Despite the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine has become more widely available in the U.S. in recent months, it’s also been an arduous period of anti-vaxxers — often led by Republican men — pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. But that may no longer be an effective tool now that there's a sudden surge of people reconsidering their anti-vax stance, thanks in part to new mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It turns out that the May 13 announcement from the CDC has more unvaccinated people going to get their jabs. The new guidance stated that people who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings, barring some exceptions. New data obtained by CNN shows that that same afternoon, the vaccines.gov website saw its second highest number of visitors since it was launched at the end of April, as more people began looking up vaccination information by zip code.
"This shows incentives matter," Jonathan Reiner, MD, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine, told CNN. "People needed a carrot, and the carrot was the ability to drop the mask in most settings."
It remains unclear, though, whether the rate of vaccinations went up specifically as a result of the announcement. While website visits and vaccines were both on the rise after the issuance of the new guidelines, the CDC had also opened up the Pfizer vaccine to young people ages 12 to 15 that same week. These changes made the vaccine available to 17 million more people.
Moving forward, it remains to be seen whether anti-vaxxers — including Republicans and men specifically — will contribute to the greater good and start taking care of themselves. While 44% of people over 16 who had received the vaccine by April were women, only 30% of men in the same age group had.
Some of this came down to men being "men" — you know, the toxic masculinity that they believe makes them invincible. Big Strong Men were also less likely to wear masks throughout the pandemic because of their perceived “illusions of vulnerability.” As the Biden administration aimed to reach a vaccination rate of 80% among adults by the summer, many men continued to say, “nah, I’m good.” (Literally.) All this despite the fact that COVID deaths worldwide have been 2.4 times higher for men than women.
And when it comes down to political ideology, well, it’s Republican men who apparently consider themselves the most manly, with 49% of Republican men saying they will not get the vaccine. This is compared to 34% of Republican women, 14% of Democrat women, and only 6% of Democrat men.
Still, there has been significant progress in the U.S. on the vaccination front, as around half of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. And while we may never reach the necessary threshold for herd immunity nationwide, every person who gets vaccinated can help slow the spread and mutation of this virus.