A true evangelist for COVID vaccines


Kelly Hawes

Mitch McConnell and I don’t agree on much, but we agree on this.

“I think for everyone who is eligible, vaccines, vaccines, vaccines are the solution to the problem,” he said during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University.

The Senate minority leader has been beating the drum on vaccines for months, even launching an advertising campaign in his home state of Kentucky.

The 60-second commercial began airing on 100 radio stations July 29.

In the message, McConnell recalls his bout with polio as a child. Then, he says, it took decades to develop a vaccine.

“This time, thanks to American investment and ingenuity — and especially thanks to the tireless work of our scientists, doctors and health care heroes — it took less than a year for us to develop three highly-effective COVID vaccines,” McConnell says. “It’s nothing short of a modern medical miracle.”

It’s worth noting, of course, that the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna were actually three decades in the making. Still, McConnell’s point stands. The only way we’re going to defeat COVID is through more Americans rolling up their sleeves.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, do the right thing for you, for your family, and get vaccinated right now,” he says in the ad.

The Senate minority leader has his work cut out for him. A survey for the Kaiser Family Foundation in late July found 53% of unvaccinated adults believe the vaccine poses a bigger risk than the virus itself.

In spite of the challenge, McConnell’s message has been consistent.

“These shots need to get in everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for — that we went through last year,” he said last month. “This is not complicated.”

McConnell hasn’t singled out the offenders by name, but he has repeatedly urged people to “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

Is his campaign having an impact? It’s hard to say.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 52% of Kentucky residents, some 2.3 million people, had taken at least one dose of a COVID vaccine on the day the ads began airing. Nearly 46%, or just over 2 million people, were fully vaccinated.

Three weeks later, more than 55%, or nearly 2.5 million people, had taken at least one dose and more than 47%, or more than 2.1 million people, had been fully vaccinated.

In the meantime, COVID cases are spiking.

Kentucky recorded almost 3,700 new cases on Aug. 18. That compares to 164 at the beginning of July.

The number of new cases nationwide on Aug. 18 was more than 162,000. That’s up from roughly 65,000 on July 1.

McConnell seems truly surprised that convincing people to take these lifesaving shots has been so hard.

“It never occurred to me that people might be reluctant to get vaccinated,” he has said more than once.

During his appearance at Eastern Kentucky University, McConnell urged reluctant constituents to focus on facts.

“Let’s put the opinion business aside,” he said. “Ninety-seven percent of the people in the hospital now — in Kentucky and around the country — are unvaccinated. That’s not opinion. That’s a fact.”

Mitch McConnell is a shameless politician who is capable of truly ruthless behavior in the halls of Congress. He does what it takes to win regardless of how many enemies he might make along the way.

Still, when a man is right, he’s right, and in this instance, McConnell is right. I only wish a few more folks from his side of the aisle would join in the chorus.

This isn’t about politics. Do the right thing. Get a shot.

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