Analysis: What Sarah Sanders gets wrong about the Covid-19 vaccine

CNN —  

Here’s the headline out of an op-ed Sarah Sanders wrote in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Sunday: She got vaccinated “a few months ago” against the Covid-19 virus.

Which is a good thing! Sanders, the former White House press secretary and front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Arkansas next year, is a high-profile figure among Republicans both in her home state and nationally.

In Arkansas, only 36% of residents are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest totals in the country. So Sanders deserves credit for publicly touting her decision to get vaccinated. Period.

But the way that Sanders framed that decision is, well, wrong.

Here’s the paragraph I take primary issue with:

“Recent data demonstrates that those Arkansans who are not vaccinated are at significantly greater risk for serious illness from Covid. In fact, 98 percent of Covid patients currently hospitalized in our state and 99 percent of recent Covid deaths were people who were not vaccinated. It’s clear that the Trump vaccine works and is saving lives.”

And this in particular (bolding is mine): “It’s clear that the Trump vaccine works and is saving lives.”

It isn’t the “Trump vaccine.” Or the “Biden vaccine.” Or the “Cillizza vaccine.” It’s just the vaccine, one that – if people get it – will save thousands of lives.

When Sanders refers to the Covid-19 vaccine as being tied somehow to Trump, she’s throwing a bit of red meat to Trump voters (and Trump himself) who believe that the former president isn’t getting enough credit for its development – in record time, no less!

In case you missed that message, Sanders came right out and wrote it. Here’s that section of the op-ed:

“If President Biden, Vice President Harris, and others on the left truly care about increasing the vaccination rate and saving lives, they should admit they were wrong to cast doubt on Operation Warp Speed and give President Trump and his team the credit they are due for the development of a safe and effective vaccine in record time.”

So, the key to getting more Arkansans vaccinated is not the science that makes clear that the unvaccinated are at tremendous risk of catching the Delta variant, but rather President Biden and Vice President Harris apologizing for not giving Trump enough credit for developing the vaccine?


The problem here – aside from that loopy logic – is that Sanders is painting the vaccine in purely political terms. It’s the Trump vaccine. And Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. And the dastardly Democrats who don’t want to give Trump credit.

Of course, getting vaccinated against a virus that has killed more than 610,000 Americans (and more than 4.2 million globally) has zero to do with politics. Vaccination against Covid-19 should be a public health issue. We need to reach herd immunity so that those among us who can’t yet be vaccinated – children under 12, organ recipients – can be protected.

Who politicized the virus – and, therefore, the vaccine? Sanders’ old boss – Donald Trump. And like a good chip off the old block, she’s doing it now, too.