When I fired up the old computer Friday morning, I could feel the blood begin to drain almost immediately from my face. As I moved from one local news site to the next — starting with The Sun, of course — the same story appeared almost everywhere.
According to a just released Magellan poll of Colorado registered voters, only 29% of Republicans were committed to getting the COVID vaccine when it became available. Yes, more than half a million Americans have died from the coronavirus — a staggering number that is all but impossible to take in — and yet only 29% of Colorado Republicans think that getting the vaccine might prove helpful.
That’s opposed to 89% of Democrats and 57% of the unaffiliated who plan to get the shot. There was no polling on flat earthers, but I guess there didn’t need to be.
This should be shocking, but, of course, it isn’t. Sadly, it’s all of a piece. It’s just a reminder that there is nothing these days that cannot and will not be politicized. I wonder how much different a poll on wearing a mask would look. I also wonder how many people tell pollsters what they think their position should be, based on something as unscientific as party ideology. I mean, who doesn’t want America to reach herd immunity?
But it’s a reminder, too, that whatever good news there is out there on the coronavirus — and there’s plenty just now — the fever that Joe Biden kept predicting would break after the election is still off the charts. Just look at poll after poll showing that around 75% of Republicans say the election was stolen.
I didn’t expect a fever break. I don’t know why anyone would, certainly not after January 6th. On Thursday night, because this is how I spend my time, I watched a forum, streaming on Facebook, of five candidates for Colorado Republican Party chair. Here’s a quick take on the temperature in the room: Two of the five candidates said the election was likely stolen, one said it may have been stolen and another said there was almost certainly fraud. Only one said that if Colorado Republicans can’t admit that Biden won the election — this, in a state he carried by 13 points — that “we’re screwed.”
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Meanwhile, at the CPAC convention of conservatives in Florida, the dominant theme is that the 2020 election was, in fact, stolen. And I don’t want to say the party has turned into a cult, but you may have seen that gilded statue of a certain former president being wheeled through the lobby. Apparently, someone forgot that whole Bible story of the Golden Calf.
What do thinking the election was stolen and rejecting the vaccine have to do with each other?
That’s a hell of a good question. But, apparently everything.
The news on the virus and on vaccines is, finally, promising. There is a chance — and I don’t want to go all Pollyanna here — that we could be rounding a corner. Deaths are down, way down, from the staggering heights of a just a month ago. Hospitalizations are also way down. Vaccinations, meanwhile, are up. Biden under-promised a million shots in arms per day. We’re at 1.5 million now and a third vaccine is rolling out.
We may still be a long way from normalcy — medical scientists are keeping a close eye on the variants now popping up —-but we’re closer than we have been in a good while. Jefferson County is moving to Code Blue — that’s a good one, for those keeping score at home — which allows businesses such as restaurants to operate at a higher capacity. Denver is tantalizingly close to Code Blue.
I had planned to write this morning about why Jared Polis was so stubbornly rejecting the series of entreaties by Mayor Michael Hancock to prioritize Denver’s homeless population for vaccines. Polis says doing so would prevent people who are 70 or older from getting their shots, but I don’t see how that makes any sense. The only thing that does make sense is that this, too, is political and that the homeless, like those in Colorado’s prisons, have little constituency.
Like some other cities, Denver is now asking the federal government for vaccines to be sent directly to them rather than through the states. If that happens, there could be a Polis vs. Hancock showdown. I mean, if Weld County can give Polis the finger without consequence, why not a city simply trying to help its underserved populations?
One of the great problems in delivering the vaccines has been the matter of inequity, another area Denver wants to address. We know that Black and Hispanic people have been hit hardest by the virus, and that, for a variety of reasons, they’ve also been less likely to get the vaccine.
But who would have taken into account that there would also be inequality based on political affiliation? I assume some of this has to do with how anti-vaxxers vote, but that can’t possibly explain the 29% number. There are plenty of anti-vaxxers on the left.
Some of it may have to do with the fact that even when you’ve received the vaccination — I am glad to say, as an old person, that I’ve had both shots — you’re still being advised to wear masks, still being advised to socially distance. That can be discouraging.
And then there’s the scary matter of the variants seen in South Africa, in South America, in New York, in California and elsewhere. We don’t know how the vaccines will fare against the variants, but when the question was put to Dr. Fauci — who’s also found himself in the middle of the political wars — he said to definitely take the vaccine, and that even if the vaccines don’t directly affect the variants, the buildup in antibodies will likely make them less dangerous.
And, most important, the best way to stop the mutations is to stop the spread of the virus, which brings us back to the vaccines and, of course, the need for herd immunity to kick in.
For a story about failing to take the vaccine, check out this article in the Ouray Plaindealer, which reports that cops on the Ouray police force were among the first offered the vaccine and yet most refused. Then nearly everyone on the force became ill, leaving one part-timer in command.
And then there’s this one out of Israel, which has been quite successful in distributing the vaccines, although not apparently to Palestinians, of gatherings being limited to those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus. There’s a vaccination green passport you can get, which may be the future of, say, global travel, or maybe watching a ballgame in person. Of course, that brings us back to the inequality question, this time between richer and poorer countries. And it also should be noted that only half of Israel’s population has taken the vaccine.
But Israel is hoping that such a perk would encourage vaccinations. Would that work in America? Only if you think it’s more convincing than the 500,000 who never got the chance to choose.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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