The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
The United States, including Wisconsin, faces a COVID-19 pandemic of the unvaccinated because of highly contagious variants, flatlining vaccinations and few preventive measures. New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising, almost entirely among the unvaccinated. Arkansas, California, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and Texas are the hotspots. However, Wisconsin is not yet out of the COVID-19 woods.
With only about half of Wisconsin fully vaccinated, new cases are “the highest in months” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing. The state Department of Health Services (DHS) reported that 95 percent of COVID-19 deaths since January 1, 2021 are among the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. The vaccines are working! Wisconsin has seen enough loss and suffering: 7,398 deaths and 616,503 cases, with many facing long-term damage to the lungs, heart and brain.
It is long past time to stop the partisan and unscientific wrangling over vaccinations. Former Wisconsin Govs. Jim Doyle (a Democrat) and Scott Walker (a Republican) stepped up. With the help of the UW Health System they did a statewide PSA promoting vaccinations. In the PSA, Walker says to Doyle: “Let’s do a commercial together reminding people in Wisconsin how important it is to be vaccinated.” Doyle responds to Walker: “That may be the best idea you’ve ever had.” GOP state Sen. Robert Cowles posted on Facebook – “Governors Walker and Doyle are right: It’s time to get vaccinated!”
Other GOP leaders are breaking with the anti-vaccine naysayers. U.S. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said: “These shots need to get in everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for – that we went through last year. This is not complicated.” And, House GOP leader Steve Scalise said: “There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective. … I’m happy that I got the vaccine … .” Finally, Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox admonished conservative “talking heads” for “literally killing their supporters” by promoting anti-vaccine misinformation.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson continues spouting nonsense: “I see no reason to be pushing vaccines on people.” With 92 percent of GOP senators vaccinated, Johnson is an outlier who has refused to be vaccinated. Moreover, Johnson is putting those who heed him in great danger. Scott Walker is right, get vaccinated.
In contrast to Johnson, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is trying to “get more vaccine shots in arms.” He has initiated a “multimedia campaign” with local doctors to answer questions and promote vaccinations. Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said: “As with any new vaccine or treatment, it is understandable that people have questions. But as health care professionals we need to be patient … and ask and answer questions, and we will continue to make progress.” Moreover, Evers and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett are working on getting more Wisconsinites in rural and inner-city areas respectively vaccinated
The Guardian reported: “More than 3,600 U.S. health workers died in COVID’s first year.” Honor them, get vaccinated.
— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.