Poll: Most vaccine holdouts need more convincing. Dems, GOP do battle on voter rights. Why Israel carnage is good news for Netanyahu.
Poll: Most US vaccine holdouts need more convincing
Now that various COVID vaccines are freely and widely available, the National Institutes of Health is zeroing in on the remaining holdouts. A new AP poll shows that just 11% of people who haven’t yet received the vaccine say that they definitely will get the jab, while 34% say they definitely won’t. While that second figure has come down somewhat in recent months, some fear this latest figure represents the hard core of skeptics who will remain unreachable on this issue for the foreseeable future.
However, the poll also shows that a majority of those that remain unvaccinated may be reachable. The 54% who remain on the fence split evenly into those who say they probably will get the vaccine and those who say they probably won’t. National Institutes of Health immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett is working to convince fence-sitters by addressing their concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in plain English.
Misinformation and stakes on the rise
Firstly, Corbett refutes rumors that abound on the Internet, including one that the vaccines can cause infertility. “Whoever started that rumor,” she says, “shame on you”.
Secondly, Corbett seeks to dispel worries that the vaccines’ rapid development meant that companies had cut corners. Corbett clarifies that immunologists had “worked our butts off” for 6 years to develop defenses against other coronaviruses. This gave researchers a considerable head start.
The stakes in the immunity race are growing, as the WHO designated the COVID variant currently devastating India as a “global concern”. The B.1.617 mutation spreads more rapidly even than most mutants, and is less discriminating in the populations it ravages. The virus is evolving opportunistically to target those pockets of the population that remain largely unvaccinated, especially children. Last month, a report indicated that children made up 21% of new COVID cases in the US. Fortunately, the FDA has just approved Pfizer’s vaccine for use in children as young as 12. Pfizer hopes that approval for 2-11-year-olds will come in September.
GOP, Dems do battle over voting rights bill
As numerous Republican-controlled states pass laws to restrict voter eligibility and access, Democrats in Congress are pushing a top-down solution. Voting laws have traditionally been left up to individual states, but Democrats argue that the new state laws are discriminatory and require a federal response.
However, the Democrats’ legislation doesn’t only seek to remove state-backed barriers to voting. It also includes measures to combat historically-low confidence in the electoral system among voters of all political persuasions.
Firstly, the bill would restrict partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the bill proposes greater transparency for corporate “dark money” donations, and introduces limited public campaign financing for Congressional races. The bill proposes a system of federally-funded vouchers for candidates and matching for small-dollar donations (up to $200). These would increase the power of small-dollar donors and reduce candidates’ dependence on (and legislative fealty to) big-money donors.
Both Democrats and Republicans benefit from big-dollar donations. But the GOP has risen to the bait by specifically attacking the public campaign finance provisions, in addition to championing states’ rights to create more hoops for voters to jump through.
Israel and Gaza violence continues
Following violent confrontations in Jerusalem yesterday, recent tensions have escalated to exchanges of rocket fire and airstrikes between Gaza and Israel. After Gaza militants, fired a small number of rockets into Israel yesterday, Israel responded with airstrikes in densely populated Gaza, resulting in fatalities. Since then, the Israeli Defense Force say Hamas militants have fired 250 rockets into Israeli territory. Most of these were deflected by the Iron Dome system, but some hit buildings. These caused some damage and killed two women in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Israel has retaliated with air strikes that have killed at least 24 Gazans, including 9 children.
The Israeli military is now amassing troops at the border with Gaza, stoking fears of a wider and even more deadly confrontation.
Bad news for Israel, good news for Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended Israel’s escalation of hostilities. Netanyahu has remained in power for years in large part due to repeated confrontations with Hamas, which never result in more than a stalemate for both sides. But one prominent Israeli columnist, Ben Caspit, says the renewed hostilities may work in Netanyahu’s favor.
When Netanyahu recently lost a mandate to form a coalition government, the mandate passed to his centrist rival, Yair Lapid. Lapid’s prospects of forming a government hinges on cooperation with moderate Arab party. The outbreak of violence put such a coalition in doubt. This could mean a 5th round of elections for Israel, and another chance for Netanyahu to hold on to power.
Caspit writes, “It’s not certain Netanyahu himself is shedding any tears. At the end of the day, Netanyahu’s strategic alliance with Hamas has proven its worth. Not for Israel’s benefit, but for Netanyahu’s.”
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