The Covid-19 Vaccine Has No Business Being Politicized
The global toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been enormous; with over 388 million confirmed cases and over 5 million deaths, hundreds of millions have been out of work, and trillions of dollars of wealth have been destroyed. The disease has not yet ended its course as hundreds of million people keep dying.
The COVID-19 epidemic in the United States became a tale of “two Americas”. At face value, this became a division between those who were vaccinated and those who weren’t. But it’s also a division between Democrats and Republicans – as vaccinations have ended up becoming one of the biggest divisive factors in US politics. This political polarization of course isn’t remotely a new concept in the American way of life. Growing polarization doesn’t necessarily mean that the Congress is starkly dividing from the left and the right. It means that now people’s political views now hew with seemingly unrelated issues. But throughout the pandemic, polarization has raised striking differences on how Democrats and Republicans had approached this pandemic – from hand washing to social distancing to masking and finally to vaccinations.
This polarization had opened up rifts in vaccination rates with people’s decision to either getting a shot or not getting the shot at all. With the more infectious Omicron variant now spreading across the country, spreading and raising the risk of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in unvaccinated – often heavily Republican areas. To put this very bluntly: this polarization is killing people.
The science is factually clear: Vaccines are a safe and very effective way to prevent serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from the coronavirus and having vaccine and mask mandates is effective in curbing the spread. But still the battle to vaccinate the nation against the coronavirus has reached a long pitch overtime. President Biden has focused on getting many Americans to possibly get vaccinated against the coronavirus, most notably rolling out vaccine mandates for government employees and for business over a 100 workers. But Republicans have grown to become extremely hostile to the notion of getting vaccinated and despite vaccine mandates existing for a long term since the 19th century – and have ended up parlaying this fight against the pandemic into a political battle, with vaccine mandates acting as the latest frontier in the defense of American freedom and liberty. Lawmakers have been decrying the Biden administration’s action of curbing the virus as government overreach but ironically are telling employers not to impose any mandates even if they want to.
To put this bluntly; Polarization is killing people. Because the perceptions about the pandemic weren’t divided by any political party early on. While America’s peers around the world had certainly observed political debates and various conflicts regarding this, they have been able to avoid the amount of polarization the United States have been observing, so far. As the United States have been taking a different path once then – President Donald Trump, had downplayed the virus deliberately and Republican leaders and the rank and file had then followed the lead. Whether they took the pandemic seriously became another way of affiliating with the red or blue parties, leading to label things as more dangerous for their own sake just because of their political affiliation. Overcoming this will be difficult as it will require to confront the trend of the American political life. Americans have already observed how badly can this play out as many have already succumbed to the virus and much still remain vulnerable to it.
But still it is worth trying to, at the very least, heed the lessons of COVID-19, if not for the current health pandemic, then for any future public crises. Because politics will always play a role with any crisis, but it doesn’t have to be this bad. Not to a point where one particular side should be denying the dangers of a virus that is killing millions of people around the globe.