With new Covid cases and hospitalizations spiking in Oklahoma and across the country, there is an increasing push to get those who are unvaccinated to go ahead and get their shots. But some Republicans, including at least one member of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, don’t feel comfortable pushing too hard.
New cases of Covid-19 are up more than 100 percent in Oklahoma in the past week, with statewide hospitalizations now topping 350 and more than 100 Oklahomans in intensive care units. Experts say the vast majority of these cases are avoidable.
"When you look at people who have been hospitalized," said Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb yesterday on Face The Nation, "97 percent of the hospitalizations are in people who are unvaccinated."
The entire Oklahoma congressional delegation is vaccinated. Members of Congress, generally speaking, were among the first to be inoculated against the virus. But more and more Republicans are unwilling to actively push constituents to do the same, insisting that decision should be left up to each individual.
“My message to them,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R) OK, in an interview last week, “is call your doctor, consult your doctor—it’s got to be your decision, not the government’s decision.”
The government is not forcing Americans to get vaccinated and many Oklahomans are freely making the choice not to get vaccinated. As of Monday morning, 39.5 percent of Sooners were fully vaccinated, compared to 49 percent of all Americans. In Oklahoma, 46 percent of the population is partially vaccinated, compared to 57 percent nationwide.
Experts worry vaccine hesitancy -- or misinformation about vaccines -- will result in Americans needlessly getting sick, and even dying.
"No, I don’t think so," Inhofe said. "People make individual choices, and I think they’ll make the right choice."
Fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, new Covid-19 cases are rising everywhere, not just in Oklahoma. Dr. Gottlieb says the virus is likely to touch everyone.
“Most people will either get vaccinated, have been previously infected, or they will get this Delta variant,” said Gottlieb. “And for most people who get this Delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus they get in their lifetime, in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.”
No members of the Oklahoma delegation have discouraged Oklahomans from getting vaccinated and in fact, some, most notably Rep. Frank Lucas, (R) OK-3, have been strong public advocates for inoculation, speaking often of the importance of vaccination in putting the pandemic behind us.
At the same time, President Biden has ignored calls from some on the left to mandate vaccinations, instead of making personal pleas to Americans to get the shot and stepping up outreach to communities where rates are lowest. So far, though, the administration is struggling to move the needle.
More recently, a growing number of Republicans in Washington are tempering their endorsements of vaccination: instead of encouraging constituents to get vaccinated, they encourage them to make the decision that's right for them.
Sen. Inhofe doesn't think it's right for him or others in government to be telling people to get the vaccine or not to get it.
"So, I am not doing that," Inhofe said, "I’m just saying, you guys talk to your doctors, make up your own mind. I got vaccinated and I did so, thoughtfully, and I think I did the right thing.
Oklahomans wanting to get vaccinated can sign up HERE