Nearly one-third of all Republicans are opposed to receiving coronavirus vaccinations, according to a growing number of polls, as reports indicate many Americans rejecting the jab have cited former President Donald Trump’s misinformation about Covid-19.
Those who have said they were “definitely not” planning on getting a coronavirus vaccine suggested the global pandemic had been overblown by the media and the Democratic Party in interviews with the Washington Post for a report published on Monday.
The comments largely reflected the former president’s misleading statements and outright falsities about the novel virus as it swept through the United States last year, at a time when Mr Trump was claiming the virus would disappear and was not a threat to the nation. More than 500,000 Americans have since died as a result of the pandemic.
“I think the president set the tone early on by downplaying the coronavirus or comparing it to the flu,” Robert Coon, a GOP consultant in Arkansas, told the newspaper. “For a lot of people, the first impression was that it’s not that big a deal, and it’s kind of hard to come back from that.”
Mr Trump implored his supporters to “go get your shot” during his first major post-presidency speech at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference — but he spent months before that downplaying the lethal side effects some infected patients have endured while politicizing Covid-19 safety regulations, including wearing face masks.
When the former president was infected with coronavirus, he took off his mask in front of the cameras, went on a drive-by greeting in an enclosed SUV with members of the Secret Service to wave at his supporters and apparently did not disclose the full side effects he suffered.
His doctors later admit they had not been fully transparent to the press while speaking outside of Walter Reed Medical Center, where the president was taken after his oxygen levels dipped. The former president’s doctors did not initially disclose whether Mr Trump had received supplemental oxygen, though it was later confirmed he did.
Skepticism and vaccine hesitancy has concerned health experts nationwide, particularly in Black communities. Medical experts have worked to counter a history of distrust of medicines by employing religious, cultural and community leaders to share information about the vaccine.
Those who spoke to the Post appeared to echo Mr Trump’s comments in some cases, with one of the former president’s supporters saying: “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. Personally, I don’t think it’s any worse than the flu.”
Mr Trump routinely referred to the novel coronavirus as “the flu” from the White House podium, also using offensive terms like the “China virus” to describe Covid-19. He simultaneously theorized in public about ingesting disinfectants to counter the virus, an idea that was swiftly denounced by the international scientific and health communities.