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How American conservatives turned against the vaccine

The partisan pandemic, explained in 15 charts.

President Donald Trump presided over the fastest vaccine development process in history, leading to abundant, free vaccines in the US by the spring of 2021. Although the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines haven’t been able to stop transmission of the virus, they have been highly effective against hospitalization and death, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and rendering the majority of new Covid-19 deaths preventable.

Trump has received three doses of the vaccine. But many of his most dedicated supporters have refused, and many have died as a result. Why? Obvious culprits include misinformation on social media and Fox News and the election of Joe Biden, which placed a Democrat at the top of the US government throughout the vaccine distribution period. But if you look closely at the data, you’ll see that vaccine-hesitant conservatives largely made up their mind well before the vaccines were available and before Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

To understand why, I took a deep dive into the data, interviewed researchers, and spoke to people who lost loved ones to preventable severe Covid-19 infections. What I found is a stark cautionary tale for the country and for Republican political elites. Partisan polarization takes on a life of its own; once set into motion it’s nearly impossible to stop, even when the fallout is immense and irreparable.

Accepting donations in memory of Philly Baird and Phil Valentine.

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