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Worries grow over GOP reluctance to take vaccines

Two polls released this week gauging support for receiving the coronavirus vaccine are underscoring the lingering hesitancy many Republicans still harbor toward the shots, fueling concerns over an unstable recovery from the pandemic.

A poll from Quinnipiac University released Wednesday showed that 45 percent of Republicans “don’t plan” on getting a vaccine. Another survey from Monmouth University showed that 43 percent of Republicans “likely will never" get a shot.

Another poll released Thursday by YouGov showed a slightly smaller number — 36 percent — of Republicans saying they won’t get vaccinated, still representing over a third of self-identified members of the GOP.

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The surveys indicated that vaccine hesitancy among Republicans was significantly higher than among Democrats and independents.

The Quinnipiac University poll reported that 29 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats said they wouldn’t get a vaccine, while Monmouth University’s poll showed 22 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats said the same. 

The polls marked just the latest in a string of surveys showing a disproportionate number of Republicans declining to get shots.

And fears of heightened hesitancy were exacerbated this week after the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause in the administration of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine over rare instances of blood clots in some people who got the shot.

Supporters of the decision to pause the one-shot vaccine have said it’s important for the government to watch for and respond to any adverse reactions from any of the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. But critics said the rarity of the blood clots, found in just 6 of more than 7 million recipients, suggests the pause was an overreaction.

“A global pause of the J&J vaccine seems excessive given the popular mythologies that are likely to arise from this statement for all vaccines,” Prabhjot Singh, a physician and global health expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The Hill.

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Beyond distrust in government already prevalent in Republican circles, vaccine hesitancy among Republicans was also possibly fueled by the shots arriving in rural parts of the country later than more liberal cities. 

“These are folks who really feel disrespected. They feel that COVID and the vaccines and the response has been politicized and weaponized, in their words,” Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Obama, told The Hill last month.

To appeal more directly to Republicans, top public health experts and officials have been making appearances on Fox News and Newsmax, two high-profile conservative media outlets.

Republican leaders have also pressed members of their party to receive the vaccines.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' MORE has touted his administration’s efforts to get a shot to market as a way of calling on Republicans to get vaccinated.

"As a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Republican governor of Arkansas says 'Trump is dividing our party' MORE (R-Ky.), a polio survivor, said last month

“COVID can touch every family out there. There is a vaccine that has life-saving capabilities. I want to encourage everyone to trust it and get the vaccine,” now-Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) added later in March after she was elected to fill the seat left open when her husband died from the coronavirus.