In fact, approximately 40,000 of the 90,000 COVID-19 deaths in Texas occurred after May 1, 2021, when any American who wished to take COVID vaccine could do so . Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas DSHS) reports that 85% of COVID-19 deaths in Texas in 2021 occurred among the unvaccinated , while in the first three months of 2022 during the omicron wave the CDC finds rates of death in the US were 20 times higher among unvaccinated people compared to people who were vaccinated and had received a booster . Therefore, the vast majority of the 40,000 deaths occurred among the unvaccinated. To put these numbers in perspective, just over 20,000 Texans lost their lives in World War II, while 6,000 died in the 1900 Galveston storm and flood. Approximately 4,000 Texans die annually from either gun deaths or road traffic annually, and 1,300 Texans died in its worst indigenous war, the Battle of Medina in 1813.
The fact that almost 40,000 Texans might have lost their lives because they refused a COVID-19 vaccination is unique–and no accident. Multiple analyses identify a strong political divide over the acceptance COVID-19 immunizations and death rates, with vaccinations the lowest and death rates the highest in the conservative or “red” states and counties . The term “red COVID” has been invoked to understand this phenomenon ; it reflects the strong antivaccine activism promoted by elected officials on the far right and spread on conservative news and social media sites . The rhetoric derives from right wing politics around “health freedom”, both a framework and propaganda tool, which accelerated in Texas in the 2010s for childhood vaccination mandates in schools . According to the Texas DSHS, even as late as September 1, 2022, in many if not most counties in Central Texas and the Panhandle as well as East Texas–all conservative areas of the state—the rates of “fully vaccinated” for adults remain below 50%. These numbers are well below national averages. By encouraging Texans to refuse COVID-19 vaccinations, health freedom propaganda has emerged as a deadly social force. Now, there is evidence that antivaccine activism arising out of Texas could spread internationally to affect both COVID-19 and childhood vaccination rates globally .