It feels like we’ve tried just about everything to push vaccinations.
Now the Biden White House is recruiting “influencers”—TikTok stars, YouTubers and Twitch types, along with Olivia Rodrigo, as the New York Times reports, to convince young people to get the shots.
There has been free beer, free weed, free donuts, lottery tickets, hundred-dollar bribes, all designed to lure the vaccine hesitant. President Biden made a major speech, offering paid time off for those with work issues. Mitch McConnell is making public service spots for 100 Kentucky radio stations.
There has been a war on social media misinformation.
There have been mandates from such companies as Facebook, Google, the Times and the Washington Post, and exclusionary policies: You want to see a Broadway show, you’ve got to get vaccinated.
And pundits have tried shot-shaming the refuseniks, calling them idiotic, arrogant and SOBs. That’s worked about as well as you would expect.
But now, finally, thankfully, vaccination rates are inching up.
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Nearly 800,000 shots were delivered on Sunday, the highest one-day total in many weeks. The seven-day average late last week was up to 615,000 daily shots. And we’ve now reached the Biden goal of 70 percent of adults having gotten at least one shot, a month after his July 4 deadline. (Remember that 12- to 17-year-olds only became eligible fairly recently).
Why? It turns out fear is a powerful motivator.
As people continue to die from Covid-19—albeit at far lower rates than during the pandemic’s peak—all but a tiny fraction are unvaccinated. Thanks to heavy media coverage, many more people now realize this. There are more stories about people on their deathbed, saying they wished they had gotten the vaccine, or asking nurses for the shot when it’s obviously too late. Those people left family and friends behind, and those deaths were preventable.
It’s an incredibly harsh lesson, but the word is getting out. The vaccines are safe, and refusing to get one is anything but.
As more reporters interview those who have refrained so far, the stereotype that it’s mostly conservatives turning their backs for political reasons has been shattered. Many are concerned about side effects, missing work, or the FDA’s appalling failure to update its emergency approval with an official green light.
And the CDC has been a disaster. The muddled messaging on masks has been a disincentive for people to get vaccinated; why bother if they’re still being told have to wear masks and can’t live a normal life?
Just Friday, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky told Bret Bair on Fox that the administration is considering a national mandate to require vaccinations. Within an hour, she was on Twitter with a walkback that she hadn’t meant that at all. I can’t recall another agency that has so badly bungled the basic task of communications.
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And when the CDC failed to release the data underlying its findings—until a Washington Post leak showed it compared the Delta variant’s contagiousness to chicken pox—some in the media wrenched that out of context. Fewer than 1 percent of the vaccinated are getting these “breakthrough” infections, and in almost all cases are experiencing only mild symptoms.
We still have a long way to go. Maybe more folks are getting vaxxed because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. While I don’t think people should be unduly pressured, I really don’t care about motivation at this point. More shots protect them and the rest of us.
Are people acting because they’re finally scared? Maybe they should be.