Anti-vaxxers in the Republican party

    When he’s right, he’s right.

    Consider this a sequel to Friday’s post about the growing gap in vaccination rates between blue counties and red counties. There’s no silver-bullet explanation for why that gap exists but one factor is the right’s willingness to promote anti-vaxxers on its activist and media platforms. Case in point: America’s foremost COVID vaccine truther, “the pandemic’s wrongest man,” Alex Berenson, addressed CPAC yesterday. (And not for the first time.) Berenson spent most of last year insisting that COVID wasn’t as dangerous as the experts claimed as the death toll rose into the hundreds of thousands and has spent most of this year arguing that the vaccines are more dangerous than the experts claim as the death toll in America’s newly immunized population has dwindled.

    Normally someone who’d written “I hate our new president” in early 2017 wouldn’t be granted an audience at the country’s premier conservative conference but political differences evidently can be set aside for the common cause of discouraging right-wingers from getting vaccinated. Which led to this nihilistic spectacle, in which Berenson pointed out that the feds’ effort to reach 90 percent vaccination had failed — and drew applause for it from parts of the crowd.

    I haven’t heard of him being invited to mainstream Democratic or liberal conferences to push anti-vaxxism even though it was Trump’s Republican administration that jumpstarted the vaccination effort last year with Operation Warp Speed. Why is that? If there’s no partisan divide on the vaccines, why is Alex Berenson a recurring guest on Tucker Carlson’s show but not Rachel Maddow’s?

    The day before Berenson spoke, one of MAGA’s favorite politicians tweeted this:

    She’s being slippery. A 95-year-old who was vaccinated six months ago and then succumbed to old age last week would qualify as a death “after” taking the vaccine even though there’s no reason to believe that the vaccine caused it. Why are some Republican politicians in Congress pushing messages like this but no Democrats, not even the populist fringers on the other side like AOC?

    Fauci was asked about the CPAC applause on CNN this morning. What could he say?

    There’s news floating around today from CBS that the unvaccinated are responsible for 99.7 percent of new COVID cases. That claim isn’t sourced, and it sounds unlikely to me — for one thing, the CDC said in May that vaccinated people don’t need to be tested routinely anymore or after being exposed to someone with the disease unless they’re experiencing symptoms. There are probably many asymptomatic infections among vaccinated people that aren’t showing up in the official numbers because the vaccinated aren’t bothering with tests now, by and large.

    But if the case numbers aren’t rock solid, the hospitalization and death numbers are. Per the AP, the unvaccinated account for 98.9 percent of hospitalizations now and 99.2 percent of deaths. In the UK, cases are skyrocketing but hospitals are able to cope comfortably with the surge because the most vulnerable people aren’t getting sick enough to require medical care after being immunized:

    Even the “bad news” out of Israel last week, that Pfizer’s vaccine is only 64 percent effective at preventing infection by the Delta variant, is offset by the good news that it’s still 90+ percent effective at preventing serious illness. Other studies suggest that Pfizer does better against Delta than the Israeli data would have us believe, although that may be a function of how recently a person had been vaccinated before being infected:

    So strong is the vaccine against even the most dangerous variant that the usually hypercautious CDC found itself in the unusual position a few days ago of informing Americans that they don’t need a booster to stay safe.

    But despite all of that encouraging news, here’s what the most influential conservative TV host in America was using his platform for yesterday:

    Weinstein is another vaccine skeptic, someone who claimed recently on Twitter that “nearly all” of the vaccinated people he’d spoken to had experienced “scary symptoms” — a claim totally undercut by polling — and who’s lately been pushing ivermectin as another miracle cure for COVID in the mold of hydroxychloroquine even though the science on it is unsettled. His point here that vaccination can create evolutionary pressure on the virus to mutate into more dangerous forms is true as far as it goes but less true with very strong vaccines like the mRNA ones we’re using, especially in people who’ve had both doses. And of course, dangerous variants don’t need vaccines to develop. On the contrary, the country that gave us Delta has literally a billion unvaccinated people in it.

    Tucker perks up at Weinstein’s point, though, because he knows his fans are eager to hear the vaccines disparaged and the idea that vaccination might somehow be making the pandemic worse is irresistible to that mindset. That’s the link between the Weinstein clip and Berenson yesterday at CPAC — when forced to choose between providing sound but unwelcome information to their audiences and telling them what they want to hear, no matter how wrong and pernicious, too many righty activists and media heroes typically opt for the latter. And not just on the subject of vaccination.

    Here’s Adam Kinzinger doing what little he can to counterprogram this garbage.

    What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments below!

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