After more than a year plagued by a pandemic that's killed over 500 thousand Americans, millions of people in the United States are getting vaccinated per day, allowing the greatest hope yet for a return to some semblance of a normal daily life.
But while the vaccine rollout is well underway, hesitancy from some Americans to take it could end in devastating results.
Viral pathogens mutate as they spread, with the more infectious and durable mutations surviving for longer. If these pathogens are permitted to spread among the unvaccinated for a prolonged enough period, it's an inevitability that there will be an eventual variant that renders all the previously administered vaccines ineffective.
Nearly half of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccines available, but the United States needs to reach at least 70 percent in order to reach herd immunity, where the virus doesn't have enough potential hosts to keep spreading.
Vaccines have long been a favorite subject for conspiracy theorists, but thanks to the politicization of the virus in every regard—from public health guidelines to the virus' origins—there's an even greater level of vaccine hesitancy with which to wrangle.
More than 40 percent of Republicans say they have no intention of getting vaccinated. A large portion of white evangelicals, whose religious beliefs widely intersect with support for the GOP, say the same.
Fanning the flames of this hesitancy is far-right media.
White nationalist Fox News host and the most prominent racist to lose Dancing with the Stars, Tucker Carlson, is only exacerbating this hesitation, as indicated by his most recent anti-vaccine diatribe.
In a segment broadcast to millions of viewers, Carlson speculated that the vaccine doesn't work, but that the government is telling people it does.
"If vaccines work, why are vaccinated people still banned from living normal lives. ... If the vaccine is effective, there is no reason for people who've received the vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it doesn't work and they're simply not telling you that."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have urged vaccinated people to continue following safety guidelines like wearing masks and avoiding crowds, especially when around unvaccinated people. Though data shows the vaccines are greatly effective in preventing infection, it's too early to know whether vaccinated people can asymptomatically transmit the virus on a large scale.
Epidemiologist and top health advisor to President Biden—Dr. Anthony Fauci—decried Carlson's screed as a conspiracy theory.
Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who falsely suggested to his 3.4 million viewers that COVID… https://t.co/S2GXnQ71ig— The Recount (@The Recount) 1618404922.0
"Why would we not tell people if it doesn't work? Look at the data. The data are overwhelming. In the three vaccines that have been approved ... you had 30 thousand, 44 thousand, and 40 thousand people in a clinical trial with an overwhelming signal of efficacy. So I don't have any idea what he's talking about."
Carlson's rant is the latest drop in the incessant, year-long stream of disinformation from Fox News regarding the pandemic, encouraging its viewers to take actions that could sicken or even kill them.
Understand concerns about vaccine safety. Getting it a personal choice. But for Fox to allow Tucker to go off the r… https://t.co/nw37s1ucBb— Gretchen Carlson (@Gretchen Carlson) 1618398073.0
What is wrong with this twit? https://t.co/tBRnypZX98— Just a Guy ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ (@Just a Guy ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ) 1618418654.0
this guy is responsible for so many deaths like i can't even fathom https://t.co/91D7nY11NH— mollz ✨ (@mollz ✨) 1618416137.0
Tucker Carlson doesn’t mind killing a few people https://t.co/bI2wLeyYzy— Jackie Singh 🗽 (@Jackie Singh 🗽) 1618415745.0
Hey Tucker, I'd rather believe medical experts and epidemiologists who received years of training, worked for deca… https://t.co/QvoDIKIUuW— Mike Sarzo 😷 (@Mike Sarzo 😷) 1618414617.0
He’s taking advantage of people’s lack of education about vaccines. Just like with the flu vaccine - yes, you *migh… https://t.co/g5rGhcPK3S— Kelsey Nolen (@Kelsey Nolen) 1618405778.0
Take this asshole off the air. Irresponsible and definitely immoral. https://t.co/pWn5GnWtS1— Dan Moren (@Dan Moren) 1618403471.0
People are confounded by Fox News' constant disregard for the safety of its viewers.
As supposedly patriotic Americans, one would think that @foxnews would be 100% committed to ending this pandemic an… https://t.co/7USF89xXmJ— Dan #WearAMask (@Dan #WearAMask) 1618400150.0
First the tell you it’s not a big deal Then they tell you it’s the flu Then tell you masks don’t work Tell you it’… https://t.co/llLed1BbIZ— thegreatchuckbambino (@thegreatchuckbambino) 1618403348.0
Fox (Fake) News or better Faux News should not be allowed to imply that it is a news organization at all. It is gat… https://t.co/vt8d9dvdrB— M. Scott Marshall (@M. Scott Marshall) 1618406186.0
Fox News continues to be a cancer on our society. They are dangerous. https://t.co/yHIHmBIeMz— Craig Beilinson (@Craig Beilinson) 1618408400.0
It's unclear just how many of Carlson's millions of viewers will trust his word on the efficacy of the vaccine.