IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Some Republican leaders get vaccines wrong in important ways

When we're hoping that Republican senators sound more like Trump, not less, you know we've reached a strange point in a debate.
Image: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the confirmation hearing for Vivek Murthy and Rachel Levine before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee Feb. 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the confirmation hearing for Vivek Murthy and Rachel Levine before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee Feb. 25, 2021 on Capitol Hill.Tom Brenner / Pool via Getty Images

To defeat the pandemic, there's a simple and unavoidable truth: the United States needs to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, as quickly as possible. So far, the national effort is proceeding apace, with nearly 2.5 million shots per day -- a total 10 times larger than the numbers we saw as 2021 got underway.

But there's another simple and unavoidable truth that doesn't help us reach our goal: some Americans insist they don't want to get the vaccine and remain indifferent to the public-health consequences. Regrettably, politics is contributing to the problem. A Washington Post analysis noted late last week that Republican men, in particular, are "a central part of coronavirus vaccine resistance."

With this in mind, it matters when prominent political voices whom Republican men tend to listen to speak up and encourage people to do the right thing. Last night, for example, Donald Trump called into a Fox News show and more or less recommended that everyone get vaccinated.

"I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don't want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly," Trump said on Fox News.... "But you know, again, we have our freedoms, and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also. But it's a great vaccine. It's a safe vaccine, and it's something that works."

This is a little messier than it probably should be. Given the seriousness of the pandemic, it's best when prominent voices avoid saying things such as, "I would recommend it, but...."

Having said that, the bottom line remains the same: Trump has nevertheless encouraged Americans, more than once, to do the smart and responsible thing.

Alas, some of the former president's Capitol Hill allies really aren't helping. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, said yesterday that because he's already had COVID, he's "going with the science" and not bothering with a vaccination. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said something similar last week.

The trouble, of course, is that "the science" doesn't say what they think it says.

Doctors, public health experts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are clear: Get the coronavirus vaccine even if you had covid-19. Yes, people who had the disease produce antibodies that provide immunity from the coronavirus. But that immunity fades over time, and the body's natural response may not be enough to prevent a repeat infection 90 days after the first one, the CDC says.

But perhaps least helpful of all was Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who reportedly planned to get vaccinated, and was waiting for the Johnson & Johnson shot, but told reporters that he was "disappointed that it's using, you know, aborted fetus in its constitution."

Braun was apparently referring to fetal tissue research, which enjoyed broad, bipartisan support way back in the 1990s.

When we're hoping that Republican senators sound more like Trump, not less, you know we've reached a strange point in a debate.