Vaccine-hesitant Republicans are now being targeted as part of local and national vaccination campaigns, and Thomas Mountain, vice chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, is helping to make the push by convincing his colleagues to get the shot.
“Not only is there a hesitancy, but there’s also a movement ongoing to spread the word not to get the vaccine. And these are my friends and colleagues with whom I serve on the Republican state committee and in the MassGOP who are actually promoting this,” Mountain said in a virtual forum this week.
About 27% of Republicans say they will definitely not get a coronavirus vaccine compared to just 3% of Democrats, according to an ongoing research project by Kaiser Family Foundation.
Mountain, who admitted to being “nonchalant” about the virus until he caught COVID-19 and was hospitalized twice, has now been vaccinated and is working to convince his colleagues to do the same by sharing his experience and relying on a few other methods.
“First, I tell them the vaccine was actually initiated under the president whom they followed, supported and admired, and that of course is Donald Trump,” Mountain said.
Mountain said hesitancy among Republicans would be “minuscule if not nonexistent” if Trump were still president.
A second tactic, Mountain said, is using a “major scare” among middle-aged people, which is cancer.
“I tell people who are hesitant that if a cancer vaccine came out tomorrow, you would be among the first to get it. And by the way, this coronavirus has killed almost as many people in a given year as has cancer,” Mountain said.
Mountain also said he tells colleagues they remain at risk of coronavirus infection if they’re unvaccinated and uses his personal experience fighting the virus to appeal to people.
“I was at one of those big White House holiday events where I went, and I was perfectly fine, and three days later I was in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital emergency room,” said Mountain, adding that he also infected members of his family and still isn’t completely healthy today.
The coronavirus vaccination campaign in Massachusetts has gone incredibly well, with nearly 53% of the state’s entire population now fully vaccinated. Bay State residents also have one of the lowest vaccine hesitancy rates in the country, with just 3% of people saying they definitely won’t get the shot.
But pockets of vaccine-hesitant people still remain, and public health officials aren’t letting up on reaching everyone possible.
“We really need to focus on reaching people where they are and understanding what the challenges are. But we’re not sitting back,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, appearing on the same virtual forum as Mountain.