Since the tools we’ve been using to track the pandemic are now mostly broken or outdated, it’s a little harder to know when and if the virus might resurface again. But in recent weeks there has been no doubt: Sewage measurements and other calculations have clearly shown that infections are on the rise again. Hopefully, despite the shift to cooler weather in the Northeast, the recent plateau in cases means the trend is reversing.
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When KFF asked Americans earlier this month if they thought cases were increasing, about a third said no. This is a minority position, but the demographic divisions on the issue are telling. Three-quarters of Democrats said they believed in a new wave; most Republicans have not. Among those who have never been vaccinated against the coronavirus, 6 in 10 people do not believe in a new wave of infections.
Of course, this unvaccinated population is disproportionately made up of Republicans.
In other words, even when simply considering the state of the pandemic, partisan differences emerge in ways that intersect with opinions on the vaccine. And not just past opinions; that is, whether people have been vaccinated in the past. KFF asked respondents if they intended to receive the newly formulated vaccine, finding that less than half of Americans responded in the affirmative.
But again, there is a partisan divide. Among Democrats, two-thirds of respondents said they had been vaccinated and would get vaccinated again; a fifth said they had been vaccinated and that was it. Among Republicans, only about a quarter had been vaccinated and would be vaccinated again. Most of those who had been vaccinated had no plans to do so again.
The causes of this phenomenon have been continually examined. Donald Trump’s insistence on undermining health experts’ recommendations in 2020 – aimed at curbing the pandemic before the November election – has reinforced skepticism about the vaccines for which Trump hoped to take credit. The fact that the rollout was undertaken primarily by the Biden administration gave Trump and other Republicans (notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R)) additional reason to use vaccines and vaccination efforts like a foil.
THE effects of this have also been well examined. In Florida and Ohio, Republicans were significantly more likely to die from covid-19 after vaccines became available.
KFF’s new research shows that vaccine skepticism, stemming from doubt in medical experts, has itself spilled over into other vaccination programs. KFF asked about the safety of vaccines against covid-19, influenza and (among respondents aged 60 and over) respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Democrats were consistently more likely than Republicans to say vaccines were safe. Fewer than half of Republicans said the RSV or coronavirus vaccines were safe.
As expected, Republicans were also less likely to say they planned to get vaccinated to protect against these viruses. Barely half of Republicans said they planned to get a flu shot, 25 points lower than the percentage of Democrats who said they would. The gap on the coronavirus, as mentioned above, is approaching 50 points.
The effects here are also predictable. Fewer individuals vaccinated means more individuals infected and/or contracting viruses whose health effects deteriorate. This means that if covid-19, flu or RSV reappears this winter, more people will get sicker or be at risk of death.
Whether or not you think these flare-ups are happening.