This week, the United States is set to reach the milestone of 100 million people vaccinated against the virus that's killed over 600 thousand Americans, but there are still obstacles ahead.
Swathes of white evangelicals and supporters of former President Donald Trump—groups that largely intersect—have expressed greater hesitancy on taking the available vaccines. This hesitancy is further exacerbated by conspiracy theories regarding its development and implementation.
Among the more absurd delusions is that the vaccines contain a microchip with a tracker designed to notify the government of every American's whereabouts.
The conspiracy theory seems to have emerged from early ideas among MIT researchers on how to determine who'd been vaccinated, with one pitch including an invisible dye that would show up on the skin under a blacklight. The idea was never implemented. Another possible origin is the chip located under the label of vaccine syringes, which is strictly for tracking which vaccines have been used—not for tracking the whereabouts of vaccine recipients.
Nevertheless, the microchip fantasy has been regarded as fact among a number of conspiracy theorists, and was recently parroted by a Republican Orange County supervisor to a California health official who couldn't hide his reaction to the absurdity.
Republican Don Wagner, who represents three million Orange County residents, wants to know if the Covid vaccine has… https://t.co/AEvQciIBIG— Timothy Burke (@Timothy Burke)1619582345.0
Republican supervisor Don Wagner said to Orange County Health Care Agency director, Dr. Clayton Chau:
"We heard about an injection of a tracking device. Is that being done anywhere?"
Dr. Chau, through laughter, responded:
"I'm sorry, I just have to compose myself. There's not a vaccine with a tracking device embedded in it that I know of exists in the world. Period."
Social media users mocked Supervisor Wagner's question.
The tracking device is one of my favorite features of the vaccine. It makes me feel less alone. https://t.co/PSQKItu7YY— Frank Conniff (@Frank Conniff)1619707061.0
"We raised the idea with Mr. Gates, but he pointed out that the Trumpists voluntarily post all their sedition on In… https://t.co/fQgOghv4jn— David Frum (@David Frum)1619648493.0
wait this is so funny https://t.co/ffCUIu3mu9— ALEXIA (@ALEXIA)1619670277.0
But vaccine hesitancy is no laughing matter.
Unless at least 70 percent of Americans get fully vaccinated, the virus has enough leverage to keep spreading, mutating each time. Because the stronger, more pervasive strains tend to survive into predominance, it's an inevitability that—if the virus is given enough velocity to spread—there will be a strain that renders the hundreds of millions of administered vaccines ineffective.
The embrace of vaccine skepticism from right-wing media outlets and from Republicans like Wagner is only heightening this threat.
My God. Folks, we must clean up our local elected offices. GOPer Don Wagner is on the Orange County Board of Supe… https://t.co/jiEyjHYJcZ— TrumpsTaxes (@TrumpsTaxes)1619654123.0
Dear @DonWagnerCA, there is no tracking device in the #COVID19 vaccine. Stop peddling conspiracies. You know you… https://t.co/DVvxUoi7bW— Eric Feigl-Ding (@Eric Feigl-Ding)1619650588.0
Is this Republican serious? There’s no end to the skepticism Republicans want to put in everyone’s minds against pe… https://t.co/P3wtQXuwCV— Barry (@Barry)1619665257.0
Something else folks. We are going to have a bumpy road ahead. https://t.co/aND3uu7mF0— Elan Engel (@Elan Engel)1619652848.0
I absolutely cannot with these fools. Look at him. He seems like an intelligent, educated, adult...he literally thi… https://t.co/t30LTfJSdl— Fred Wellman (@Fred Wellman)1619651738.0
The GOP used to have serious people with serious ideas. Now all that’s left is delusional conspiracy theories. Bad… https://t.co/g1NNsjGjgg— A set of feasible rays (@A set of feasible rays)1619649275.0
Wagner received his vaccine more than two weeks ago.