Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday suddenly changed her tune on vaccinations, urging “the unvaccinated folk” in her state to seek out the vaccine as COVID cases climb in a handful of southern and western states, including Alabama.
But she’s not alone. Now that Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Kentuckians to get vaccinated as soon as possible, more GOP lawmakers and politicians are jumping on the pro-vax bandwagon.
Apparently, with hospitalizations and deaths starting to climb amid a surge in new infections caused by the delta variant, the fearmongering of health experts like Dr. Anothny Fauci has caused GOP strategists to worry that they risk being blamed if there’s another surge in COVID cases (even as scientists warn that the virus will very likely remain endemic to the human population, like the flu).
“We as a Republican party have decided that we have to be all in on the vaccine, even though we’re not sure where our followers are,” said John Feehery, a partner at EFB Advocacy and a former Republican congressional aide.
“There’s real political risk in the idea of re-shutting down the country. I think Republicans don’t want to be blamed for it.”
Still, a handful of mostly red states has passed laws prohibiting the government and private businesses to make vaccines mandatory in keeping with the GOP’s emphasis on personal choice. Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose handling of Florida’s outbreak has been widely praised, especially by conservatives, warned this weekend that Floridians should get vaccinated. “These vaccines are saving lives…they are reducing mortality.”
In Arkansas, the worst-hit state in the country right now, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has embarked on a tour of the state to try and convince voters to get vaccinated.
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