Some key numbers don’t look good for Louisiana as we work to ramp up vaccinations while staving off more contagious and dangerous coronavirus variants that continue to put us at risk.
According to the results of a poll conducted by LSU's Public Policy Research Lab, nearly one in three adults aren't interested in getting vaccinated and more than 40% of Republicans in Louisiana said they don't plan on getting vaccinated against COVID-19. This isn’t strictly a political matter: About 13% of Democrats feel the same way. However, that’s a sharp political divide about vaccinations developed by professional scientists and pushed by health officials to help us exit this painful pandemic.
The news comes as our state receives more vaccine doses but as far too many vaccines go unused, making it less likely that our state can reach herd immunity that can end this already painfully long era.
In his own way and without mentioning names, Mike Henderson, an assistant professor at LSU who led the poll, said what we have experienced with national politics this past year, “it's not surprising that vaccines have become politically polarizing." Gov. John Bel Edwards said he does not understand "how one's political philosophy interferes with the process of deciding to avail oneself" of the vaccine opportunities. Edwards, a Democrat, noted that former president Donald Trump, a Republican, led the quick development of the vaccines that are critical to reducing the impact of the virus.
It is important that more state Republicans make it clear that vaccinations are not a political issue. Commendably, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Madisonville filmed an online vaccine promotion. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said he will make his vaccination a public event. He knows they are “very safe.” Julia Letlow of Start, a Republican who was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District, used a nationally televised interview to encourage vaccinations, describing herself as “a huge proponent” because vaccines have “lifesaving capabilities.” On a Department of Veterans Affairs video, one of our senators says, "I'm Senator and Dr. Bill Cassidy" as he introduces a video encouraging southeastern Louisiana veterans to get vaccinated.
The LSU survey does include good news. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats and 49% of Republicans said they had either already received their vaccine or planned to do so once it became available, according to the poll.
We strongly encourage all appointed and elected state leaders, Democrat and Republican, to make it known if they have been vaccinated. In particular, we encourage prominent Republicans who are not yet vaccinated to schedule vaccinations and to make them public events to endorse vaccines and to encourage broader participation. We need our most visible leaders to show us the way to safety.