Editor’s Note: This was excerpted from the July 17 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
What if they make a Covid-19 vaccine but Americans refuse to take it?
You might expect people to line up to bare their arms, after months stuck at home. But the anti-vaxxer movement has been gaining steam in recent years, with some parents refusing to inoculate kids against once-eradicated diseases like polio and measles. “There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country – an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking,” the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN recently.
It’s a symptom of the politicization of every layer of American life. Some conservatives balk on principle at the government ordering them to take a jab. Some are suspicious of the power of the pharmaceutical industrial complex. Others are swayed by false conspiracy theories that whip around the social media echo chamber. The results are clear: Last year, the US recorded the most cases of measles since 1992.
Much of the world’s population, especially in poorer nations, worry about getting hold of the vaccine at all. But even if a coronavirus vaccine were cheap and easy to get, one third of Americans and 47% of Republicans told a CNN poll in May that they would not try to get vaccinated. Could that have changed now that the virus is raging in southern, conservative states and confounding Donald Trump’s misinformation about its potency?
And given that the Trump administration has botched almost every aspect of the pandemic response so far, there’s little reason to think it can handle the complex, ethical, regulatory, medical and societal issues that will come with a vaccine – even if Americans did want it.
‘The free world will need its own version of the whole-of-society approach’
In a speech that railed against China’s growing influence with a distinct splash of Cold War nostalgia, US Attorney General William Barr on Thursday urged American businesses, universities and even Hollywood to join a “whole of society” effort to ensure US economic dominance. “In a globalized world, American corporations and universities alike may view themselves as global citizens, rather than American institutions,” he said at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. “But they should remember that what allowed them to succeed in the first place was the American free enterprise system, the rule of law and the security afforded by America’s economic, technological, and military strength.”
Would you travel to America?
We received an inbox full of “No!” “Hell, no!” “No way!” and even “I would rather face a cage full of hungry lions” last week, in response to whether readers would consider visiting the US anytime soon. There were also some longer responses – have a look below. (And condolences to the many Canadian snowbirds who wrote in lamenting missed vacations in sunny California, Florida and Hawaii.)
“Who in their right mind would travel to the USA at this time? Especially from New Zealand; one of the safest places on the planet. Perhaps after Covid-19 dies off, and the United States separates health care from employment and moves gradually to a fair and equable society, one may be tempted,” wrote Tony from Auckland.
“I have wanted to holiday in America for some years but now fear this may never happen due to our ages and the manner in which Covid-19 has been allowed to run rampant throughout such a vast country. (…) Maybe in America life is not considered in the same way as in England, otherwise the gun laws would be changed to reduce the number of children killed in mass shootings,” wrote Ian from the UK. “We have enough problems in the UK but they seem trivial compared to those in America.”
Nettie, an American living in Canada, declared she won’t be setting foot on the US side of the border. What’s more, she’s been calling the cops on Americans who dare cross the other way. “I’ve seen the odd US license plate up here and am one of many people who report them to the RCMP. I doubt a family with an RV is here on business and this area certainly isn’t a direct route to Alaska. That apparent refusal to do what’s right will be the downfall of the US.”
For several readers, it wasn’t just the virus that’s changed their travel plans. “Travel to America feels very dangerous to me. The American population is often angry and volatile, humourless, self-absorbed and pushy. You just don’t know how you will be treated when you go out and about in American cities. Then there are the guns. Too many in the wrong hands,” wrote Sheina from Newfoundland.
“Every time I land here, it feels like coming home. I love the beautiful country and the friendly people; especially in the small towns, and I would love to travel here again. … But not right now. And there are several reasons for that. The most important of course is the coronavirus,” wrote Karel from the Netherlands. “But there are other reasons: the atmosphere in the US has changed. On my last ‘Eclipse’ trip in 2017, in Hill City in the Black Hills, they sold T-shirts with Mr. Trump’s face and the text ‘Finally someone with balls’ underneath it.”
“It is not just the danger/risk of catching corona-infection, it is the changes that have happened. Today’s USA looks psychologically very ugly, hostile, unsafe and unhealthy and very likely more so in the foreseeable future,” said Kari from Finland. “Japan, New Zealand and of course a dozen of European countries are now our possible places to travel to. USA? Probably never in this life.”
Not everyone gave a hard “no.” Amalia, from Genoa, said she would consider voyaging to America’s natural parks eventually – if she can get there safely. “Unfortunately in these days I do not feel like traveling to and through my beloved USA! Too many risks …” she wrote. “Eventually, going through the deserted areas, canyons of Colorado, Arizona, and Utah might be safe. … But how would it be to reach such places?”
John from New Zealand claimed he would happily travel to the US “tomorrow” to show Americans how to deal with the virus. “I believe the task in front of the United States appears to (be) too great; almost overwhelming to a lot of individual Americans. The best thinking (IMO) is to reduce the tasks down to small, manageable cells that individual officials are assigned with the necessary authority to be able to be held accountable. As we did down here in NZ, this can be fixed in weeks. Needless to say, I would love to help,” he wrote.
And focused on the big picture, Chris from Amsterdam chided us for asking the question at all. “No – and not for that matter any international travel,” he wrote. “Better stay home and reflect on our way of life, how the hell did we end up here? Besides death and chaos, (the coronavirus) provides us with valuable life lessons. Our host Mother Earth tells us we’re the virus – and it has commenced testing its latest vaccines against us.”
Pedestals to fill
Remember this image?
Meanwhile producer Shelby Rose reminds us: After the murder of George Floyd sparked a global debate about colonial memory, protestors in Bristol in early June tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, that had stood in Bristol’s city center since 1895, and dumped it into the harbor.
On Wednesday, British artist Marc Quinn replaced it with a sculpture of Black Lives Matter activist Jen Reid. But the impromptu display, set up without the knowledge of Bristol’s council, lasted just one day before being taken down and moved to a museum on Thursday.
The European Space Agency and NASA released the first images taken of the sun’s surface from their joint Sun-observing mission, the Solar Orbiter. The pictures reveal miniature solar flares, dubbed “campfires.” (ESA AND ESA/ATG media lab)