By MARSHA MERCER
Last year, wearing face masks divided Americans.
Now, a political gap has opened around the COVID-19 vaccine – with some Republicans saying they are hesitant, at least, to get the jab.
One in three Republicans say they will not get the vaccine when it becomes available, a CBS News poll found.
An Associated Press-NORC Center poll reported 42% of Republicans said they probably or definitely will not get the shot, compared with just 17% of Democrats.
Nearly half of those who supported President Donald Trump in 2020 said they would not get vaccinated, according to an NPR-Marist poll, and 59% of Republicans said in a Monmouth poll they’d either wait or wouldn’t get vaccinated at all.
Some say they are concerned about allergies and side effects, while others cited a distrust of the government, the polls reported.
“I don’t quite understand . . . this sort of macho thing about `I’m not gonna get the vaccine. I have a right as an American, my freedom not to do it,” President Joe Biden said in an ABC News interview that aired Wednesday. “Well, why don’t you be a patriot, protect other people?”
Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers may think saying no is about personal freedom, but let’s call it what it is: selfish and unpatriotic.
The idea of a patriot has been usurped by some on the political right. Trump talked about forming a Patriot Party though has backed off. His supporters, sometimes armed, wear Patriot T-shirts and wave Patriot banners at “Patriot” rallies. Several political parties already have Patriot in their names.
It’s time to reclaim the word patriot, as Merriam-Webster defines it: “one who loves and supports his or her country.”
Americans who revere the right to keep and bear arms should also bare their arms for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Getting vaccinated is a patriotic act because someone is taking responsibility not only for their own health and wellbeing but for that of their community, state and nation.
More than 111 million Americans have received at least one dose, and 15% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Among those 65 and older, nearly 37% are fully vaccinated. But we still have a long way to go.
For the United States to reopen safely and fully, we need what’s called herd immunity and that means upwards of 75% of adults need to get vaccinated, health officials say.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush recently starred in a public service video showing themselves getting vaccinated and urged Americans to follow suit.
Trump and his wife got vaccinated before they left the White House in January but didn’t make their vaccinations known to the public until this month. He acknowledged on Fox News that many of his supporters don’t want to get vaccinated and he recommended, in a qualified way, they do so.
‘I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it. And a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” he said. “But, you know, again, we have our freedoms, and we have to live by that, and I agree with that, also.
“But it’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine. And it’s something that works,” Trump said.
Getting vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get the virus, but it does mean the effects likely will be less and you’ll be less likely to need hospitalization. So, if patriotism doesn’t move you, how about enlightened self interest?
Or follow the lead of about two dozen men and women of faith who rolled up their sleeves at Washington National Cathedral the other day. Think of getting vaccinated as a form of prayer for a healthier, better country.
Biden has directed states to make every adult eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine no later than May 1. He also wants to make signing up for and getting vaccinations easier. The administration is expanding vaccine distribution, the number of vaccination sites and the ranks of professionals authorized to give the shots.
It’s an impressive effort aimed at getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible.
But the effort will succeed only if people -- patriots -- bare their arms.
©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.