On Thursday, Kay Ivey, the unimpeachably conservative governor of a deep red state, treated her Alabama constituents to some straight talk. “I want folks to get vaccinated. That’s the cure,” she said. “The data proves that it works.” And it “doesn’t cost you anything. It saves lives.”
Asked what it would take to get more of her state’s population vaccinated, Gov. Ivey grew visibly frustrated. “I don’t know,” she said. “But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks.”
In her state, it isn’t so easy to determine who the “regular folks” are. On the day she spoke, 59.8% of adult Americans had been fully vaccinated, compared with only 42.6% in Alabama. The reason is not a vaccine shortage, or huge obstacles to getting vaccinated. Some Alabamians are not bothering to get the shot, others say they are waiting, and the rest are refusing outright.
Around the country, vaccinations have been ensnared in the partisan polarization that suffuses just about everything these days. Joe Biden carried the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates; Donald Trump prevailed in 19 of the 20 with the lowest rates. (The 10 states in the middle, which include five swing states, were split almost evenly.) The same pattern prevails at the county level. And this red-blue gap is growing.
Nearly 90% of Democrats say they have already gotten vaccinated or intend to do so soon, compared with 54% of Republicans, a number that has not budged since April. Some 23% of Republicans insist that they won’t get vaccinated under any circumstances, and another 8% say that they will not get vaccinated unless they are required to do so. And despite the hopes of policy analysts, only 8% of those who are refusing would change their minds if the Food and Drug Administration’s current emergency-use authorization shifted to full and final approval, as it is likely to do this fall.