Republicans care about getting beyond this pandemic every bit as much as Democrats do. But politicians are certainly happy to exploit this issue for political gain, which is why I think the Republican governors are up in arms. — Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health
Republicans care about getting beyond this pandemic every bit as much as Democrats do. But politicians are certainly happy to exploit this issue for political gain, which is why I think the Republican governors are up in arms. — Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health

What the president does is he creates political cover for Republican leaders, who will scream loudly because it’s politically expedient. But I think many of them are actually feeling relieved, because now they don’t have to do the hard work of convincing their constituents. — Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health
What the president does is he creates political cover for Republican leaders, who will scream loudly because it’s politically expedient. But I think many of them are actually feeling relieved, because now they don’t have to do the hard work of convincing their constituents. — Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health

G.O.P. Seethes at Biden Mandate, Even in States Requiring Other Vaccines
Like other Republican governors around the country, Tate Reeves of Mississippi reacted angrily to the coronavirus vaccine mandates President Biden imposed on private businesses. Declaring the move “terrifying,” he wrote on Twitter: “This is still America, and we still believe in freedom from tyrants.”

There is a deep inconsistency in that argument. Mississippi has some of the strictest vaccine mandates in the nation, which have not drawn opposition from most of its elected officials. Not only does it require children to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and seven other diseases to attend school, but it goes a step further than most states by barring parents from claiming “religious, philosophical or conscientious” exemptions.

Resistance to vaccine mandates was once a fringe position in both parties, more the realm of misinformed celebrities than mainstream political thought. But the fury over Mr. Biden’s mandates shows how a once-extreme stance has moved to the center of the Republican Party. The governors’ opposition reflects the anger and fear about the vaccine among constituents now central to their base, while ignoring longstanding policy and legal precedent in favor of similar vaccination requirements.

“Republicans care about getting beyond this pandemic every bit as much as Democrats do,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. But, he added, “politicians are certainly happy to exploit this issue for political gain, which is why I think the Republican governors are up in arms.”

... But each of these states — indeed every state in the country — already mandates certain vaccinations for children, and sometimes for adults, including health care workers and patients in certain facilities.


Mississippi, which has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation, has consistently led the United States in childhood vaccinations — a point of pride for its health officials and many of its lawmakers. Alabama, similar to Mississippi, also refuses to acknowledge “philosophical, moral or ethical” exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations.

Experts in public health law agree that Mr. Biden is on solid legal footing, because his actions are grounded in federal workplace safety laws. They say Republican governors who insist that vaccine mandates are an intrusion on personal liberty need a refresher on their own state policies.

“That is pure hypocrisy,” Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University, said of Mr. Reeves’s remarks. “Even religious exemptions are swept away in the state of Mississippi, so how can he say that an order that a president makes to keep workers safe, with authorization by Congress, is an overreach or in any way unconstitutional?”

... Republican suspicion of vaccines was building before the pandemic; when Donald J. Trump was running for president in 2016, he rejected established science by raising the debunked claims that vaccines cause autism. Now, some of the governors argue that given the country’s outsize divisions, and widespread suspicion of Washington, federal intervention would be counterproductive. It would be best, they say, to let state officials continue making the case that the vaccines are safe and effective, and to allow people to make decisions themselves.

... Dr. Jha said Mr. Biden had in fact done Republicans a favor.

“What the president does is he creates political cover for Republican leaders, who will scream loudly because it’s politically expedient,” he said. “But I think many of them are actually feeling relieved, because now they don’t have to do the hard work of convincing their constituents.”

Indeed, when the highly infectious Delta variant began ripping through their communities and overwhelming their hospitals, many elected Republicans — notably Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader — started pleading with people to get vaccinated. Most of the Republican governors criticizing Mr. Biden have said much the same.

... “It’s always a little noisy and uncomfortable” when vaccine requirements are first imposed, said Dr. Jha of Brown University. But over time, he said, “people get vaccinated and whatever infectious disease you are trying to deal with fades into the background and people move on, and that’s what I expect to happen here.”


Still, never before has a vaccine been so caught up in partisan politics. Dr. Rosner sees something deeper at work.

“This is part of a much larger dissolution of American society,” he said. “It is part and parcel of the resistance to all forms of social harmony and sense of social purpose that the country is undergoing right now.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/12/us/politics/vaccine-mandates-republicans.html