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It's not just Covid vaccinations: A partisan gap emerges on flu shots

There's evidence to suggest that the pandemic has created a partisan gap on flu shots that didn't exist before 2020.
Image: California Flu Deaths Rise Sharply In January
A woman receives a flu shot at a Walgreens pharmacy on Jan. 22, 2018 in San Francisco.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Kaiser Family Foundation published its latest report on the domestic vaccination rate and found a partisan gap that's existed for months: Republican voters are three times more likely to be unvaccinated against Covid-19 than Democratic voters.

The KFF findings added that when predicting whether someone's vaccinated, it's not age, race, education, or insurance status that matters most — it's party affiliation.

But as discouraging as this persistent trend is, it also leads to questions about the degree to which this dynamic might affect other areas of public health. CNN's Harry Enten made the case this week that partisan attitudes toward Covid-19 shots appear to have transferred to decisions about annual flu shots.

Take a look at two recent polls that have asked about whether or not people have gotten the flu shot: Axios/Ipsos and Kaiser Family Foundation. By assessing two polls instead of one, we know what we're seeing is a real phenomenon and not statistical noise. According to the Ipsos data, 68% of Democrats said they have gotten a flu shot or are very likely to get one. Just 44% of Republicans said the same. This 24-point gap is very similar to the 30-point gap for Covid-19 vaccines. The Kaiser poll shows basically the same thing.

The same analysis reviewed Americans' attitudes toward flu shots from recent years — before the Covid-19 crisis — and found there was no meaningful difference between Democratic and Republican voters.

In other words, there's evidence to suggest that the pandemic has created a partisan gap on flu shots that didn't exist before 2020.

And that's part of a larger concern that's emerged in recent months: As much of the right rejects Covid-19 vaccinations, these same attitudes might start affecting how Republicans approach related protections.

It was last month, example, when Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said he wanted to "ban all vaccine mandates" in his home state of Ohio — a policy that would presumably undermine the Buckeye States' policy requiring all kinds of immunizations before children can attend public schools.

A few weeks earlier, Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz, who leads a health care committee in Florida's legislature, said the state may "review" mandate policies for other vaccines. (Diaz later walked back his comment.)

It's hard not to wonder whether, once the Covid-19 crisis is behind us, a significant segment of the population will be more resistant to getting shots than before.