It’s like the United States is two very different nations when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination. On the one hand, many people are riveted by the question of if and when they can get a booster shot. On the other hand, Republicans are railing against vaccine mandates, even when they have to ignore a lot of very inconvenient facts to make their point.
Republicans are very excited about Delta Airlines’ vaccination policy because it’s not a strict requirement like the ones at competing airlines including United, Southwest, American, and JetBlue. Instead, Delta is requiring employees to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly and pay a $200 a month health insurance surcharge. With this policy in place, Delta has reached a 90% vaccination rate—good, but not as good as United’s 99.5%.
When Delta instituted its policy, President Joe Biden hadn’t yet called for a mandate in which people working at large businesses either had to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, so Republicans were angry about Delta’s coercive policy. Now that they’re more interested in being angry at Biden, though, Delta’s policy is suddenly a kind and gentle model that more employers should follow.
Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted, “Bravo to @Delta for having the courage to say NO to the federal vaccine mandate. It’s the right thing to do — to respect the right of their employees to make their own personal decisions about their own healthcare.” Here Cruz was ignoring the fact that Delta has said it will comply with the federal vaccine mandate on federal contractors, which would require its employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8. He was also, of course, being a giant hypocrite on the subject of who is allowed to make which personal decisions about their own health care, but that almost goes without saying when it comes to Republicans.
And beyond Delta specifically, Fox News continues its all-out campaign against vaccination (despite itself having a vaccine mandate for employees):
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, lots of people are paying close attention to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decisions on boosters to COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA already authorized a booster for people aged 65 and older who got the Pfizer vaccine, along with those 18 to 64 who have underlying health conditions or work in public-facing jobs that may expose them to the coronavirus. Similar authorizations are expected to come soon for Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, with everyone who got the Johnson & Johnson shot expected to be recommended to get a booster as soon as two months after their initial shot in what was initially offered as a one-dose vaccine.
The FDA may also soon approve mix-and-match boosters, where someone who got Moderna could get a Pfizer booster or someone who got Johnson & Johnson could get a Moderna booster. That could be a benefit to recipients of the Johnson & Johnson single shot, for whom there’s some indication that an mRNA booster shot could give stronger results, but it’s also a logistical benefit to health care providers.
“The impetus for states and local health departments was that if they were going to go out to a community site or long-term care facility and start providing boosters, it was a little inefficient to show up somewhere and say, ‘We’re just doing the people who got Pfizer,’” Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told The New York Times.
The authorization of Pfizer booster shots produced a significant rush, with boosters outnumbering first shots for unvaccinated people in early October. As of last week, nearly 9 million people had gotten boosters—4.7% of all vaccinated people and more than 12% of all vaccinated people over age 65. Pfizer accounted for a majority of people vaccinated in the U.S., more than Moderna and Johnson & Johnson combined, but presumably when boosters are authorized for those groups—and in particular for Johnson & Johnson, with no restrictions on who is eligible and concerns about its efficacy—people will likewise rush to take advantage, even as millions of other people in the U.S. remain hesitant about or entirely opposed to vaccination.