Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on a political divide in vaccine hesitancy:
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.
Lake Charles American Press on the need for politicians to use their platforms to encourage constituents to get vaccinated:
Now, more than ever, it’s imperative for Louisianans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines have undergone extensive testing and are the best line of defense against a virus that has uprooted everyday life and resulted in countless deaths worldwide over the past 12 months.
Another must is for elected officials at all levels and political affiliations to encourage people to get the vaccine and reassure them of its safety and effectiveness. It’s especially important since a recent survey by Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab showed more than 40 percent of Republicans said they don’t plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Conversely, 13 percent of Democrats said they don’t intend to get the shot. These numbers show why it’s critical for our GOP elected leaders to step up and encourage their constituents to get the vaccine. Several have already done so.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy filmed an ad that promoted vaccinations. The newly-elected 5th Congressional District Rep. Julia Letlow recently urged her GOP colleagues to get the vaccine. Letlow’s husband, Luke, was elected to the seat in 2020, but died from COVID-19 complications five days before he was set to be sworn in.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise recently said the vaccines were safe and plans to have his vaccination shown to the public as motivation for people to get it.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, who represents Louisiana’s 3rd District, told the American Press editorial board that his office has “aggressively promoted” the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines. He wouldn’t say whether he has received the vaccine, adding that he is “naturally immunized” after having the virus last January. That statement, he said, came from his own medical understanding of the virus and advice from his doctors and scientists.
Higgins said he wants every American who wants to get the vaccine to have access to it, adding that the process behind developing the vaccines was “scientifically sound.” At the same time, Higgins said he doesn’t know the difference between a good and bad vaccine. He mentioned television ads with attorneys telling viewers they may be eligible for a cash settlement if they experienced side effects of taking a particular prescription drug.
Statements like this may scare some people away from getting vaccinated. It sets a dangerous precedent, especially as transmission risk remains moderate to high in Louisiana.
Higgins said Americans should be free to decide whether they want to be vaccinated, based on their own best interests and advice from their doctor. While getting vaccinated is a personal choice, it’s disappointing that Higgins, whose district includes Southwest Louisiana, won’t encourage his supporters to get it.
The Louisiana Department of Health Region 5, which includes Southwest Louisiana, has a lower vaccination percentage than other regions in the state. Part of that may be because we’re still recovering from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, along with a freeze in February. That doesn’t mean residents should ignore getting the vaccine completely.
More than 10,000 Louisianans have died from COVID-19 complications, including nearly 400 in Calcasieu Parish. Gov. John Bel Edwards recently expanded vaccine availability to residents 16 and older. There is no excuse for residents to not get it, if only to protect their loved ones from being infected.
Elected leaders have powerful voices. It’s time for them to use their platforms to encourage their supporters to get the COVID-19 vaccine.