While some U.S. Republicans push COVID-19 vaccine, experts warn it may be too late

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Republican politicians successful the U.S. are nether expanding unit to talk retired to transportation COVID-19 vaccine skeptics to rotation up their sleeves and instrumentality the shots arsenic a new, much contagious variant sends caseloads soaring. But aft months of ignoring — and, successful immoderate cases, stoking — misinformation astir the virus, experts pass it whitethorn beryllium excessively precocious to alteration the minds of galore who are refusing.

In caller quality conferences and statements, immoderate salient Republicans person been imploring their constituents to laic lingering doubts aside. In Washington, the alleged Doctors Caucus gathered astatine the Capitol for an lawsuit to combat vaccine hesitancy. And successful Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this week pointed to information showing the immense bulk of hospitalized COVID-19 patients hadn’t received shots.

“These vaccines are redeeming lives,” said DeSantis, who precocious began selling run merchandise mocking masks and aesculapian experts.

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The outreach comes arsenic COVID-19 cases person astir tripled successful the U.S. implicit the past 2 weeks, driven by the detonation of the caller delta variant, particularly successful pockets of the state wherever vaccination rates are low. Public wellness officials judge the variant is astatine slightest doubly arsenic contagious arsenic the archetypal version, but the shots look to connection robust extortion against superior unwellness for astir people.

Indeed, astir each COVID-19 deaths successful the U.S. are present radical who haven’t been vaccinated. Nonetheless, conscionable 56.2% of Americans person received astatine slightest 1 vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, lone 51% of Republicans said successful mid-June that they had received astatine slightest 1 vaccine dose, versus 83% of Democrats, according to an AP-NORC poll. And galore appeared to person made up their minds. Forty-six percent of those who had not been vaccinated said they decidedly would not. Among Republicans, adjacent much — 53% — said they decidedly wouldn’t; conscionable 12% said they were readying to.

“I deliberation they’ve yet realized that if their radical aren’t vaccinated, they’re going to get sick, and if their radical aren’t vaccinated, they’re going to get blamed for COVID outbreaks successful the future,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who has been moving with the Biden medication and nationalist wellness experts to trade effectual messaging to bring the vaccine hesitant disconnected the fence.

 'Masking up   again successful  California; Every American authorities   reports rising COVID-19 cases' 2:13 Masking up again successful California; Every American authorities reports rising COVID-19 cases

Masking up again successful California; Every American authorities reports rising COVID-19 cases

But Luntz, who conducted different absorption radical Wednesday evening with vaccine holdouts, said determination has been a discernible displacement successful caller weeks arsenic skepticism has calcified into hardened refusal.

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“The hesitation has transformed into opposition. And erstwhile you are opposed, it is precise hard to alteration that position. And that’s what’s happening close now,” helium said.

For months now, galore blimpish lawmakers and pundits person been actively stoking vaccine hesitancy, refusing to instrumentality the shots themselves oregon downplaying the severity of the virus. Republican governors person signed bills protecting the unvaccinated from having to disclose their presumption and tried to rotation backmost disguise mandates. And connected societal media, disinformation has tally rampant, starring President Joe Biden to assertion platforms similar Facebook were “killing people” — a assertion helium aboriginal walked back.

At a caller blimpish gathering, attendees cheered the quality that the Biden medication was falling abbreviated of its vaccination goals. Invoking the nation’s apical infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., warned, the government: “Don’t travel knocking connected my doorway with your Fauci Ouchie! You permission america the hellhole alone.”

Others, including erstwhile President Donald Trump, person repeatedly defended those who person chosen not to get vaccinated, stressing that the determination is simply a idiosyncratic choice. Instead, they person pointed fingers astatine Democrats, suggesting they are to blasted for the distrust.

“People are refusing to instrumentality the Vaccine due to the fact that they don’t spot (Biden’s) Administration, they don’t spot the Election results, and they surely don’t spot the Fake News,” Trump said successful a caller statement.

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But determination were signs that messaging was changing this week, arsenic blimpish leaders advocated for the shots. On Fox News, big Sean Hannity implored his viewers to “please instrumentality COVID seriously,” saying, “Enough radical person died.” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley connected Twitter encouraged “ALL eligible Iowans/Americans to get vaccinated.”

“The Delta variant scares maine truthful I anticipation those that haven’t been vaccinated volition reconsider,” helium wrote.

Ive said this to respective Iowa reporters again this wk but I'll amplify it here: I promote ALL eligible Iowans/Americans to get vaccinated The Delta variant scares maine truthful I anticipation those that haven’t been vaccinated volition reconsider

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) July 21, 2021

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip, distributed pictures of himself receiving his archetypal dose of the vaccine past play aft months of holding out.

Senate Republican person Mitch McConnell, a polio subsister who has consistently advocated connected behalf of the COVID-19 shots, this week urged the unvaccinated to disregard “all these different voices that are giving demonstrably atrocious advice.”

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But the quality league convened by House GOP leaders connected Thursday highlighted Republicans’ competing messages connected the virus.

Initially billed arsenic an lawsuit wherever Republican doctors successful Congress would code the rapidly spreading delta variant, the radical alternatively spent astir of its clip railing against China and making unverified claims that the coronavirus came from a laboratory leak successful Wuhan, a mentation initially fashionable successful far-right circles but present being earnestly considered by scientists. They besides attacked Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Biden administration, for not doing much to get to the bottommost of the laboratory leak theory.

“The question is, Why are Democrats stonewalling our efforts to uncover the origins of the COVID virus?” said New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican successful the House.

Eric Ward, a elder chap astatine the Southern Poverty Law Center who studies extremism, blamed vaccine reluctance connected “nearly a year-and-a-half of right-wing rage instrumentality rhetoric.”

“Even blimpish leaders present are having a hard clip figuring retired however to rein successful what had chiefly been a propaganda campaign, and they are present realizing their constituencies are peculiarly vulnerable,” helium said.

While immoderate Republicans whitethorn beryllium utilizing beardown words to beforehand the vaccine, fewer are proposing caller measures to impulse vaccination, specified arsenic incentives, nationalist accusation campaigns oregon much assertive outreach.

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In New Hampshire, wherever shots person slowed to astir 1,000 per week, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday that determination are nary contiguous plans to motorboat caller initiatives.

“Right now, it’s folks’ idiosyncratic responsibility. If idiosyncratic hasn’t been vaccinated astatine this point, they’ve made that conscious determination not to,” helium said. “The government’s occupation is to supply that unfastened door. If you privation the vaccine, present it is, bully and easy. If you request much information, present it is. So you person each instrumentality successful the toolbox disposable to you and your household to marque that decision.”

 CDC director' 2:37 Delta variant present accounts for implicit 80% of caller US COVID-19 cases: CDC director

Delta variant present accounts for implicit 80% of caller US COVID-19 cases: CDC director

Other Republican proceed to peddle falsehoods.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was suspended from posting connected Twitter for 12 hours earlier this week aft spreading disinformation astir vaccine-related deaths. And Charlie Kirk, the laminitis of Turning Point USA, a fashionable younker blimpish advocacy radical that past play hosted a league that drew erstwhile Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and galore members of Congress, suggested without grounds connected his podcast that up to 1.2 cardinal could person died aft getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

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In his absorption groups, Luntz said that galore skeptics person struggled to measure the veracity of the things they work and hear.

“There is truthful overmuch misinformation retired there, and they can’t archer the quality betwixt what is close and what is fake,” helium said. “So it makes it virtually intolerable to pass erstwhile they don’t cognize what to believe.”

Associated Press writers Emily Swanson, Holly Ramer and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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