Polarization and Vaccines

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August 10, 2021 12:32 p.m.

This is perhaps a minor point. But I want to return to it. A key reason we’re experiencing the fourth COVID wave in the US – albeit one that has far less hospitalizations and deaths thanks to vaccines – is that way too many people still haven’t gotten vaccinated. From an epidemiological perspective we’re not nearly where we want to be. But as we talk about the political polarization over vaccines, things are a bit different.

Among Americans over the age of 18 fully 71% have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

As an epidemiological matter we need all that 71% to get both their shots. Currently that fully vaccinated number is 61%. And that should shift significantly over the next few weeks as many of those people get their second shots and then wait for two more weeks for the full immune effect to take hold. But as a proxy for being for or against vaccines, even the single shot is a good measure. And that means that an overwhelming majority of the people who participate meaningfully in the national political conversation and have even the right to vote are vaccinated.

This becomes even more the case when you add in the age factor. Voter participation almost universally goes up with age. The same is true with COVID vaccines. 90% of Americans over 65 have had at least one shot. And in basically every age segment from age 12 on up the vaccination rate gets higher. Point being, among the voting public the vaccinated already overwhelmingly outnumber the unvaccinated.

The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday about how vaccination status is increasingly dividing Americans. “From family gatherings to weddings to workplaces, vaccinated Americans are drawing new, sharper lines around who they choose to spend time with amid the rise of the highly-transmissible Delta variant. And the unvaccinated are growing testy over being excluded and feeling judged for exercising their right to make their own health choices.”

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“Growing testy over being excluded and feeling judged” might stand as a good summation of Trumpite politics generally. But that’s for another post.

These divisions obviously have political implications too. But it’s important to remember that the voluntarily unvaccinated are overwhelmingly outnumbered in political terms and growing more so.

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