Gifts for getting vaccinated — tickets to sport events, free plane tickets, chances in a COVID lottery or tickets to an Anheuser-Busch open bar — have been useless and have been called bribes by Trumpists. Joe Biden was unable to fulfill his promise to have 70% of the population over 30 years old vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4. It was not to be the COVID Independence Day he intended it to be. The pandemic, the variants and a militant resistance against getting vaccinated are still there, just like Monterroso’s dinosaur.
Despite the good pace — about 300,000 doses a day — the U.S. vaccination rate is at 55%. Four groups are to blame: Hispanics, African Americans, white negationists and Republicans. The third and fourth groups, which are basically the same thing, are the most numerous. Joe Biden’s goal is being boycotted as an amendment to a presidency they consider illegitimate, the product of a stolen election. Not every one of them believes that, of course, but that is the mantra enforced by Donald Trump who has his hands around the necks of the party leaders. He is the one managing the super-donor funds that will determine many political careers in the November 2022 midterm election.
The greatest resistance is concentrated among districts in the central and southern states, which are governed by the most conservative Republicans. Within them, less than 50% of the population is vaccinated, as opposed to the good pace in cities and coastal states; 72.1% of the rebellious districts voted for Trump. In the poorest and more rural districts, the vaccination rate does not reach 28%. Despite what the facts say — that most current COVID-related deaths in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people — fake news prevails.
The Entire Country Is at Risk
This situation puts the entire country at risk. There is a sprint race taking place between the four Western vaccines and the Delta variant strain, which is highly contagious. Economic growth and the health of millions of people are at stake. In Europe, resistance to vaccination is concentrated in eastern countries, under the control of the radical right.
African Americans are not getting vaccinated in large numbers because they distrust the white man, who treats them as second-class citizens, confining them in squalid ghettos where the police enjoyed impunity until George Floyd’s murder, which was an exception. There are two worlds that run parallel, barely touching: a rich one and a poor one. In the U.S., one can chart a person’s future by the zip code in which they live. The land of opportunity has been dry since the 1980s, perhaps even before that. There are no dreams left, only nightmares.
Some 47% of Hispanics have not yet been vaccinated. Many of them are undocumented. We are talking about several million people who fear that vaccination centers are traps set by border police, and that getting vaccinated could be the shortest path to fast-track deportation. Awareness campaigns clash with that structural fear, and with the recent memory of Trump’s policies of family separation and the caging of children.
Inability To Miss Work
And there is an economic reason as well: Hispanics cannot afford to miss work if they have a negative reaction to the vaccine. The same is true for working African Americans, even if their employment is precarious in nature, which it is in most cases. Furthermore, they cannot afford to see a doctor because most lack medical insurance. After Hispanics, the sequence of groups ordered by their rejection of the vaccine are African Americans (46%), Native Americans (44%) and whites (40%).
Among Hispanics who cannot speak English, vaccination is working better because there are excellent awareness campaigns in Spanish with the contribution of Telemundo and Univision, two networks with a great following in this community. Those who speak English perfectly tend to use social media for information, particularly Facebook and YouTube, where the most outlandish lies run amok. Some 56% of Hispanics from 18 to 29 years old — those who consume these products — are not yet immunized.
The situation is so hostile that it is even difficult to create a vaccine passport. In many businesses, asking an employee if they are vaccinated is forbidden. It is seen as a violation of their privacy. Masks continue to be a target for aggression. They are seen as symbols of the dictatorship of science over free speech and faith. Based on this, it can be said that the U.S. has a very serious problem. Fanaticism, not the pandemic, endangers the future of its democracy.