Marking one year of the global COVID-19 pandemic

It has been one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. As the Biden administration ramps up vaccine efforts, a new CBS News poll reveals that roughly 1 in 3 Republicans say they don't plan to get vaccinated. Washington Post national health reporter Dan Diamond joins "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano to discuss what this could mean for the country's efforts to achieve herd immunity.

Video Transcript


DONALD TRUMP: Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic. We have been in frequent contact with our allies. And we are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people.

I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.

ELAINE QUIJANO: That was then-President Trump on this day one year ago. At the time, there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the US. Now there have been more than 29 million. But the number of people fully vaccinated has surpassed that.

More than 98 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID shot. Mr. Trump is one of them. But he has not joined other former presidents who are touting the vaccines in a new series of ads. However, Mr, Trump did take credit for the vaccines in a statement last night, saying, "If I wasn't president, you wouldn't be getting that beautiful shot for five years, at best."

Dan Diamond is a national health reporter at the "Washington Post." He joins me now from Washington. Hi there, Dan. So you have been reporting on the number of Republicans who say they will not get the vaccine.

Last month, a CBS News poll found more than 30% of Republicans said that they wouldn't get it. Other recent polling that-- found roughly the same number. Now, you spoke with some Trump supporters who are not getting that shot. What are their reasons?

DAN DIAMOND: Well, Elaine, it's hard to narrow down just one reason. There are different reasons based on how old some of the people that I spoke to were. Older Americans might be worried about coronavirus. They might be aware of the risks. But they're also worried that the coronavirus vaccine that was developed relatively quickly carries side effects or other unknown long-term effects that they just don't want to risk right now.

Then there were other Republicans that I spoke to who are die-hard Trump supporters who parroted a lot of the claims he made last year that the coronavirus is no worse than the flu, that Tony Fauci, the federal government-- they have exaggerated the threat. So the idea of getting a coronavirus vaccine that someone like Tony Fauci is touting-- that's not appealing, either.

And then I should also say there were Republicans who don't really like Trump and don't like his message, but think they don't need a vaccine because they've already been infected and they have immunity from the recent bout with COVID. So it's all over the map. But altogether, it's pretty concerning given the sheer number of people who don't want to get the vaccine among Republicans polled.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So given all that, Dan, what could that mean for the nation's efforts to reach herd immunity?

DAN DIAMOND: Well, Elaine, I think we could reach herd immunity a couple of different ways. We could reach herd immunity if all of us get sick and we develop immunity to the virus that way. The preferable way is for as many of us to get vaccinated to get protection from the virus and prevent its further spread.

Public health experts really want that vaccination, too. The more people who get infected, the greater likelihood that there will be mutated forms of the virus that spread and defeat the vaccine. So to your question, what does it mean if millions of Republicans or tens of millions don't want to get vaccinated, it could prolong the fight against the pandemic.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, as we've mentioned, the Ad Council released a series of public service announcements featuring four of the nation's five living presidents. And they're urging Americans to get vaccinated. Donald Trump is the only former president, living former president, who was not featured in the campaign. Why not?

DAN DIAMOND: You noticed that, too? The idea that the president would be marshaled to increase vaccination rates, encourage people to go get vaccinated-- this has been in the works for some months. The Ad Council, which is the preeminent group in coming up with public health messaging-- I remember Smokey the Bear, friends don't let friends drive drunk.


DAN DIAMOND: Those are words that the Ad Council worked on. So they've enlisted celebrities, other figures, like the presidents, to speak out, President Trump apparently not interested in joining these other presidents, which is a real shame given how many Republicans could be influenced by someone like Mr. Trump encouraging them to go get the shot.

ELAINE QUIJANO: And yet, Dan, he did tell people to get the shot when he was at CPAC, that conservative gathering.

DAN DIAMOND: But Elaine, I think the concern is that was too little, too late. The president last year into this year had a real bully pulpit to convince people to get shots. And in my reporting, I asked pollsters about this. And their contention was that rather than make it a public health message, rather than use those speeches and addresses and tweets to encourage people to get vaccinated, when the president talked about the vaccine, it was usually as a political victory, something he wanted to tout and get credit for.

So it's a slightly different message than, say, Barack Obama or George Bush saying, into the camera, we want to go get vaccinated so we can go back to our lives. We hope more Americans get shots, too.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Right, a different message, different emphasis-- so then, Dan, what is the Biden administration doing to get vaccine skeptics and holdouts, including Republicans, on board with vaccines?

DAN DIAMOND: It's a good question, and one that I've been pestering the Biden administration with for a couple of weeks. On the one hand, they are helping with these broader efforts. They supported the Ad Council, which is, again, this consortium that is an expert here in public health messaging. The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, consulted on that campaign.

The Biden administration is close on its own ads and messaging. But they are in a bit of a box because some of the people who are most skeptical are not necessarily going to be motivated by the Biden administration, as we just talked about, all those Republicans. So what the Biden team is trying to do is figure out who are the best messengers and where should their experts be speaking and deploying. They put some people on Fox News. I expect that to continue, for instance.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right. Well, there have now been more confirmed vaccinations than cases nationwide. But you report that health officials are still urging caution to states that are racing to reopen. What are their biggest worries?

DAN DIAMOND: Well, I think the worry, Elaine, is that we get into another cycle of moving a little too quickly and people get infected as a result. Things are absolutely looking better. I think there are reasons for optimism. Biden officials, outside public health experts have stressed the trends are going in the right direction.

The challenge is opening up, getting back to normal, before we're really ready for it. And the idea that hospitalizations can turn around very quickly-- we can look overseas to a country like Brazil, which is now experiencing its worst outbreak of this year-long pandemic.

So while things are better, we're not in the clear. And as long as we keep masking, physically separating, and more people getting vaccinated, we are on a good trend. But that doesn't mean we can get back to normal right away.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah. It's hard to believe we're entering year two of this. All right. Well, Dan Diamond-- Dan, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

DAN DIAMOND: Elaine, thanks for having me.