In My Words: Why Trump voters should choose to take the COVID vaccine

In this column distributed by the Elon University Writers Syndicate, Professor of Biology Dave Gammon makes an argument for getting the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically targeting those who voted for Donald Trump but have not yet been vaccinated. The article was published by the Burlington Times-News and Greensboro News & Record.

By Dave Gammon

If you examine a list of the five states with the lowest COVID vaccination rates, an obvious pattern emerges. You don’t need a PhD in political science to grasp that the sparsely vaccinated states of Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, Idaho, and Alabama all contain high concentrations of those who voted for Donald Trump. Don’t expect these voters to be swayed by lottery incentives, appeals from a president they despise, or technical advice from government experts.

Dave Gammon, professor of biology

So I want to share why I think taking the vaccine is a great idea directly with those who voted for Trump, but are skeptical of vaccination. Hopefully my arguments appeal to a broader audience, but this article is designed specifically for Trump’s followers who have so far said no to the vaccine.

I am a professional scientist, but more importantly, I speak to you as a fellow human, father and patriotic citizen of the United States. I grew up in one of the reddest states in America. Most of my family are lifelong Republicans, and my list of friends and neighbors who voted for Trump is long. I respect them and work hard to understand their motivations.

I know you value personal liberty and freedom. So do I. I know you worry about the federal government trying to control more and more of our personal lives. I share that concern, too. I know you hate wearing masks. Don’t we all!

It’s for these very reasons I encourage you to take the vaccine.

When I took my shots, I did not feel like a sheep. Instead I felt like I was liberating myself and gaining freedoms that had been taken from me for more than a year. My side effects were more benign than I anticipated, and the five months since getting vaccinated have been marvelous. I saw my elderly parents for the first time in nearly two years.

National statistics replicate my story millions of times. By mid-July of this year, 161 million Americans had claimed their vaccine shots. Of these fully vaccinated Americans, just one in 30,000 have been hospitalized since vaccination because of COVID, and fewer than a quarter of these hospitalizations resulted in deaths.

These statistics, which I learned about on Fox News, are not fake. I know that because I just spent a week with my brother-in-law, Jesse, who is an Intensive Care Unit physician in another state. For the past 18 months he has done nothing but treat COVID patients, and unfortunately watching many of them die. Jesse told me the unvaccinated now account for more than 95 percent of his COVID patients.

It was heartbreaking to hear my brother-in-law share dozens of deathbed conversations in which his patients lament their prior resistance to the vaccine. With Jesse’s encouragement, these patients then pled with their families and friends to get vaccinated…but it was too late for them.

At this point, no one should need the government to tell them to get vaccinated. There is no question vaccinations provide amazing protection against this virus. Are there any reasons to avoid vaccination? Sure, in rare medical cases, and perhaps because of religious reasons. But it is unreasonable to think these exceptions should apply to half of the great citizens of Mississippi and other Trump-friendly states.

As a scientist, I am a big believer in the concept of objective truth. Vaccines work regardless of whether you believe in them. Unfortunately, you cannot expect all politicians and media outlets to reinforce that truth. Too many of them are fixated on votes, dollars, or both.

For example, the Fox News article I referenced earlier was titled, “Texas Governor signs order banning COVID vaccine, mask mandates.” This title might tickle the ears of Fox consumers who loathe government mandates, but the title misrepresents how Governor Abbott feels about vaccines. In truth, he received the vaccine last December and has encouraged his fellow Texans to do likewise.

Most of us have now shed our masks, but the pandemic is not over yet. Although COVID cases plummeted throughout the first six months of 2021 – thanks to the vaccine – daily case counts have risen since then, quadrupling in just the past month. If cases continue to rise, government officials will feel more and more outside pressure to impose new public health restrictions, such as mask mandates.

Let’s not let that happen. Let’s end this pandemic. Let’s choose to take the COVID vaccine.

Views expressed in this column are the author’s own and not necessarily those of Elon University.