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Science

Covid-19 vaccine protest in Brooklyn, NY.


Reprinted with permission from American Independent

New polling released Friday by the public opinion research firm Gallup finds that Republicans are far less confident in science than they were four decades ago, posing a major challenge to the ongoing campaign to get Americans vaccinated against the Coronavirus.

A total of 64 percent of Americans told Gallup they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in science, down slightly from the 70% of Americans who said the same thing in 1975, the last time the organization asked the question.

But that small drop in confidence overall comes almost entirely from changes in Republican responses: Just 45 percent of Republicans say they're confident in science today, compared to 72 percent who said they were confident 46 years ago.

Democrats, meanwhile, report an increase in confidence in science, with 79 percent saying they're confident today versus 67% in 1975. The 2021 poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,381 American adults from June 1 through July 5, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Gallup notes that this 34-point difference in confidence between Republicans and Democrats is among the largest partisan gaps measured for any of the U.S. institutions they asked about, exceeding that of newspapers (27 points), organized religion (25 points), and the military (16 points).

Only the partisan split on confidence in the police and the presidency were greater, with Republicans' confidence in the police 45 percentage points higher than Democrats', and Democrats' confidence in the presidency 49 points higher than Republicans.'

Gallup's finding comes at a time when White House officials and public health professionals are raising the alarm on vaccine misinformation. Speaking from the White House briefing room Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy decried misinformation about the Coronavirus vaccine as an "imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health," releasing a 22-page advisory in which he said responding to it was a "a moral and civic imperative."

In recent weeks, Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have been back on the rise, as the highly infectious delta variant spreads. Those who have been infected are overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals, according to experts, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky saying last month that adult deaths from Covid-19 are "at this point entirely preventable" thanks to vaccines.

Still, misinformation about the safety and efficacy of those vaccines continues to proliferate, primarily on social media and right-wing television. Hosts on channels like Fox News and Newsmax have repeatedly undermined vaccine safety and critiqued the Biden administration's vaccination campaigns.

Studies have found a gap in vaccination rates between counties that supported former President Trump in the 2020 election and those that supported President Biden, with July data showing 47 percent of those living in Biden-supporting counties were fully vaccinated compared to a 35 percent vaccination rate in counties that broke for Trump.

Though numerous factors impact the rate of vaccination in a given county, experts point to misinformation on right-wing media as a key component of the partisan vaccination gap.

"If you have constant exposure to an outlet that is raising vaccination hesitancy, raising questions about vaccinations, that is something to anchor you in your position that says, 'I'm not going to take the vaccine,'" Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Photo from Marjorie Taylor Greene's Facebook

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans are dismissing concerns that deadly coronavirus variants might bring new spikes as fear-mongering. But they are also discouraging the vaccines that could protect their constituents.

"No one cares about the Delta Variant or any other variant. They are over covid & there is no amount of fear based screaming from the media that will ever force Americans to shut down again," tweeted Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday. "Forced masks and vaccines will cause Dems to lose big. All voters are over covid."

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted charts to suggest that the Delta variant, which fueled major case spikes in India and is rapidly becoming the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, is not all that scary.

"Don't let the fearmongers win," demanded Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. "New public England study of delta variant shows 44 deaths out of 53,822 (.08%) in unvaccinated group. Hmmm."

Though less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and children under age 12 are not yet able to get any coronavirus inoculation, GOP lawmakers have pushed to lift all safety measures.

"Fully vaccinated Americans should be able to return to normal," wroteTennessee Rep. Diane Harshbarger last Monday, urging an end to mask requirements on airplanes.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz agreed, bragging that he had backed legislation to lift the requirement and complaining that "every Dem" on the Commerce Committee voted against it.

"I joined my colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to end mask mandates for vaccinated Americans on planes and public transportation," wrote Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Friday. "There'='s simply no science backing up this mandate. Wyoming citizens are ready to get back to life as normal."

After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, suggested he would wear a mask in areas with low vaccination rates as an extra precaution, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas claimed that his "flip-flop is what causes low vaccination rates — Americans feel like they're being lied to."

"I agree w/ @CDCgov, the vaccine is effective against Delta Variant," he added. "Masks not warranted if you're vaccinated."

But while vaccines have drastically reduced coronavirus cases and severity for those who actually get them, they are not 100 percent effective. In Israel, the health ministry reported Sunday that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine was about 64 percent at preventing infection in June — as the Delta variant became increasingly common there.

Contrary to Greene's suggestion that the nation no longer cares about the COVID-19 pandemic, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found 73 percent of Americans believe "more people need to get the vaccine to help stop the spread" of the virus. Just 22% believe community spread "is so low that there is no need for more people to get the vaccine."

But many Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated — and the divide appears to mirror political leanings. Of the 20 states that met President Joe Biden's target of having 70 percent of their adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, every one was a state that voted for the Democrat in the 2020 presidential election. The states with the lowest vaccination rates nearly all voted for the Republican.

Making matters worse, some Republican legislators have actively discouraged people from getting vaccinated.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin held a news conference last Monday to warn against the very rare side effects of the coronavirus vaccines by highlighting a handful of people who say they were harmed by them.

"But instead of encouraging more people to get vaccinated so we can be rid of this plague once and for all, Johnson has chosen to use his taxpayer-financed megaphone to draw attention to a vanishingly small number of people who believe they suffered a serious side effect," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board wrote last Wednesday.

They called him the "most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s."

Massie and several of his fellow House Republicans have also opposed efforts to vaccinate all members of the military.

"I've been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated," he tweeted Saturday. "I introduced HR 3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19."

Service members are not allowed to abandon their jobs — doing so during their contract is a crime punishable by up to five years of confinement.

This is not the first time Republicans have minimized the threat of the virus and attacked those trying to curb its spread. Then-President Donald Trump admitted in February 2020 that he knew the coronavirus was deadly and that he mislead the nation intentionally because he "wanted to always play it down."

While the number of daily cases and deaths has dropped significantly since Trump left office, the pandemic is not over. More than 11,000 Americans tested positive for the virus on Monday; almost 200 died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.