With new and deadlier variants of the virus that's killed more than 600 thousand Americans continuing to emerge, the United States has yet to reach its goal of 70 percent of Americans fully vaccinated. Much of this is due to access or valid health concerns, but an unignorable portion is due to conspiracy theories eagerly promoted by right-wing lawmakers and media personalities.
That's why people were flummoxed when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he was confused at the vaccine hesitancy gripping Americans across the country.
According to CNN correspondent Ana Cabrera, McConnell said:
"I'm perplexed by the reluctance of some to get vaccinated, totally perplexed."
If McConnell's perplexed, he doesn't need to look further than his own party. Though McConnell—a polio survivor—has been steadfast in calling for Americans to take the vaccines, the Republican party has constantly amplified disinformation and baseless skepticism around the lifesaving innovation.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for instance, recently held a press conference intended to highlight the negative side effects of the vaccines, which have been proven safe and effective against the virus.
Johnson also baselessly suggested there was an ulterior motive for vaccinating everybody:
"The science tells us that vaccines are 95 percent effective, so if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not? What is it to you? You've got a vaccine and the science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine and to the point where you better impose it, you're going to shame people, you're going to force them to carry a card to prove that they've been fully vaccinated so they can participate in society. I'm getting highly suspicious of what's happening here."
But Johnson isn't the only one.
Over in the House, Republican Representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia continue to falsely suggest people are being forced to take the vaccine. Greene has repeatedly compared vaccine efforts to Nazi occupation during World War II.
Then, there's the abundance of vaccine disinformation in conservative media. Far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose primetime show broadcasts to millions of viewers per night, has eagerly encouraged his audience not to get the vaccine, even absurdly claiming that the government secretly knows it doesn't work.
Carlson is but one of hundreds of anti-vaxxers across the spectrum of conservative media.
People told McConnell to look no further than his own party if he was so "perplexed."
They got bad vibes from McConnell's comments.
As a result of this constant disinformation, vaccination rates have begun to correlate with political leanings, with white Republicans far less likely to be vaccinated.