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Saturday, December 24, 2022

Party and Vaccination

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

UnfortunatelyRepublican 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.

What we do have is a patchwork of estimations and correlations that, taken together, paint a blurry but nevertheless grim picture of how Republican leaders spread the vaccine hesitancy that has killed so many people. We know that as of April 2022, about 318,000 people had died from COVID because they were unvaccinated, according to research from Brown University. And the close association between Republican vaccine hesitancy and higher death rates has been documented. One study estimated that by the fall of 2021, vaccine uptake accounted for 10 percent of the total difference between Republican and Democratic deaths. But that estimate has changed—and even likely grown—over time.

Partisanship affected outcomes in the pandemic even before we had vaccines. A recent study found that from October 2020 to February 2021, the death rate in Republican-leaning counties was up to three times higher than that of Democratic-leaning counties, likely because of differences in masking and social distancing. Even when vaccines came around, these differences continued, Mauricio Santillana, an epidemiology expert at Northeastern University and a co-author of the study, told me. Follow-up research published in Lancet Regional Health Americas in October looked at deaths from April 2021 to March 2022 and found a 26 percent higher death rate in areas where voters leaned Republican. “There are subsequent and very serious [partisan] patterns with the Delta and Omicron waves, some of which can be explained by vaccination,” Bill Hanage, a co-author of the paper and an epidemiologist at Harvard, told me in an email.

But to understand why Republicans have died at higher rates, you can’t look at vaccine status alone. Congressional districts controlled by a trifecta of Republican leaders—state governor, Senate, and House—had an 11 percent higher death rate, according to the Lancet study. A likely explanation, the authors write, could be that in the post-vaccine era, those leaders chose policies and conveyed public-health messages that made their constituents more likely to die. Although we still can’t say these decisions led to higher death rates, the association alone is jarring.

Frank Han at Science-Based Medicine:

Senator Ron Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin, convened a round table with various actors known to be active in the anti-vaccine ecosystem with the premise that they would increase awareness of vaccine injury. This is not the first time he has done such a session, however the way that this session was put together does very little, if anything, to assist actual patients on their way to recovery. This is meant to advise the reader on how Sen. Johnson’s December 2022 roundtable was deceptive and used to push an agenda.