Even though I have been following the shenanigans of anti-vaxxers and the politicization of medicine closely, I’ve stayed mostly optimistic that advances in medical science would win everyone over eventually. But new research suggests that innovations in COVID treatment and vaccine development are actually making Republicans more suspicious of science, not less. Not only was I wrong, but the schism between Republicans and Democrats is getting even bigger when it comes to vaccines.
The report, which was released this morning, was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), is based on almost 2,000 surveys conducted in September 2021. What the researchers found was that opinions about medical science — particularly when it comes to the pandemic — line up pretty neatly with party lines. For example, 52% of Republicans said they think that booster vaccines are evidence that the original vaccines don’t work, while 82% of Democrats said that booster vaccines are evidence that scientists are working to make vaccines more effective.
This red and blue difference in opinion is not surprising. We’ve known for a while that Republicans were more likely to distrust science. What is surprising — to me, at least — is that not only are conservatives unconvinced by what seem like the miraculously quick ways that medical science has evolved to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re more skeptical than ever. Almost 40% of Republicans surveyed said that breakthrough infections are evidence that vaccines are ineffective, even though scientists have been telling us from the jump that there is no such thing as a perfect vaccine, and that we should expect breakthrough infections as a matter of course.
What’s worse is that as coronavirus continues to spread among the unvaccinated, a fact which most experts agree on, that’s not how Republicans see things. Instead, 58% of Republicans involved in the study said that the spread of COVID can be blamed on immigrants and tourists. And while 65% of Democrats and over 50% of vaccinated individuals said that they are angry at unvaccinated people for recent surges, 59% of Republicans and 56% of unvaccinated people are mad at the government. In other words, Republicans and unvaccinated people blame everyone but themselves for the current state of the pandemic.