GOP Governors And WH Concerned With Partisan Divide On Vaccine Hesitancy

A syringe is filled with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on March 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Ph... A syringe is filled with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on March 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS

Despite the country hitting record numbers of daily vaccinations against COVID-19, recent polling has shown higher vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, prompting growing concerns among GOP governors amid the White House decrying the partisan divide over vaccinations to combat the pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday acknowledged the uphill battle of a Democratic administration trying to convince Trump supporters to get vaccinated, especially in the aftermath of a tumultuous election cycle filled with then-President Trump’s election fraud falsehoods.

“We recognize as a Democratic administration with a Democratic president that we may not be the most effective messenger to communicate with hardcore supporters of the former president, and we have to be clear-eyed about that,” Psaki said on Friday.

Psaki’s remarks came a day after President Biden announced that he will direct states, tribes and territories to open vaccine eligibility to all American adults by May 1. In his first primetime address, Biden urged the public to do its part to fight the virus, which includes getting vaccinated and encouraging their communities to do the same.

Although Trump finally urged Americans to get vaccinated during his remarks at CPAC last month, the former president did not get vaccinated on air — unlike former Vice President Mike Pence, President Biden and VP Kamala Harris — to set an example for the public. According to reports, Trump quietly received COVID-19 vaccinations in January before leaving the White House.

On Sunday, Republican governors and White House officials found common ground when it comes to concerns surrounding the politicization of COVID-19 vaccines:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser

Responding to an NPR/PBS NewsHour poll showing 47% of Trump voters saying they refuse to get vaccinated, compared to 10% of Biden voters indicating their opposition to receiving COVID-19 vaccines, Fauci told MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” that he finds a large number of vaccine hesitancy among supporters of former President Trump to be “disturbing.”

Fauci said he hopes that the former president will encourage his supporters to get inoculated against COVID-19 while expressing his disbelief over how “a large proportion of a certain group of people” refuse to get vaccinated due to “political consideration.”

“It makes absolutely no sense,” Fauci said. “And I’ve been saying that for so long. We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common sense, no-brainer public health things.”


Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the White House COVID Equity Task Force and associate dean at Yale

Pressed on a CBS News poll showing vaccine hesitancy higher among Republicans, Nunez-Smith expressed her dismay with the politicization of mitigation measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Nunez-Smith said that the White House recognizes the need for “unique messages for different groups,” which includes the Biden administration working with “trusted messengers” across the political spectrum.

“I think that is incredibly valuable in informing both our national public education campaign as well as policy moving forward,” Nunez-Smith said.

Asked how the Biden administration could persuade those who aren’t supporters of the President, Nunez-Smith said that the White House is “absolutely aware” of the need to reach across the aisle as it prepares to launch its national public education campaign, which she said will be “timed really appropriately” with increasing vaccine supplies nationwide.


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)

After saying that Maryland won’t have to wait until May 1 for adults in his state to gain vaccine eligibility, on the condition that the federal government can deliver the supply needed as soon as possible, Hogan told CNN that Trump “certainly didn’t help” with encouraging the public to adhere to mask-wearing and ensuring the safety of vaccines during his presidency.

However, Hogan stopped short of pinning full blame on Trump by arguing that there are “a lot of disinformation campaigns out there from the right and the left” working to dissuade the public from getting vaccinated.

Hogan added that his state is spending millions of dollars to overcome that obstacle by launching public information spots.

“We’re going to have to get more people vaccinated, and get more — everybody willing to take this vaccine, if we’re going to get it under control and try to get life back to normal,” Hogan said.


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)

Appearing on CBS, Hutchinson was pressed on the network’s polling that shows the partisan divide on getting vaccinated, with young Republicans particularly demonstrating resistance to complying with the public health measure.

Hutchinson acknowledged that the poll numbers are “troubling” in a “very pro-Trump” state like Arkansas.

“Whenever we are opening up eligibility for the vaccine, we’re moving through it very quickly because we’re not having everybody sign up to take it,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said that his state is addressing vaccine hesitancy by having influencers broaden messaging to “help shape the thinking” surrounding vaccine safety and efficacy.

Hutchinson added that the more people get the vaccine, the more they realize that it’s a pathway toward a sense of normalcy.

Hutchinson was then pressed on why he’s considering lifting the state’s mask mandate at the end of the month, given his acknowledgment of vaccine hesitancy in the red state. The Arkansas governor reiterated his previous remarks that he wanted a “ramp in” rather than a “jump off the bridge” approach to rolling back the mask mandate, meaning that the fate of the public health measure will depend on the rate of infections and hospitalizations toward the end of the month.

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