Both CNN and NBC have recently sent reporters out into regions heavy with Republican voters to ask why so many people in those places are refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
The folks who ended up on camera in two rural towns – one in Mississippi and one in Oklahoma – gave a variety of reasons for resisting the shots: they didn’t trust the government; they were exercising their freedom; they never got shots for flu, so they were not inclined to get this one. A young man in Mississippi said he was just too confused by all the competing opinions, apparently having a hard time discerning between the advice of medical experts and the crackpot ideas of Fox News pundits. When told that even Donald Trump had gotten vaccinated, one fellow sitting among his buddies at a diner in Oklahoma said he was not influenced by what the ex-president had done because “Trump is a New York liberal.”
Meanwhile, in Seattle – a very different place – we have the phenomenon of “vaccine chasers.” These are people so anxious to get inoculated that they turn up day after day to wait outside vaccination centers hoping there will be a few extra shots available and that they will be lucky enough to get one.
A recent survey revealed that, among major American cities, Seattle has the second highest share of citizens who say they will definitely get vaccinated. Only San Francisco had a higher rate of acceptance. Boston was right behind Seattle. Among the things that differentiate Seattle, San Francisco and Boston from small-town Oklahoma and Mississippi is, obviously, politics. The pandemic was politicized early on by that “New York liberal” Trump, and now a big share of Republican men are dead set against getting shots while people in liberal cities are competing to get life-protecting jabs in their shoulders.
There is another difference, as well. Those three cities with the highest proportions of vaccine fans also boast some of the most highly educated populations in America. In part because of a lack of resources and opportunities, rural areas in Oklahoma, Mississippi and similar locales across the country are significantly less educated. That sad, but real, fact may help explain why one group of Americans heeds the advice of doctors while another would rather listen to snake oil salesmen.
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