Jonathan Drake/Reuters; Samantha Lee/Insider
Trump has long been anxious to get credit for the COVID-19 vaccines developed during his presidency.
But Trump-voting counties show higher rates of vaccine hesitancy, Axios reported.
Other factors, such as poverty and lack of vaccine access, could also help explain the correlation.
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Former President Donald Trump makes no secret of wanting to take credit for the existence of COVID-19 vaccines – but data shows his supporters are still less likely to want the shot.
Trump has long been anxious that nobody forgets one of the biggest advances from during his presidency: the vaccines.
Of the big-name shots developed in the US in record time, one of them – made by Moderna – was a major beneficiary of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
In November he went as far as to take credit for Pfizer’s vaccine, despite it not having been developed under the government initiative.
That has lasted well into his post-presidency. At an event at Mar-A-Lago last week, he reportedly remarked to GOP donors that the vaccine should be called the “Trumpcine.”
Trump greets the crowd before he leaves at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on December 08, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Vaccine rollouts have accelerated fast under Joe Biden’s presidency, which has seen 100 million people getting at least their first shot within his first three months.
But according to Axios, that uptake is slower in Trump’s own heartlands.
Axios processed data from the CDC and New York Times to show that counties with a higher rates of people voting for Trump in the last presidential election correlated with a higher rate of hesitancy.
That certainly was the case in one small, intensely Trump-supporting Cimarron County, Oklahoma, in March, when CNN asked the customers at a diner if anyone was going to get the vaccine. Nobody raised their hands, and the network struggled to interview anyone who trusted it.
That said, it may be a mistake to overly characterize the issue along political lines, an expert told Axios.
Many red states have higher proportions of Black Americans, a demographic that is more likely to “wait and see” before getting the vaccine, the outlet said.
Also, hesitancy is far from the only factor causing a low uptake in the vaccine in Trump-supporting areas.
“It could be that people who believe in Trump and voted for Trump don’t want to get vaccinated. It could also be that those places did a lousy job making vaccines available,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the outlet.
He added that it could be “really, really” harmful to oversimplify the correlation.
Either way, the problem is worrisome because of another connection – that people in the areas with the lowest rates of vaccination are also the most vulnerable to the virus in the first place, Axios reported.
According to the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, these areas have worse transportation, higher rates of poverty, and more crowded housing – all adding to the risk during a public health crisis.
Trump has been far more vocal about the success of the vaccine development as a political achievement than about its medical benefits.
That’s not to say he has outright discouraged it – in a March Fox News appearance he recommended getting the shot. But there have been multiple occasions where the publicity-friendly former president has been uncharacteristically shy to promote it.
Notably, he was the only living former president who did not join a public awareness advert advocating its benefits.
It also took more than two months for the news to emerge that he and former First Lady Melania Trump had quietly been vaccinated in January.
Meanwhile, pro-Trump outlets have continued to peddle skepticism around the vaccine and even the deadliness of the virus itself.
As Insider’s Tom Porter has reported, Fox News’ pro-Trump primetime hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson have all introduced doubt about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy since Biden took over.
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