PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania physicians today urged Republican legislators to encourage their conservative supporters to get vaccinated as polls show large percentages of them continuing to refuse vaccinations. The physicians’ appeal came as Pennsylvania experiences a new surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with the spread of a more contagious variant in the state. All Pennsylvanians ages 16 and above are now eligible to get vaccinated; individuals 16 and older can get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
“Vaccinations are the light at the end of our long pandemic tunnel and the best path toward returning to normal, yet too many of our fellow Pennsylvanians refuse to take this critical step that can protect their health and give them the freedom to safely and responsibly resume everyday activities,” said Dr. Max Cooper, MD, an emergency physician in southeast Pennsylvania and Co-State Lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare. “Republican legislators have a unique opportunity to show leadership during this pandemic by reaching out to their supporters, sharing information that can help encourage them to get vaccinated for both themselves and for their communities. As physicians, we urge Republican legislators to help protect Pennsylvanians at a critical time in our fight against the pandemic.”
Communications on vaccines thus far from Republican leaders in the state have been mixed. Republican State Rep. Dawn Keefer has focused on prohibiting “vaccine passports,” and State Rep. Russ Diamond has stated that he won’t get vaccinated, even going so far on social media as to falsely refer to vaccines as “poison.”
Pennsylvania has the nation’s sixth highest number of people with the B.1.1.7 , or U.K., variant of COVID-19, which is now the nation’s dominant strain. Pennsylvania hospitals are seeing more patients being admitted and in intensive care compared with two weeks ago. Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 63 are experiencing high rates of disease transmission.
“Simply put, we are in a race between the vaccines and the variants, and it’s a race that would be very costly to lose,” said Dr. Meaghan Reid, an emergency physician in southeast Pennsylvania and Co-State Lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare. “Until we get 70-90 percent of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity, the virus will keep infecting new people and mutating, potentially to the point where our current vaccines don’t work — then we’re back at square one. We’ve sacrificed so much and so many Pennsylvanians have needlessly been sickened or have died, in large part because of misinformation and politicization of the pandemic. It’s past time for leaders in our commonwealth to refocus on the health of their constituents and prevent this pandemic from going on for years.”
Pennsylvania is behind many other states in percentage of population vaccinated, including neighboring states. Multiple polls show that conservative, Republican and evangelical voters are more likely than other groups to refuse to get vaccinated, with fewer than half of conservatives nationally and in Pennsylvania saying they will get vaccinated. In contrast, nearly 80 percent of Democrats are eager to get vaccinated. Nevertheless, nationally, 19 percent of conservative Republicans say they plan to wait and see about getting vaccinated.
“Physicians see a huge role for Republican leaders across Pennsylvania to help us get back to normal without risking the spread of serious illness and death, and that’s by sharing important facts and information with supporters who trust them to protect their health and the health of their families,” said Dr. Ann McDonald, a psychiatrist in northeastern Pennsylvania. “Choices around vaccinations should be made with as much accurate, factual and science-based information as possible — they shouldn’t be political. As physicians who have studied the data and the evidence, we hope we can persuade Republican leaders to proactively share basic information such as the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and efficacious, do not have any out-of-pocket costs, won’t cause infertility or affect your DNA, and don’t contain microchips or the COVID-19 virus itself. Every vaccination can make a difference in eradicating this pandemic and getting Pennsylvania closer to herd immunity. We urge Republican leaders to help us connect with the most reluctant group in our state right now so we can get back to normal sooner, safely and responsibly.”
The physicians encouraged Republican leaders to help debunk myths and misinformation about vaccinations, while sharing basic facts and information about where and how to get vaccinated.
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe, with severe reactions, or anaphylaxis, in 2.5-11 people per 1 million; 0.00025 percent–0.001 percent, and no deaths reported from vaccines.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are efficacious, at around 95 percent; for comparison, flu vaccines are 40 percent-60 percent effective, measles vaccines are 90 percent effective and the polio vaccine at 100 percent.
Vaccinations can safely return Pennsylvania to normal, by ethically and effectively helping 70-90 percent of a population reach herd, or community, immunity; even Pope Francis calls vaccinations a moral choice.
The vaccines do not contain microchips or the live COVID-19 virus: Messenger RNA (mRNA), oil and salt are the only ingredients in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, while the suspended Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains recombinant adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (non-replicating); acids; ethanol; 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD); polysorbate-80 (also in ice cream); and salt.
HOW TO GET VACCINATED: Pennsylvanians can check the vaccination page on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania website for information on where, how and when they can schedule a vaccination. Individuals without online access can call the Department of Health hotline at 1-877-724-3258.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 22, 2021
NOTE: The physicians above are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.