Unfortunately, Republican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers. Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures.
Steve Karnowski at Associated Press
Democrat Tim Walz won a second term as Minnesota’s governor on Tuesday, fending off a challenge by Republican Scott Jensen, a family practice physician who grabbed national attention with his vaccine skepticism.
Walz led Minnesota through the COVID-19 pandemic -- including lockdowns, school shutdowns and business closures. He also led the state through the unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. He made his support for abortion rights a centerpiece of his campaign.
Jensen had a reputation as a sometimes-moderate maverick from suburban Chaska during his one term in the Minnesota Senate. But he veered sharply to the right in the early days of the pandemic, not only criticizing the Walz administration’s response but also flirting with questionable treatments and the anti-vax movement.
Anti-vaccine proponents used to exist in both Republican and Democratic circles, but the pandemic saw them shift definitively to the political right. It was there that they found allies fighting lockdowns and masks. Republican politicians, particularly on the far right, have eagerly brought anti-vaccine forces into their tent. Anti-vaccine activists appear regularly at some popular right-wing political events, and some politicians have appeared on anti-vaccine shows in recent years.
Among them was Scott Jensen, a Minneapolis-area physician and state senator, who pushed medical misinformation throughout the pandemic. Speaking to anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree in 2021, Jensen said that hospitals distorted the number of COVID-19 deaths. He has also questioned vaccine safety and pushed ivermectin — a drug that has been proven to be ineffective at treating COVID but continues to be promoted as an alternative therapy in anti-vaccine circles.