With the rapid spread of the Delta variant of covid-19 that now makes up 83% of the cases, Republican opposition to the vaccines may be wavering. House minority leader Steve Scalise, who had refused to get the vaccine before, has just announced that he got the first shot.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) got his first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine Sunday, calling it “safe and effective,” Nola reports.
Driving the news: Scalise said that his decision to get vaccinated was driven by the spread of the Delta variant, which he noted was “aggressive” as well as a recent spike in case numbers.
Why it matters: A number of public opinion polls have shown Republicans have been among the most vaccine-hesitant group in the country, and some have urged public officials to more publicly encourage constituents to get inoculated.
Fox News has been one of the biggest purveyors of misinformation about the extent and threat of covid-19 and has played a central role in increasing vaccine skepticism. This is appallingly irresponsible behavior given the risk to people’s lives. But it appears that reality may be finally sinking in with at least some of its show hosts.
Fox News host Sean Hannity had a message for viewers of his primetime show on Monday night: “Please take Covid seriously.”
The influential host, a close ally of Donald Trump, also said: “I believe in science, I believe in the science of vaccination.”
Hannity has voiced support for science and vaccines before but his message still made news. Fox News has been widely criticised for casting doubt on vaccines.
But change seemed to be in the air in some studios, as hosts Steve Doocy and Bill Hemmer made statements in support of vaccination and so – after referring critically to a ruling which upheld a vaccination requirement for students in Indiana – did Hannity.
“Just like we’ve been saying,” he said, “please take Covid seriously. I can’t say it enough. Enough people have died. We don’t need any more deaths.
“Research like crazy, talk to your doctor, your doctors, medical professionals you trust based on your unique medical history, your current medical condition, and you and your doctor make a very important decision for your own safety. Take it seriously.
“You also have a right to medical privacy, doctor-patient confidentiality is also important.
“And it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science, I believe in the science of vaccination.”
Also on Monday, CNN reported that Fox News has “quietly” introduced vaccine passports at its own offices, having “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status”.
But the die-hard crazies at Fox news are still holding out.
Last week, the New York Times reported on statements made by two of the most influential anchors, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. Carlson said a Biden administration plan to offer vaccinations door to door was meant to “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need” and called the initiative “the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far”.
On Monday night, he said Walensky’s statement about a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” was “simply untrue”.
But vaccine skepticism or resistance remains common at Fox News. On Monday morning, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said: “Listen, if you didn’t get a vaccination, that’s your choice, but if you did, like I did and they did and maybe you did, then you should not wear a mask.
“And if you did and if you want to go cliff diving this weekend, you don’t have to check with me.”
Kilmeade also argued that the federal government is not meant to protect Americans.
“That is not their job,” Kilmeade said. “It’s not their job to protect anybody.”
Doocy said: “If you have the chance, get the shot, it will save your life.”
Kilmeade has long been the resident village idiot at Fox News but his statement that it is not the government’s role to protect people takes the cake. The government cannot stop you from doing foolish things but it is the government’s role to try and protect people over things over which they have no personal control, like food and drug safety, and ensuring clean water and air.
The anti-vaxxers have dug themselves into a deep hole and it is going to be hard to get them to come out. Fox News can help, although I am sure some hard core resistors will now tune them out and shift to places like Newsmax to have their anti-vax myths reinforced.