For months, health experts warned that distributing the coronavirus vaccines would be the easier part of the immunization process. The hard part would come later, when millions of people on the fence would need to be convinced to get a vaccine.
Unfortunately, many Democrats ignored this warning when the vaccines were in clinical trials because they were on track to be approved by the “wrong” administration. Vice President Kamala Harris shares a large part of the blame. She openly questioned whether people should trust the vaccine during the 2020 presidential campaign, suggesting that the only reason the Trump administration would roll out the vaccines so quickly was because former President Donald Trump wanted to win reelection.
“I think that we have learned since this pandemic started, but really before that, that there’s very little that we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” she said back in September.
When asked whether she would get the coronavirus vaccine if it were approved before the November election, Harris was equivocal. “Well, I think that’s going to be an issue for all of us,” she said. “I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump. And it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about. I will not take his word for it.”
She doubled down a few weeks later during the vice presidential debate, saying, “If Dr. Fauci, the doctors, tell us that we should take [the vaccine], I’ll be the first in line to take it. But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not going to take it.”
In reality, this was a disingenuous argument at the time. There was no way in which vaccines would be pumped into arms purely on Trump’s say-so. Any vaccine was always going to have to go through significant testing, reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, and administered by medical professionals. Harris was thus raising doubts merely to score political points. But the damage was done.
A recent poll found that as many as 1 in 3 people said they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine, even when it becomes available to the general public later this year. That number is even higher in minority communities: Forty-three percent of black people said they would more than likely reject the vaccine, and 35% of Latinos said the same.
This is devastating news for those who hoped the United States would reach herd immunity quickly. The numbers are clear: Unless the federal government can successfully sway public opinion on this issue, it could take years for the country to reach the 80%-90% immunization threshold necessary.
The Biden administration seems to realize this because Harris has been busy doing damage control. In recent days, she has called in to local black radio stations to talk about the vaccine, recorded interviews with prominent black leaders, such as Rev. Al Sharpton, and called on high-profile stars, including NBA players, to join her vaccination campaign.
These are important and necessary steps, and we’re glad that Harris is using her influence for good. But we can’t help but wonder how much more effective this messaging campaign would have been had Harris and other Democrats not politicized the vaccine when they feared that it could benefit Trump. She intentionally discouraged the public from trusting a highly effective and safe vaccine to make a partisan point, and she did so knowing full well that it risked stoking fear.
We warned Harris back in September that her flirtation with anti-vaccine conspiracy theorizing would have dangerous ramifications moving forward. Well, this is the result: tens of millions of people unwilling to get a vaccine that could allow us to put this pandemic in the past.
Harris thought she could get away with playing politics with public health. Now, the whole country will suffer for it.