BOSTON (CBS) — "Everyone should be vaccinated," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) the other day. "There's no reason not to be vaccinated. I'm vaccinated."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) added: "If there's anybody out there willing to listen – get vaccinated."
As the Delta variant spreads, leading Republicans across the country have ramped up their appeals to the unvaccinated. Says Rubio: "It's really not a partisan issue."
But while there are many Democrats still unvaccinated, nearly five times more Republicans than Democrats say they won't get the vaccine, according to a CBS News poll. And a WBZ News review of election and public health data shows the partisan gap is wide here in Massachusetts too, with an average 57% vaccination rate in communities that voted for Trump last fall, 15 points behind the statewide average.
So we asked state Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford: what's your message to Democrats about vaccination? "That they work, and that we really do need to follow the science," he said.
But a similar message was not forthcoming from state GOP Chairman Jim Lyons, who ignored our calls and texts seeking a statement on vaccination.
We scrolled through months of the state party's social media feeds looking in vain for any mention of vaccinations, save for one post mocking Governor Baker's "Vax Millions" lottery promotion.
It's a vacuum the state's senior Republican official, National Committeeman Ron Kaufman, is willing to fill, but not without regret.
"Do the right thing and get a vaccination," he says, adding: "I think everyone should speak out on it."
Suspicion of the vaccines and antagonism toward the push to grow vaccination rates have become staple grievances of a significant portion of the GOP, even here in relatively enlightened Massachusetts. And an ominous question lingers: what will it take to make common sense – and concern for public health – breakthrough?
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