I started going up against anti-vaccine groups a few years after my youngest daughter Rachel—diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities—was born, and they alleged vaccines caused autism. Even early on, the preponderance of evidence showed that [autism] had genetic and epigenetic origins in early fetal development. After I wrote a book about it entitled Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism, I became a target for anti-vaccine groups. But as a vaccine scientist and parent of an adult daughter with autism, I felt if I didn't do this, who would?
I think the public health community has made some mistakes over the last two decades through our silence. We were reluctant to speak about the acceleration of anti-vaccine groups for fear that we might inadvertently give them "oxygen."
The consequence, of course, is that they didn't need our help and grew into well-funded and well-organized groups that acquired a political dimension through political action committees, mostly linked to the political right and almost 60 million followers on social media, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate. Complicating this is a state actor: namely, the Russian government. As I've said in my recent Nature, Scientific American, and PLOS Biology essays, this is a full-on anti-science empire.
Republicans now face a moral dilemma — some of their constituents could needlessly die of COVID-19 infections if they don’t reject the partisan messaging from their party that underplays the risks of the virus and oversells the risks of vaccines.
The divide among the states is striking. Quite a few states will hit President Joe Biden’s goal to have 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4, and nearly all of those are states Biden won in last year’s presidential election. The states that are coming up short of the vaccine goal are those states won by then-President Donald Trump. ... We almost never see this high a correlation between variables in the social sciences.
Vaccinations are a better predictor of state voting patterns in 2020 than education, racial composition, or almost any other demographic factor. And while voting patterns don’t really shift much from election to election, vaccination rates are a better predictor of the 2020 election than the 2000 election is. That is, if you want to know how a state voted in 2020, you can get more information from knowing its current vaccination rate than from knowing how it voted 20 years ago.
The places with the lowest vaccination rates tend to be heavily Republican. In an average U.S. county that voted for Donald Trump, only 34 percent of people are fully vaccinated, according to New York Times data. In an average county that voted for Joe Biden, the share is 45 percent (and the share that has received at least one shot is higher).