party, that would make a total change in vote share of 0.6%. I believe there are three states where that magnitude of shift would have affected the outcome of the 2020 election.

But at this point, no one thinks that further vaccinations will affect total mortality by the same as reducing a year of covid to zero, most states have over 50% turnout, and no one thinks that mortality is entirely among voters (as opposed to non-voters) from a single party. So it’s exceedingly unlikely that marginally (or even hugely!) higher vaccination among one’s voters is going to actually be “electorally significant”.

It’s much more likely to be significant in terms of pain and suffering for thousands of needless victims of the pandemic than for anything electoral.

(If we were talking about a disease with a 30% infection fatality rate, that would be different, but we probably also wouldn’t be dealing with this sort of vaccine hesitancy.)


nastywoman 07.28.21 at 8:07 pm

”Could you share some examples of those “steadily more extreme anti-vaccination positions”?

You are going to get so ‘magnetic’ that your bicycle is going to stuck to you so tight
that you will have to go to bed with it and in the morning it will have turned you into
Hillary’s Pizzeria!


Adam Hammond 07.28.21 at 8:52 pm

I agree with your analogy about helmets and your comment in general, Ivo. I do take exception to your implication that vaccinated masking is not scientifically supported. There isn’t a natural extension of your helmet analogy that includes the risk of large group harm <>. So, as an example, I work in a research building on an R1 university campus. We are required to be vaccinated … and we are required to mask up in several indoor situations. That policy is the result of a cold, hard look at the group costs that we would pay if we had a new outbreak. Ongoing research programs were destroyed by the original shutdown, with high emotional, professional, and financial costs for all of us. No one wants to be responsible for another shutdown. No one wants to be case #1 for the variant that evades the vaccines. The risks, while individually small, carry high group costs. The cost of masking occasionally is pretty small. We absolutely do that math. This calculation was not political and we are not politically uniform.


Chetan Murthy 07.28.21 at 9:05 pm

Ivo@5: “Masking up when fully vaccinated is a political statement, not a scientifically or morally superior stance.”

This is a lie, and Ivo is baldly arguing a libertarian line, in which we owe nothing to each other, every man for himself. This is not how to organize complex societies.

Let’s go thru the facts we know:
1. The vaccines are not sterilizing: hence, a vaxxed person can get covid, and can pass it to others
2. Children under 12 are not vaccinated, and hence, can get covid, and severe cases at that.
3. the definition of “mild case” is basically “doesn’t land you in the hospital”. Vaccinated people have written describing their “breakthrough cases”, and it’s pretty clear that they’re pretty severe by any pre-covid measure.

#1,#2 are the salient issues from a public health perspective. They both are about concern for the unvaccinated, and ask the vaccinated to take burdens on themselves, in order to protect the unvaxxed. I don’t have to like that I’m being asked to take burdens in order to protect ungrateful imbeciles who refuse to do the absolute minimum to protect themselves, but I can at least recognize that that’s what’s going on, and that from the POV of public health, it’s not just valid, but imperative.

Jesus, these libertarians.


Karen Lofstrom 07.28.21 at 9:34 pm

Ivo, I’m seventy-three, I’m vaccinated, and I have been continuing to mask. Now that delta is here in Hawai’i, I’m going to doublemask (again) when I go out. The vaccines prevent hospitalization and death quite well, but they don’t prevent all breakthrough infections. I don’t want even a mild or asymptomatic case of covid. Masking will help protect others and protect me from needless suffering.


Dogen 07.28.21 at 9:39 pm

Ivo makes an ignorant and misleading extreme statement. (Please note I’m not saying Ivo is ignorant, etc—this is not a personal attack.) When and where a vaccinated person is well advised to mask up is highly contingent on circumstances.

Here is a very good interview that makes this point well:


Mark Smeraldi 07.28.21 at 9:41 pm

It seems apparent to me that the primary benefit of being immunized isn’t that you can’t get Covid, but rather that if you do, it’s highly unlikely to threaten your life. Apparently, immunized persons who contract Covid and are asymptomatic or mildly so still shed virus at the same rate as the non immunized. So the main rationale for mask wearing by immunized people is not to make other, more vulnerable people sick. JFC, that an act of civic responsibility can be construed as punitive utterly eludes me. If all you have is individuals, you don’t have a society anyway.


JimV 07.28.21 at 10:18 pm

The science as I understand it is that vaccinated people can carry the virus and spread it, as evidenced by numerous cases among professional athletes (who get routinely tested, unlike the general population) who have tested positive despite vaccination. Also, I greatly suspect that unvaccinated people will not hesitate to go unmasked where others aren’t. For these reasons I agree with the CDC guidelines and have not stopped wearing a mask in stores despite double vaccination. The pandemic is not over.

What Republican leaders do hasn’t made much sense to me for a long time now. It would be nice think some of them are discovering logic and principles, but I doubt it.
Perhaps a corollary to the what-wasn’t-reasoned-can’t-be-reasoned-out-of principle is that it is difficult for others to make sense of such behavior.


Adam Hammond 07.28.21 at 11:25 pm

An increasing downside could also be a driver of the the Republican pivot — a compliment to the declining upside presented in the OP. There are several issues where clouding the science is paying dividends on the right. Climate change of course, but also religious pandering like questioning evolution and claiming that conception is Biologically meaningful. My point is that it could be damaging to be against these vaccines if public perception comes down on the side that science was right on this. I know that public perception is still split, but that could change fast if Delta and future variants have a serious impact. There is a reasonable chance that the winning American-public narrative, two years from now, will be: American scientists pull off another miracle for the world (you can even add “because of Trump”). If the R brand stays tied to questioning or derogating the vaccines, that narrative will hurt, and not just on Covid but also the overall credibility of anti-science positions. If the public winds up loving the vaccines, Democratic attack adds will feature litanies of anti-science quotes.


J-D 07.28.21 at 11:51 pm

JFC, that an act of civic responsibility can be construed as punitive utterly eludes me.

Postulate, hypothetically, the existence of people who genuinely have no concern for the welfare of others. What if these people, having no such concerns themselves, also don’t believe that other people genuinely have such concerns? Such people, if they exist, would be highly likely to explain the verbal expression of such concerns as a mere pretext, covering some other motivation.

‘You say you want me to wear a mask because you are concerned about the welfare of other people and want them to be protected. But we all know that must be a lie. So why do you really want me to wear a mask? If I comply and wear a mask, it will evidence your power over me. I guess you have selected me as one of your enemies and you are trying to demonstrate your power over your enemies.’

Would something like this explain how an exhortation to civic responsibility can be construed as punitive?


Gorgonzola Petrovna 07.29.21 at 6:49 am

@11 “It seems apparent to me that the primary benefit of being immunized isn’t that you can’t get Covid, but rather that if you do, it’s highly unlikely to threaten your life. Apparently, immunized persons who contract Covid and are asymptomatic or mildly so still shed virus at the same rate as the non immunized.”

Could you explain when and how this has become apparent to you, Mark, please? And what seemed apparent before this became apparent, please.


Tm 07.29.21 at 12:19 pm

70% of adults in the US have now been vaccinated against Covid (at least one shot), a total of 190 million people. This is far more than people voted in 2020, and the vaccination rate among voters is certainly higher than among the general population, because older people are both more likely to vote and far more likely to be vaccinated. The vaccination rates are similar or higher in Canada and Europe and wherever vaccine doses are available in sufficient quantities (with the curious exception of Russia, which has exported many vaccine doses but hasn’t managed to convince its own population to take them).

There are stark geographic contrasts, mostly along rural/urban gradients, that in the US neatly reproduce the 2020 election map ( But even in Mississippi, 49.4% of adults are now vaccinated. Of the 30% unvaccinated, perhaps between 15 and 25% are categorically opposed to the vaccine, and they are everywhere very strongly aligned with the political right. In a striking Swiss survey, 51% of voters of the major right wing party said they wouldn’t take the vaccine, as opposed to between 7 and 15% for all other parties ( This striking politicization of a medical issue is a rather new phenomenon. It reflects the antagonism of individualism versus social responsibility and solidarity. This is also in evidence in the same Swiss survey, which showed that those opposed to vaccination feel little responsibility to help end the pandemic and protect vulnerable people.

Decades of neoliberalism have eroded solidarity and substitued it with an excessive individualism which now hampers our ability to deal with issues such as the pandemic and Climate Change, which simply require collective action. Still, the numbers show that solid majorities are in the camp of responsibility. People have voted with their arms for the vaccine and they support other measures like mask mandates. This raises the question, what is the calculus of anti-vax, Covid-denialist politics? Is it smart politics to antagonize the 70% to pander to the 15-25%?

I think the Delta variant has changed the calculation. As long as infection numbers were declining due to increasing vaccination rates, and vaccine doses were scarce anyway, the anti-vaxxers weren’t an obvious concern from the perspective of the vaccinated. This new Covid wave, the fourth I suppose, is obviously driven by the unvaccinated but does also threaten the vaccinated and has caused many jurisictions to pass new restrictions that affect the vaccinated too. I suspect the vaccinated majority is running out of patience with the irresponsible minority. More and more jurisdictions will enact measures that place more of the onus on the unvaccinated, including restrictions concerning travel and events, and vaccine mandates. And the vast majority will approve of these measures and demand more.


PMR 07.29.21 at 5:29 pm

I also believe that many people who say they are wearing masks to protect others do really believe that the mask also protects them.


John Quiggin 07.30.21 at 1:11 am

@17 The divide predates Trump By contrast, until a few years earlier, antivaxerism was seen as a problem of the left, raised as a Tu quoque in response to criticisms of climate denial


nastywoman 07.30.21 at 2:58 am

Could you explain when and how this has become apparent to you, Mark, please? And what seemed apparent before this became apparent, please.

I was vaccinated
and I became so ‘magnetic’ that my bicycle stuck so tight to me –
that I had to go to bed with it – and in the morning it had turned me into
Hillary’s Pizzeria!


Chetan Murthy 07.30.21 at 6:04 am

There’s a recent WaPo article, with associated side deck from the CDC, that might be worth reading:
Brad Delong does some analysis of the CDC deck:
and he caches a copy of the deck:

I draw your attention to slide 18: “Delta variant may cause more severe disease …”

I don’t follow Brad’s math, but he argues that Delta may be nearly-self-sustaining in just the vaccinated population, nevermind the unvaccinated population, b/c it’s that contagious. Which is pretty chilling, b/c it would seem like that’s the conditions for the evolution of a vaccine-busting variant. Ugh.

Worth reading all three documents. I plan to resume N95 masking.


Matt 07.30.21 at 7:40 am

(with the curious exception of Russia, which has exported many vaccine doses but hasn’t managed to convince its own population to take them).

Talking with my and (even more) my wife’s friends in Russia, my impression is this: 1) it’s not actually super easy for lots of people to get the vaccine, or at least wasn’t for a while. 2) A lot of effort was put into claiming that “western” vaccines (especially but not only the mRNA ones) were “dangerous” or “bad”. This almost certainly had government support, to try to increase support for Sputnik. But – it seems to have had the opposite effect, with people believing the bad press for “western” vaccines, but thinking that if the “western” ones are bad, the Sputnik must be even worse. 3) People have more legitimate (but how legitimate I cannot say for sure) concerns about quality control and consistency in the manufacturing, distribution, and handling of the Sputnik vaccine, leading people to worry about the health impacts of these factors. (These issues are apparently real, but I don’t have a good idea how far they impact the safety or effectiveness of the Sputnik vaccine.) From what I hear, a lot of people are trying, rather than getting Sputnik, to take some sort of alternative “inoculation” style vaccine, based on weakened Covid-19 viruses. I don’t know the details of this well, but am told by people I know there that whenever such a vaccine (or purported vaccine – I’m unsure who is making, marketing, or distributing such a thing) is available, people line up for it and it runs out very fast, even though these people could get Sputnik more easily. Also, at least in Moscow, lots of places are apparently requiring some sort of “proof” (which in Russia is surely of limited value) of vaccination to do lots of normal things. This hasn’t, apparently, been enough to lead to mass uptake of Sputnik, though no doubt it’s been good for people who can sell fake documents.


SusanC 07.30.21 at 10:58 am

At least in the UK, approach to the pandemic appears to be no longer attempting to keep r below 1, and instead relying on vaccination to reduce deaths.

Possibly as a result, the pitch to anti-vaxxers has changed from a) appealing to their altruism, asking them to get vaccinated to protect others, to b) gloating over the possibility that a bunch of them will be dead soon.

The latter might be a more persuasive pitch to those of a conservative mindset.


Trader Joe 07.30.21 at 11:56 am

Further to JQ @19
What has been curious throughout the Covid-vax debate is that substantially all people who indicate hesitancy or unwillingness to take a Covid vax have been previously vaxxed for Small Pox, Mumps, Measles, Rubella etc.

I’ve yet to see a flag waving Republican turn down a polio vaccine, but wave a Covid vial at them and they turn purple.

Surely some fault lies in construing a Covid-19 vaccine as an entirely optional, and often largely ineffictive seasonal flu preventive rather than elevating it the levels of seriousness enjoyed by Measles, Mumps et al This would seem to be a fault of CDC, government and media and its a place where broader vaccine mandates (as Biden is beginning to enact) would create a necessary elevation and put this vaccine on par with the others.


bekabot 07.30.21 at 12:42 pm

I agree with your analogy about helmets and your comment in general, Ivo.

Not me. If we breathed through the tops of our heads through a blowhole like a whale, it might be true. We don’t.


JimV 07.30.21 at 8:28 pm


Critically, the study found that vaccinated individuals carried as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated individuals, and that vaccinated people could spread the virus to each other. […]

Scientists said the Provincetown outbreak and other recent data on breakthrough infections make clear that the vaccines do work, as hoped, against severe illness and death, but do not offer blanket protection against any chance of infection. Only a handful of people in the outbreak were hospitalized, but four of them were fully vaccinated. […]

The study’s authors note that Massachusetts has a high vaccination rate and the virus was still able to spread.

“Findings from this investigation suggest that even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status,” they write. […]

The study makes clear that vaccines offer significant protection, but do not prevent infection entirely even among the fully vaccinated. On July 3, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported a 14-day average of zero covid-19 cases per 100,000 in Barnstable County — but by July 17, that number had increased to 177 cases per 100,000.

“This report demonstrates that vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 is not perfect, particularly in a setting with a highly contagious variant, in a large group in close contact, even if most are vaccinated against the virus,” said Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “The good news here: If you’re vaccinated, refrain from large group gatherings and mask up, chances are good you’ll be okay. This is not 2020. But we’re not out of the woods.”


hix 07.30.21 at 10:21 pm

“Apparently, immunized persons who contract Covid and are asymptomatic or mildly so still shed virus at the same rate as the non immunized”
If that were true, it would still mean that vaccinations reduce infections by 74% if two vaccinated meat -according to the most gloomy delta infection rate prognosis for the vaccinated (0,6*0,6). Getting vaccinated is just the right choice, no matter how odd one’s preference system is: If you value others at zero, you absolutely should get vaccinated. If you value yourself at zero, you absolutely should get vaccinated as. It is just the right choice to make, period.


Chetan Murthy 07.31.21 at 2:13 am

SusanC @ 23: for want of anything better, it seems like that’s the strategy we’ll arrive at here in the US. I’m not optimistic about the effect of vaccine mandates, nor even that we’ll get them soon enough and with enough coverage [and teeth] to get people to do their bloody civic duty. Certainly in the Red States where the worst of the Delta wave is currently rising, it’s quite the opposite: mandates are being outlawed right-and-left. Instead, we see (some, a few, not enough) people getting the shot, b/c they now realize that their lives are literally at risk: they could literally die of this bug. It’s evidently quite a shock to their little brains.

So yeah, you’re sorta right. That’s what’s happening in the UnGovernable Tribal Regions of the USA. In the Blue States, we’re starting to lock down again, b/c our elected officials don’t think allowing these covidiot antivaxxers to commit suicide (taking out relatives, neighbors, and kids with them) is morally acceptable. Most of the time, I even agree with them.


Chetan Murthy 07.31.21 at 2:20 am

Trader Joe:
“Surely some fault lies in construing a Covid-19 vaccine as an entirely optional [….] rather than elevating it the levels of seriousness enjoyed by Measles, Mumps et al This would seem to be a fault of CDC, government and media [….]”

I don’t know how old you are, but I’m old enough to remember lining up in elementary school in Delaware to receive little sugar cubes with some purple stuff at the center: the polio vaccine. I don’t recall anything optional about it, nor about a ton of other vaccines back then. I don’t understand what happened: why this vaxx wasn’t mandatory from the get-go, but I can imagine that some part of it was the fear of violence from heavily-armed domestic terrorists. Obviously that shouldn’t be a factor [or rather, it should cause us to go -harder-] but …. well, this is a very fucked-up country, and I can easily imagine that the Biden Administration thought better of poking that hornet’s nest. Obviously TFG’s admin wouldn’t have done it: he’s spent a year downplaying the virus, so to turn around and mandate vaccines would have been a climbdown …. and he never climbs down, instead he doubles down.

Ah well. If this Delta wave stretches on and on, I think finally enough of the rest of us Americans will become fed up, that we’ll demand our elected officials proceed with mandates. But I don’t expect that before the fall — maybe October. It is what it is.


Tm 07.31.21 at 10:29 am

Matt 22 thanks for the interesting background.
Contrary to Russia, Hungary has been running a very successful vaccination campaign with Sputnik. They were far ahead of the rest of the EU, but nevertheless suffered the worst COVID spike of the spring with horrible death numbers that peaked in mid April when already 30% of the Population (presumably the most vulnerable) hat been vaccinated at least once. Fortunately the numbers went down as steeply and reached normal levels by early June. By then, 40% had been fully vaccinated. This seems to suggest that Sputnik is effective but not highly effective.

Uruguay, Chile and Mongolia have amazingly high vaccination rates (above 60% fully vaccinated) and are or have recently been experiencing very bad infections and death rates. Fortunately they are declining. I believe they use Chinese vaccines. Very worrisome.


Tm 07.31.21 at 10:48 am


SamChevre 07.31.21 at 11:45 am

I may be missing someone, but I have not seen any Republicans who’ve changed position from being anti-vaccination. The question is about mandates, not about vaccination. To repost my comment elseweb:

There’s a huge difference between “I’m vaccinated, vaccination is a good thing, you should get vaccinated–but I want ‘are you vaccinated?’ treated like ‘are you pregnant?’ in the context of labor/public accommodations law” and “The vaccines are a scam/don’t work/are part of a plot/are harmful.”


nastywoman 08.01.21 at 4:54 am

and sometimes I have this suspicion that the whole… thing has very little to do do with any ‘politics’ or being a ‘Repub’ – and that even being a Repub nowadays has nothing to do with ‘politics’ – as being a Repub nowadays is mainly about owning some ‘Libs’ and often ‘Libs’ who have no idea that they are even ‘Libs’ in the way ‘Repubs’ think they are ‘Libs’ –
BE-cause being a ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ can be also – being one of the nutty Waldorf Schüler who likes to yell: I don’t wear any masks or if I wear a mask I ‘häkel’ it myself in a way that –
for sure it doesn’t protect me –
(or anybody else)
and otherwise –
in my homeland –
‘vaccinations are just for sissies -(aka ‘Libs’) and NO real Russian -(besides Putin) needs any vaccination at all.

They go swimming in very, very cold water and afterwards drink a lot of Wodka in order to get warm again and try to get as much ransom form some stupid Americans on the Internet…


Omega Centauri 08.01.21 at 3:24 pm

About the transmissibility from vaxed patients, the evidence is new, which means there has been no time for peer review. The evidence is (at least) threefold. Israel has very high vax rate, but cases are rapidly increasing there (but deaths are low). The analysis of the Provincetown cluster where 75% of the positive cases was the basis of the recent alarming report from the CDC. Also measured nasal viral levels for breakthrough cases are comparable to the levels seen for unvaxed patients.

My opinion about the policy of trying to stop the spread has changed in the last few days. I think Delta is so transmissible that it is virtually unstoppable. That doesn’t imply we should throw in the towel just yet however. Social distancing measure can by time to allow more vaccinations, and to allow those who have just received the first shot time to build immunity. It is also important to spread the hospitalization over a longer time frame, as then the amplification of the death rate caused by the effects of an overwhelmed healthcare system can be minimized.


Omega Centauri 08.01.21 at 3:30 pm

My observations of vax hesitancy leads me to the conclusion that much of it is due to the mindset that humans are largely lacking in integrity. This leads to the downplaying of scientific results, as the semi-conspiratal assumption is they aren’t reported results in an unbiased manner, but trying to maximize personal wealth or power. So all information sources are considered to be corrupt. In the worst cases, they think COVID isn’t real, but invented by greedy pharma companies who stand to make billions. Its hard to talk people out of this incredibly pessimistic view of human nature and of our institutions.


Seekonk 08.01.21 at 4:36 pm

Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers bring to mind the Ghost Dance movement of the 1880s & 1890s.

In the twilight of their independence, many besieged western Amerindians became persuaded that by dancing and wearing sacred garments they would become impervious to the bullets of their tormenters, and the interlopers would be vanquished.


Bruce Baugh 08.01.21 at 6:00 pm

As long as we’re talking about what masks do, let’s note a two-orders-of-magnitude reduction in flu cases last year. Especially for those of us with weak immune systems, that’s a damned important thing to note. Masks also help with seasonal allergies, and with smoke. It’s appropriate to talk a lot about masks and Covid-19, but those of us who support scientifically and socially responsible mask use should take the time to reinforce awareness that Covid-19 itself is not the whole story.


SusanC 08.01.21 at 8:18 pm

Re. Covid19 being nearly self sustaining even among the vaccinated … there was a uk press release 30 June suggesting they might start giving a third booster shot from September. So, yes, I am expecting I’m going to be vaccinated again.

We already vaccinate against flu annually, so it’s clearly doable, and we now have more vaccination infrastructure to do it. (E.g. the local pharmacy where I got my shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine had two teams of people non-stop vaccinating one patient after another. So 2xperson actually giving the injection, 2xperson to type your details into the computer, about 2xpeople monitoring the already vaccinated in case of anaphylaxis, another couple to see patient at initial arrival … here we see ndustrial production line approach to vaccinating large numbers of peo0le in a shortish time,)


Chetan Murthy 08.02.21 at 3:57 am

“I may be missing someone, but I have not seen any Republicans who’ve changed position from being anti-vaccination. The question is about mandates, not about vaccination.”

You’ve been missing both Tuck-Tuck (Chicken Dinner) Carlson, and SHannITy. Both have been (esp the former) slagging on the vaccines. The latter had a few spots of sanity, but then returned to slagging. Everywhere in the “conservative” media sphere are people slagging on vaccines. And yeah, they’re even worse on mandates, but they’re already pretty bad on vaccines.


Chetan Murthy 08.02.21 at 7:14 am

That’s article about TurningPoint USA, the “student Trumpist org” and their resistance to vaccination.

A young emergency room doctor stood before dozens of students in a Tampa convention center this month and gave them a script for resisting coronavirus vaccines.

“You say, ‘I’m 18 years old. I have no health conditions. Based on the five-year mortality data, I have a highly likelihood of dying from flu versus covid, and I don’t get the flu vaccine, so I’m not going to get this one,’” Sean Ochsenbein, a 33-year-old attending physician in Johnson City, Tenn., told students gathered for a summit hosted by the conservative youth group Turning Point USA, according to a recording of the session obtained by The Washington Post. “Drop the mic. You’re done. That’s it.


Chetan Murthy 08.02.21 at 7:21 am

SamChevre: needless to say, there’s a lot more in the article, about all sorts of antivaxx pushes this org and its leader, Charlie Kirk, are making. And this is just one of many surrogates pushing the antivaxx message. There are lots of evangelical churches doing the same (and at this point, we might as well think of them as branches of the GrOPers). It’s true that some GrOPer elected officials are saying that vaccines are valuable and people should get them. But most are pushing the “it’s a free country, there should be no mandates” while at the same time, their media mouthpieces are running story-after-story about vaccine harm and ineffectiveness.

SHannITy is a great example:

For some reason, me saying take COVID seriously has finally caught up with the mob and the — and the media. Now, I think they’ve got ulterior motives. They monitor this show and TV every night, and I think it has to do with the fact that — you know, there’s been this attempt to blame conservatives for the vaccine hesitancy,” he said, despite working for a network that has been widely condemned its vaccine misinformation.

“Well, first of all, I’m not urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, because I’m not a doctor. That is not what I said. I said to take it seriously, it can kill you. I said to do a lot of research. If you have a phone, do your research,” Hannity said.

Or look at this roundup of Fox coverage:

Consider, for instance, that the viral clip of Hannity talking about vaccines came immediately before he pivoted to a story about a college athlete who was temporarily paralyzed after she took a different sort of vaccine in 2019 — the subtext being that inoculations are more dangerous than the experts would have you believe and that mandates are ill-advised. (Hannity has previously tried to discredit Covid-19 vaccines by saying stuff like, “the great Dr. Fauci has been wrong so often” and proclaiming he was “beginning to have doubts” about getting the shot.)

Or consider, as Matt Gertz detailed for Media Matters, that Hannity’s comments were sandwiched between shows anchored by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham that both pushed vaccine misinformation

They’re still all-in on pushing the antivaxx message.


tm 08.02.21 at 9:09 am

Sam: “The question is about mandates, not about vaccination.”

Just plain wrong. Republican elites and their Fox News enablers like Tucker Carlson have been spreading lies and misinformation, trivializing the severity of the pandemic and sowing doubt about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. The second and perhaps even more toxic feature of the anti-vaxx movement is the hyperbole around freedom allegedly being threatened by dictatorship. This narrative is meant to undermine any kind of public health measure from mask advisory to the vaccination campaign – even where it is entirely voluntary (just an example: Republican and likeminded propagandists have gone so far to compare fairly mild public health measures like mask mandates and vaccine passports with the Holocaust. That these propagandists are themselves almost certainly vaccinated but refuse to admit it in public ( makes them horrible cynics but publicly they are still anti-vaxx propagandists responsible for thousands of preventable deaths, not least among their own supporters, whom they treat with the utmost disdain.

Historical note, vaccine mandates (mainly in schools) are totally commonplace in almost all US states (as well as many other countries) and have hitherto hardly been controversial. If you apply for permanent resident status, you have to provide proof of certain vaccinations. (Waiting for Republicans to stand up for the rights of anti-vaxx immigrants). In the context of the Covid pandemic, nobody so far has proposed any universal vaccination mandates. Some jurisdictions have started enacting partial mandates for health care workers – again such mandates have long existed for other diseases. This reckless politicization of a medical question is a new phenomenon, and it’s entirely forced by the Republican Party and Fox News, with worldwide repercussions.


Tennessee fires top vaccine official as COVID-19 shows signs of new spread
“Fiscus said she was a scapegoat who was terminated to appease state lawmakers angry about the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against coronavirus. The agency has been dialing back efforts to vaccinate teenagers since June.”


Tm 08.02.21 at 9:34 am

JimV 26: “Critically, the study found that vaccinated individuals carried as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated individuals, and that vaccinated people could spread the virus to each other.”

hix has made the point already but this bears repeating: the summary from WaPo is misleading. The New York Times has also created a lot of confusion with this tweet:
“Breaking News: The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.”

Fact: Vaccinated individuals are still far less likely to get infected in the first place.


chrisare 08.02.21 at 2:32 pm

“Repubs retreat from antivaxerism” is demonstrably false.

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