Republican members of Congress who also happen to be medical professionals released a video on Tuesday encouraging people to get COVID-19 vaccinations ― an important public health message meant to counter vaccine hesitancy among their constituents.
The video, organized by the 18-member GOP “Doctors’ Caucus,” stresses the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and the U.S. government’s “rigorous and transparent” process of overseeing their development.
“The FDA did not skip any steps,” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), an anesthesiologist and caucus co-chair, assures about COVID-19 vaccines in the ad.
“The only way to protect ourselves and your loved ones ― and to end the government’s restrictions on our freedoms ― is to take action and get the vaccine,” Rep. Greg Murphy (N.C.) added in the video, tailoring his pitch specifically to conservatives who opposed coronavirus lockdowns and other public health measures amid the pandemic.
Polls show GOP voters are disproportionately resistant to getting vaccinated for the disease; nearly half say they don’t want one, according to a recent Monmouth University poll. The share is even greater among people living in rural areas of the country, leaving open the question of whether the country can achieve herd immunity even with a plentiful vaccine supply.
The trend follows the flouting of science on things like wearing masks by GOP politicians and former President Donald Trump, who refused to receive the shot publicly while in office. (Trump has since endorsed getting a vaccine).
Republican pollster Frank Luntz worked with the members of Congress to identify the message that best resonates with people who may be hesitant about receiving a vaccine. The trick? Hearing it from a trusted figure like a doctor.
“What we’ve found is if we put on our white coat, it literally moves the needle,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), who appears in the ad in his white coat and a stethoscope, told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Although most GOP lawmakers have been supportive of vaccine efforts, vaccine-hesitant ones have been louder. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is not a doctor, recently drew a firestorm of criticism after he questioned the reason for mass vaccination for the COVID-19 virus.
“If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” Johnson asked.
The Kansas freshman guessed some people may be hesitant to get the vaccine because they don’t like being “pushed into the corner” and feeling like “they’re not being respected” by authorities.
“If you have concerns about the vaccine, at this point, probably the only one that folks are going to listen to would be their own doctor or their own pharmacist,” Marshall said.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus