Why is America ignorant

Corona | Deniers and hesitants: is the US losing the vaccination race?

The US is threatening the Vaccinating to fall back. Joe Biden desperately tries to reach skeptical supporters of the Republicans, but also minorities. A situation that can also threaten in Germany.

Joe Biden is a quieter president. But right now he sounds like a barker who still has to get rid of his perishable goods quickly. Or like the moderator of one of the many teleshopping channels that run around the clock.

When and where the US President can, he will place sentences like these: "The vaccine is free for everyone - free!", "Text your zip code to this telephone number and you will immediately be informed of the next location where you will be vaccinated or: "It's easy. It's convenient. And it's free!"

On top of that, Joe Biden announces discounts. Anyone who is a fisherman or hunter in the state of Maine no longer has to pay for their license if they get vaccinated. And if you don't have a car, you can have the private transport services Uber or Lyft drive you there and back for free. Most recently, Biden advertised with the slogan "Vaxxed or Masked" that people who were vaccinated often no longer have to wear masks.

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio also recently devoured a portion of French fries and a burger from the Shake Shack restaurant chain at a press conference. "Mmmm ... vaccination", de Blasio smacked the cameras to draw attention to their free campaign "Get your vax, get your shack".

Lack of willingness to vaccinate

As amusing as the political advertising measures may seem, the background is serious: Ironically, the USA, the country with the most vaccine available, is in danger of losing the race for adequate immunization for its population. For a long time, as in Germany, the declared goal was so-called herd immunity, i.e. the moment when enough people will be immune to Covid-19 to be able to return to a life without restrictions.

For this reason, Joe Biden wanted at least 70 percent of adults to have vaccinated at least the first time by the American national holiday, Independence Day on July 4th. And after all, in the three states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont this goal has already been achieved.

Germany is gradually catching up

But after the "Operation Warp Speed" started by Trump and the speed at vaccination accelerated under Joe Biden, the increase in vaccination rates is now slowing down in many states. Disillusionment and worries are widespread among those responsible.

According to current data from the American health authority CDC, around 43 percent of US citizens have received their first vaccination so far. Around 36 percent are already fully vaccinated. For comparison: According to the Federal Ministry of Health, around 36 percent of people in Germany have had their first vaccination and around 11 percent have already received all of the doses.

The graph shows the percentage of residents in the USA and Germany who have already received the first dose of vaccine (source: Our World in Data):

Will the USA now be overtaken by other countries? Is there a threat of a drop in vaccination speed in Germany too? According to the CDC, the vaccination rate is significantly lower in rural areas than in large cities and in densely populated areas. But even in urban areas, the increase has recently slowed. If the US does not achieve a sufficiently high immunization rate, the country could be hit by many Covid-19 outbreaks again next winter. The immunologist and chief advisor to the US President on health issues, Anthony Fauci, recently warned of this.

Republican supporters hesitate

One of the reasons for the slowdown is said to be people who are referred to as "Vaccine Hesitants". According to surveys in the state of Wyoming, for example, more than a quarter of adults say that they "definitely do not" or "may not want to" want to be vaccinated. In Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, and Kentucky, more than 20 percent say that too.

Many US media have used polls to identify Republican voters in particular. In fact, in mid-April, the polling institute at Monmouth University in New Jersey state that 43 percent of Republican supporters want to bypass a vaccination. At the time, only 5 percent of the Democrats did not intend to be vaccinated.

This is quite remarkable, especially because ex-President Donald Trump himself was vaccinated a long time ago, he had a notable success in the rapid development with "Operation Warp Speed" and he recently called on the Republican supporters to be vaccinated again. He was to a certain extent the "father of the vaccine" he also announced and this vaccine was a "miracle", he said in an interview with the "New York Post".

Invasive state and restrictions on freedom

Trump does not seem to be the immediate reason for the vaccination skepticism of many Republican supporters. Many US experts share this assessment that the fundamental political attitude is one of the main reasons to oppose the vaccination recommendations of the state. In particular, the supporters of the ideology of "American exceptionalism", which is widespread among Republicans, are therefore skeptical. To put it simply, many feel that what comes from the state is excessive and restricts their own freedom.

Even among senators and representatives of the House of Representatives there is this divide. According to a survey, the vaccination rate among Democrats in both chambers is now 100 percent. Among Republicans, 44.8 percent of the House of Representatives say they have been vaccinated. For Republican senators, it's at least 92 percent.

Social questions and lack of access

In fact, the reasons for the relapse in vaccination speed are more complex than simply being attributed to political attitudes. Very often it is also about social issues and a lack of information and access.

Tom Frieden, ex-head of the CDC under Barack Obama (Source: Vital Strategies)
This is what Tom Frieden says, who headed the US health authority CDC from 2009 to 2017 under Barack Obama. Today he is Executive President and CEO of the Vital Strategies health initiative. The story of conservative vaccination refusals is "not very precise", criticized Frieden recently. You have to look at the reasons much broader.

"The truth is," says Tom Frieden in response to a written request from t-online, "that most people lack not the willingness, but the access to vaccines". This is the bigger problem than the complete refusers. "More than 77 percent of white adults who want a vaccination got it, compared to 60 percent of black adults and 55 percent of Hispanics who want it."

This means that precisely those groups that were more severely affected by Covid 19 diseases are currently less protected by vaccinations.

Depoliticize vaccination

But how do people convince? "It is important that we keep the political out of informing about vaccination and stick to the communication of science and facts," said Frieden. To do this, you have to deal honestly with what you don't know. Doctors and health workers are important ambassadors. "We also have to listen - people want to be empowered, not indoctrinated". Exposing and bullying the insecure or refusal does not work either. At the same time, however, there is a need to combat misinformation.

According to Frieden, it has been found that the following five facts have resonated with the population and have helped convince people to get vaccinated:

  1. The risk of infection is much higher than the risk of vaccination. Even healthy young people can become seriously ill, die or suffer long-term damage from a COVID-19 infection.
  2. COVID-19 vaccines don't stay in the body. They prepare the immune system to fight the virus and then go away.
  3. Almost every doctor who was offered a COVID-19 vaccine got it as soon as possible.
  4. The more of us vaccinated, the sooner we will have our jobs and our economy back.
  5. Vaccinations could save the lives of at least 100,000 Americans who would otherwise be killed by COVID-19 in the coming months.

Such strategies of persuasion are likely to become more and more important for Germany in the coming weeks and months. In an interview with "t-online", the SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach said: "We cannot say that the pandemic is over for us, the vaccinees, and not for the others." You actually can't reach tough refusers, "but we mustn't make it too easy for ourselves by putting vaccine-insecure people in the same corner," said Lauterbach. You can reach them easily, but you have to do something for it.

This requires appropriate vaccination campaigns, not necessarily from politicians, but from leaders who are trusted in the respective communities, according to Lauterbach. It is not just about serving the community, but primarily about the people themselves. Certain groups are still clearly disproportionately represented in the intensive care units. "We have to approach it with a sure instinct. But we absolutely have to do something."

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