Anti-vaccine Republicans are actively ruining our chances for herd immunity

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The vaccines finally seem to be rolling out at a hopeful pace. For many of us, herd immunity has been the light at the end of this year-plus-long tunnel. The problem now is that some people — a.k.a. a large swath of Republicans — won’t get vaccinated, and their lack of buy-in could really put a dimmer switch on the prospect of timely herd immunity. Here’s what you need to know about the conservatives cock blocking our mask-free future.

First of all, there’s no exact way to figure out how many Republicans will or won’t get the vaccine, but according to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), almost 30% of GOP voters said, in January, that they would not get vaccinated. That number dropped to 21% in February in the KFF polls. That’s a significant change, but unfortunately, not all the polls look that optimistic.

According to a poll taken by Axios/IPSOS in January and February, only 51% of Republicans said they would get the vaccine once it became available to them. A Gallup poll released at the beginning of February had similar results. So, while these statistics vary, we can estimate that 20% and 50% of Republicans aren’t planning to get vaccinated.

You might be wondering why conservatives are waffling about the vaxx, since even their bumbling overlord got vaccinated before he left office and publicly told people to, “get their shot.” The explanation is complex. Some people won’t get the shot for religious reasons. Some conservatives still think COVID-19 is a hoax, some think the vaccine is dangerous, some don’t trust the government, and some of them just think it’s no worse than the flu, according to the Washington Post.

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This logic is questionable. Not only does the flu kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, many experts think comparing COVID-19 and influenza is like comparing bananas to jackfruits. The real problem with this flawed logic is that, in this case, if a significant number of people opt out, it affects all of us. Herd immunity is only possible if 70% of us either get vaccinated or contract and recover from COVID-19.

Some folks aren’t really looking at the big picture, though. “If the coronavirus is supposed to kill you, it’s going to kill you even if you hide under a rock and wear a mask,” Gary, a two-time Trump voter in West Virginia who won’t get the vaxx, told the Post. Look, it’s easy to hate on Gary and people like him who hold these uniquely dangerous beliefs, but not only do we need them to get vaccinated — and to vote differently or not at all — shame is not an effective motivator.