While many of you are sick of hearing, talking and reading about it, the numbers are undeniably staggering.
As of Friday, 279 of our neighbors in Angelina County, 49,527 fellow Texans and 577,041 Americans have died of COVID-19. The virus has caused 3.25 million deaths worldwide.
In February, roughly one year after the first U.S. fatality from the virus, the COVID-19 death toll had already surpassed the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
And the numbers may be even higher than what has been reported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing an estimate of worldwide COVID-19 deaths from the University of Washington that is more than double the official count to determine whether the CDC should revise its figures, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday press briefing.
The analysis, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, pegs the global death toll at close to 6.9 million and the U.S. count at more than 900,000, according to a Reuters article released Friday.
We all know someone who has died of COVID, and so does everyone else. Not to make light of any serious virus, but we simply can’t say the same of the flu.
And yet the flu keeps being tossed around as a good reason not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as do many other excuses, each one as baffling as the next.
At a time when almost everybody is finally eligible for the vaccine so many of us were so desperate for, it seems we’ve reached a point where the ones who haven’t received it are those who don’t plan on getting it. In fact, tens of millions of U.S. citizens aren’t sure they want it. That’s true of one group in particular — those who voted for former President Donald Trump.
Polls show nearly half of Americans who voted for Trump in November say they won’t get the vaccine — a hesitancy that could be a major barrier to reaching herd immunity. A recent poll on The Lufkin Daily News website showed 24.9% of respondents won’t be getting it while another 11.3% are taking a “wait and see approach.”
That’s why finding the right message — as well as the right messengers — to persuade skeptical conservatives to get the vaccine has become an urgent concern for health experts pushing to contain the virus.
Fortunately, a recent focus group conducted by longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz shows there are ways it can be done.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC under former President Barack Obama, recently spoke to a focus group of Trump Republicans reluctant to get the vaccine, as documented in an episode of the weekly radio program “This American Life.”
The group hadn’t been swayed by any of the previous speakers, including Frieden, and the 20 members were repeatedly citing the need for facts. That’s when Frieden offered the following, which we believe bears repeating:
“One, if you get infected with the virus, it will go all over your body and stay there for at least a week and be much more likely to cause you long-term problems than the vaccine. Two, if you get the vaccine, it will prime your immune system, but then the vaccine is gone. It will not be with you anymore. Three, more than 95% of the doctors who have been offered this vaccine have gotten it as soon as they can. Four, the more we vaccinate, the faster we can get back to growing our economy and getting jobs. And five, if people get vaccinated, we’re going to save at least 100,000 lives of Americans who would otherwise be killed by COVID.”
A show of hands afterward indicated many of the panel found those five facts to be impactful to them.
The next speaker, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, simply told the group what happened when he and many of Trump’s inner circle got COVID, and how two of his relatives had died from it just a couple weeks earlier.
“I wasn’t expecting him to say that, that they had passed away,” one panelist said. Two were surprised to hear Trump’s former communications director Hope Hicks ran four miles a day and had still gotten so sick.
That particular combination of facts and emotions from the last two speakers had changed the opinions of all 20 panelists, who afterward said they would probably get the vaccine.
Luntz’s takeaway from the focus group was that basic facts matter, but they need to be presented in the right way.
And if Frieden’s facts can persuade just one person reading this to get the vaccine, they were well worth repeating here today.