As stronger, deadlier variants of the virus that's killed over 600 thousand Americans continue to emerge, vaccination rates are lagging in no small part due to a right-wing disinformation regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines available.
Far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested the vaccines don't work and that the government is keeping their supposed lack of efficacy a secret. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin held an entire event devoted to highlighting the supposed health risks of taking the vaccines. Far-right Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia compared federal efforts to encourage vaccinations to the Nazi secret police.
Now, former President Donald Trump's former Health Secretary, Alex Azar, is frantically trying to convince the former President's supporters to take the vaccines.
Trump has taken credit for the initial rollout of vaccines and for their emergency use approval, which allowed the first doses to begin administration shortly before he left office. But unlike a number of officials on both sides of the aisle, Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump took their vaccine in private in January. Their vaccination status wasn't revealed until more than a month later.
It's a common observation that if Trump had more emphatically supported the vaccination effort before and after his time in the White House—if he'd taken the vaccine on television—perhaps vaccine hesitancy would be less rampant among conservatives.
Now, Azar is making that observation as well, writing in a New York Times op-ed:
"I'm glad former President Trump got vaccinated, but it would have been even better for him to have done so on national television so that his supporters could see how much trust and confidence he has in what is arguably one of his greatest accomplishments."
Azar also said the administration wasn't prepared for the onslaught of vaccine hesitancy:
"We could have done more to address vaccine hesitancy. We focused a great deal of our efforts at the start on the groups that we thought might be most hesitant. ... [W]e did not predict the politicization of vaccines that has led so many Republicans to hold back."
While any effort at convincing more Americans to get vaccinated is welcome, some weren't appreciative of Azar's delayed comments.
Others said Trump simply didn't possess the leadership characteristics required to meet such an urgent moment.