Living in a world where the effects of a global pandemic are still unknown can be tense. Living in a world where seemingly every issue is politicized can make that even more tense. Today’s polarizing political climate has turned apolitical issues, like the COVID-19 vaccine, into topics for aspiring U.S. government officials to debate. As a result, the differing positions on the topic have become affiliated with the two main political parties in the United States.
This issue, however, should not be brought into political discussions to begin with. Medicine is in a completely different branch of society than politics, and the two have little reason to intersect. There are many factors that go into one’s decision to get vaccinated: politics shouldn’t be one of them. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the COVID-19 vaccine–I understand that that is an individual decision. My point, rather, is that in a country already deeply divided along political lines, politicizing an issue such as the vaccination effort will only increase the tension and further divide the country.
For months, we yearned for a vaccine to be developed. Then, when Pfizer and Moderna created one, we patiently waited for access to them. Currently, anyone over the age of 12 can receive protection from COVID-19 in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 55.4 percent of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated. This less than impressive number is a result of the controversial ways in which the vaccine was portrayed by politicians, specifically during the 2020 election.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, which provides statistics and information on national health issues, found that counties that voted for Trump reported lower vaccination rates than counties that voted for Biden. Furthermore, the gap in vaccination rates between counties that voted for these candidates has only been increasing since April. This shows the clear correlation between the candidates of the 2020 election and the vaccination effort. No matter which side you align yourself with, you have to agree that it would be better for the health of the country if the COVID-19 vaccine was presented from a unified front.
When Republicans and Democrats have such vastly differing views on topics, it makes citizens feel as though there is no middle position to take and they are committing themselves to a certain ideology. This is not ideal for how we should want people to feel about their personal wellbeing during a global pandemic. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose the option that makes sense for themselves without feeling scrutinized by either side of the political spectrum. In a broader sense, politicizing the vaccine has a negative effect on the country’s political climate. When we politicize issues like this, we deepen the divide between political parties and expose the flaws of the two-party system. The decreasing amount of shared ideals between the two parties over the past few elections has eliminated the possibility of a moderate candidate, inching us closer and closer to partisan conflict as well as voter apathy.
On the other hand, it is true that we–as a society in crisis–have reason to look up to our political leaders to guide us out of a dark time. This has been happening since the foundation of the United States, whether it be during times of war, social unrest, or economic crisis. In an unprecedented medical situation such as the one we’re living through, we once again look to the leaders we have elected to positions of power.
I’m not saying that our president and congresspeople shouldn’t enact policies and pass legislation regarding the vaccination effort. I am, however, arguing that the effort to solve this issue should be a unified one, not a divided one, and that means removing its affiliation to political parties. The vaccine was developed under a Republican and distributed under a Democrat. That fact alone should be enough to lay the controversy to rest as we attempt to finally beat the pandemic, but that can’t happen without a more relaxed political environment than the one we are currently experiencing.