Many Americans continue to be hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, even though President Joe Biden has been given high approval ratings for his handling of the coronavirus as more than 6 in 10 Americans say they approve of the job he has done.
Their reasons include a general mistrust of government, including political considerations, dislike for masks, or fear about taking a vaccine under emergency use authorization until it has formal approval.
Gov. Jay Inslee has made similar decisions, but continues to face Republican calls for a reduction in his authority. As of June 30, we are moving toward normalcy, but we may not be completely done with masks or social distancing, particularly if any of the variants start to make an impact when the weather turns — and we are required to be more inside than outside.
But a difficult question remains. Now that we know vaccinations can save lives, why would anyone not get vaccinated?
The benefits are significant. You can get rid of the masks in many circumstances, hug your grandparents or grandchildren, go out for dinner in a restaurant, or have a drink in a bar. The pursuit of 70% of citizens over age 12 to get vaccinated was highlighted by creative attempts, including mobile clinics at churches and community centers and pop-up clinics in neighborhoods. The “joints for jabs” and the special seating for vaccinated fans at Mariners games helped. New Mexico used an idea from Greece and paid $100 per vaccine.
Inslee was in South King County recently, specifically Auburn, to celebrate the reopening of Washington state for business and visit the vaccine clinic at the Outlet Collection. His visit also was able to draw attention to the fact that some South King County cities lag behind some Eastside cities in vaccinations.
For all citizens 12 and older who are fully vaccinated as of June 15, Sammamish was at 87%, Mercer Island was at 86%, Issaquah was at 75% and Bellevue was at 77%. However, Auburn was at 51.1%, Federal Way was at 52.4%, Kent was at 58.8% and Renton was at 55.3%. Only Burien at 66.6% was close to the 70% threshold.
The data highlighted that poorer areas of King County needed more support with vaccinations. South King County also tends to have a higher degree of people of color, including Black and Hispanic residents who are less likely to have received the vaccination. Some zip codes in Seattle around the University of Washington and downtown were also below 60%.
Enumclaw was at 48.7%, although that might be the more conservative character of the area, or with a small rural population, the belief that they are less likely to be exposed to the disease. That might also explain Algona and Pacific at 45.3%. All age groups 40 and older have passed the 70% level.
However, none of the groups younger than age 40 have passed the 70% level, which is a significant concern. In what may be a carryover from former President Donald Trump’s resistance to masks, people who identify as Republicans according to a Post-ABC poll remain opposed to vaccinations. However, two governors are speaking out. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is concerned that only 53% of his state has had one dose compared to two-thirds nationally. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), who has only 52% of adults with one dose of the vaccine, said: “The red states probably have a lot of very conservative thinking, and they think ‘well I don’t have to do that.’ But they’re not thinking right.” Justice also expressed concern the vaccination gap among Republicans was “troubling” and also said “hopefully reason will rule.”
Two other concerns for the Centers for Disease Control is the growth of COVID’s delta variant and the number of young people below the age of 40 who are unvaccinated. This has caused the government to increase efforts to gain the cooperation of those ages 18 to 26 who are the least likely to get vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, believes the vaccines are effective against the delta variant and urges all to get vaccinated, especially with Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Alabama and Idaho all below 40% of their population with at least one dose. The variant is accounting for half of the infections in the regions that include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. If the shots don’t increase, there is a danger that we could see localized surges, said Fauci.
President Biden has continued his call for voluntary cooperation and seems reluctant to ask governors to require employers, universities and other institutions to require employees to get vaccinated — although if the cases continue to increase while vaccinations decrease, he may not have a choice.
If you have people you care about who live in those areas, contact them and urge them to get vaccinated. Remember that of the 18,000 people who died in May, only 150 of them were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.