In southern Illinois, which is historically Republican, Covid-19 vaccine appointments are not getting filled. GOP leaders are attempting to change that.
“The only way to protect ourselves and your loved ones ― and to end the government’s restrictions on our freedoms ― is to take action and get the vaccine."
That's the message sent out from a group of Republican leaders (also doctors) to their constituents.
The video was created by an 18-member GOP Doctors’ Caucus in the hopes to convince skeptical followers that the Covid-19 vaccine is not only safe but the only way to end the pandemic.
The video's message was made to appeal specifically to Republican voters. In the video, Rep. John Joyce, a Pennsylvanian Republican recalls that former President Trump created Operation Warp Speed to deliver an effective vaccine to the nation. “Operation Warp Speed brought us safe and effective vaccines, and all in record time."
GOP lawmakers are reaching out to their followers in response to low vaccination rates and surveys that show almost half of Republicans have no intention of getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
And in the southern half of Illinois, this is apparent as appointments sit empty and the surplus of the vaccine continues to grow. Currently, in Illinois, 32% of residents are fully vaccinated. However, in the far southern county of Alexander, a mainly Republican area, the rate is slightly above 10%, according to the Illinois Department of Health.
Another county in central Illinois, Montgomery county, is sitting at 26% fully vaccinated. Though the patterns don't follow exactly, one can see that the counties that voted for Trump in 2020 are generally running behind in vaccination rates. And further, it seems in these areas, further demand for the vaccine is waning.
Contrast that with Cook County, where Chicago is located, at close to 34%. Appointments are still full, and the vaccination rates in Chicago might be higher if more vaccine was available in the city.
The Chicago Tribune reported that area health departments in northern Illinois are struggling to keep enough vaccines on hand for everyone that wants to get one. The Tribune also stated that in northern Lake County, they are unable to maintain more than a four-day supply of the vaccine. Yet, in the southern part of the state, there is more vaccine than is needed. The Tribune reported that in southern Jackson County, though almost 32% of the population is vaccinated, the clinics can only fill about 10% of vaccination appointments.
As the vaccine availability continues to ramp up in the Chicago area and suburbs but slows down in the rest of the state, the disparity of which regions have a high vaccination population, and which do not, will only increase.
It's not just at the national level that GOP leaders are trying to change the tide of public opinion that is against the virus. In Illinois, GOP leaders are touting the vaccine on their social media pages.
State Rep. Mark Batinick, a Plainfield Republican announced on his Facebook page on April 30 that he received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Will County Health Department facility.
State Rep. Ryan Stain, of Peoria, hasn't shown himself on social media getting a vaccine, but he did advocate for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic held in his region and said, "These clinics are FREE and very well run. Quick and easy to get in and out of."
And though demand for the vaccine in the Illinois counties that voted for Trump is waning, Trump and his wife Melania have both had their Covid-19 vaccines. Not publicized it at the time, but reported later, they both received vaccines at the White House in January before Trump left office.
When GOP leaders publicly announce they've received the vaccine, they are often met with hostility from Republican followers. Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump announced via Twitter that she had received her vaccination, resulting in some angry responses from Twitter users.
For now, the question still remains. Will the message from the GOP leaders be enough to stop the tide of negative Republican sentiment towards the vaccine? Or is this yet another case of a divided America?