It's been well over a year since the coronavirus pandemic first hit, and in that time, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. have died as a result of COVID-19. Even so, conservatives have consistently downplayed the pandemic and ignored vaccines — until now, it seems. As case counts rise nationwide, partially thanks to the highly contagious delta variant, Republicans like former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders are changing their tune. This week, Sanders wrote about the "Trump vaccine," which...what the hell is that even?
In a Sunday op-ed for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sanders, who is currently running for governor of the state, detailed her decision to get the so-called "Trump" vaccine. Of course, she also took time to fire shots at Dr. Anthony Fauci and the current Biden administration, writing, "Dr. Fauci and the 'because science says so' crowd of arrogant, condescending politicians and bureaucrats were wrong about more than their mandates and shutdowns that have inflicted incalculable harm on our people and economy."
Sanders then went on to praise Donald Trump's initial vaccine initiative, known as Operation Warp Speed. She blamed vaccine hesitancy on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, stating, "Because of what they heard from politicians and TV 'experts,' many Americans were scared the vaccines were not safe."
"If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time," she continued.
Of course, the irony in Sanders' entire op-ed is thick. While she tries to blame Democrats for low vaccination rates, she ignores the role that anti-vaccine Republicans played. From Trump himself being the single-worst source of coronavirus information, to networks like Fox platforming hosts like Sean Hannity — who, despite now being super into vaccines, once referred to the pandemic as a "hoax" to "bludgeon" Trump — there's a lot to suggest that the call is really coming from inside the house, Sanders.
Predictably, Sanders attributed her decision to eventually get the vaccine for herself and her family to Trump, writing, "If getting the vaccine was safe enough for them, I felt it was safe enough for me." But overall, Sanders' op-ed is a poor attempt to further politicize the pandemic and rewrite history. To be clear, there is no Trump or Biden vaccine. Trump may have been president while some vaccines were developed, but that does not mean they belong to him.
If Sanders really wants to go down the path of politicizing vaccines by invoking Operation Warp Speed, then we also need to be honest about it. While Sanders writes fondly of the program, it wasn't a hit by any means. Although Operation Warp Speed officials projected they'd vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020, Bloomberg reported that as of Dec. 28, only 2.13 million people received their first dose of vaccines. Sure, Trump poured a lot of money into developing vaccines, but he didn't do much to ensure proper distribution.
Some say Sanders should be praised for mentioning vaccines at all, given that in Arkansas, only 36% of people are fully vaccinated. Personally, though, I'm not going to jump up and down for someone who really didn't even encourage people to get the vaccine themselves. "I understand that the decision to be vaccinated is deeply personal and not an easy one to make," Sanders wrote. "I have many friends who have expressed sincere concerns about being vaccinated, and it isn’t my place to tell them what to do.”
Besides, let's not forget this is the person who appeared on Fox just last Friday and said, "If I am elected governor here in Arkansas, we will not have mask mandates, we will not have mandates on the vaccine, we will not shut down churches and schools and other large gatherings, because we believe in personal freedom and responsibility."