Opinion: The GOP’s Trump vaccine conundrum

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, a pharmacist, has urged Americans to get vaccinated.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, a pharmacist, has urged Americans to get vaccinated. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

The numbers tell a clear story in Georgia and other states. The Delta variant is causing an increase in new Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, mainly endangering those who have not been vaccinated.

Public health officials this week again gave simple advice to Congress: “Get vaccinated.”

While we hear that repeatedly from Democrats in Congress, it’s been a different story with most Republicans, who have echoed the vaccine reluctance of their supporters — even though the Trump Administration helped spur the vaccine’s development.

There have been GOP exceptions, including U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler. The Georgia pharmacist has joined with Republican doctors in Congress in calling for people to get the COVID vaccine.

“I encourage everyone to get the vaccine,” Carter said earlier this week. “I think it’s safe and effective.”

The most outspoken Republican has been the Senate GOP Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“These shots need to get into everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible,” he said Tuesday.

But that advice has not helped, as vaccination rates have lagged in much of the South.

At a hearing this week, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. — the former Auburn football coach — said GOP voters might think differently about the vaccine if Democrats just gave Trump more public credit.

“A lot of people voted for Donald Trump, a lot of people in the South,” said Tuberville, as he urged public health experts to present a ‘unified message’ that’s more favorable to the former President.

“The former administration deserves a considerable amount of credit for the effort that was put into Operation Warp Speed,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Tuberville.

“Getting the COVID vaccine only takes a few minutes,” Tuberville said.

But while every Democrat in Congress has been vaccinated, Republicans have been lagging.

This week, the number two House Republican, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said he had just been vaccinated — worried by the advance of the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, again this week refused to tell reporters whether she’s been vaccinated, hours after she was put in the Twitter penalty box for misleading posts about the virus outbreak.

It’s all part of a very mixed public message from Republicans.

Some like Greene demand the firing of Dr. Fauci. Others denounce federal efforts to get more people vaccinated. And most GOP lawmakers avoid talking about it too much — as if the vaccine is a political stove that’s too hot to touch.

“The virus doesn’t know if you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent,” Dr. Fauci told Senators, calling the vaccine ‘an extraordinarily efficient’ tool to stop the outbreak.

It’s a political Catch-22 for Republicans, as they face skepticism from supporters about COVID – even though the Trump Administration was a driving force behind the vaccine’s development.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com