For the last year or so, Idaho’s Governor wannabes and their legislative supporters have engaged in pandemic politicking to win over voters. They have railed against scientifically proven preventive measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. Those measures, particularly the consistent use of masks in public, could have prevented the great majority of coronavirus infections and deaths in Idaho and across the country, benefitting people of every political persuasion.
The Ammon Bundys and Janice McGeachins of Idaho have portrayed mask wearing as a personal freedom issue, rather than the love-thy-neighbor protective measure that it really is. Consequently, needless divisiveness ripped through our good State, pitting families, friends and neighbors against one another to no good end.
With the advent of several effective vaccines that have brought serious infections under control, the politics of the pandemic have taken a perverse turn. Our science-denying politicians, egged on by the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Fox News talking heads, have taken to badmouthing efforts to vaccinate the public to save lives. The irony of this ill-advised strategy is that the people most likely to suffer are their own supporters.
Since the first of the year, the vaccines approved for usage have dramatically reduced Covid-19 infections and deaths in the U.S. As vaccinations have increased, the death rate has plummeted. The people now at greatest risk are those who are not fully vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says that 99.2% of Covid-19 deaths in June were suffered by unvaccinated Americans. The Director of Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare, David Jeppesen, reported a similar death rate in Idaho. He recently said that 98.8% of the 443 Idahoans who died of Covid-19 from January 1 through July 3 were unvaccinated. These figures show the effectiveness of the vaccines and the dangers posed to those who refuse their protection. Practically every Covid-19 death is preventable.
There is a political divide between the parties on this critical public health issue. Recent polling disclosed that about 38% of Republicans said they would “definitely” not get shots, while less than 5% of Democrats would refuse. The disparity shows up in every published vaccination map. The historic blue states have much higher vaccination rates than the historic red states. The southern states generally have the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Idaho’s rate of fully vaccinated stands at 44.6%, well below the national average of 55.9%.
When an Idahoan dies of Covid-19, there is less than a 2% chance that the person has been vaccinated. The same holds true across the country. There is also a substantial likelihood that the person is a Republican, since the vaccination rate among Democrats is substantially greater. Unvaccinated Republicans are a prime target for the virus.
When Ammon Bundy discourages vaccinations, like when he attended the burning of a giant syringe in April, he puts Republicans most at risk. When Janice McGeachin and the Idaho Freedom Foundation rail against improving Idaho’s vaccination rate, they primarily jeopardize the health of their own followers.
Fox News talking heads, like Tucker Carlson, may well consign some of their conservative listeners to Covid deaths by scaring them out of getting vaccinated. It is a perverse irony that those who purport to love their followers are the ones who jeopardize the health of those followers with false and misleading contentions about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and the substantial protection afforded by vaccination.