This has contributed to a marked partisan divide in the country’s vaccination effort, with 88% of Democrats polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation saying they already have or are planning to get the vaccine, compared to 50% of Republicans. Meanwhile, 27% of Republicans say they “definitely” won’t get it, compared to 3% of Democrats.
These arguments have crept into conservative media like Fox News, leading some Republican state lawmakers to adopt them, said Dorit Reiss, a vaccine law expert at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
“The anti-vaccines create the arguments, but they are not the ones who can get the bill passed,” she said. “It’s a really strange alliance. “
Many state legislatures have already adjourned for the year or will be later this month. It is not known whether similar measures will be introduced once they resume. But some states have already adopted major changes in public health policies through legislation.
“We are on the precipice of reopening society and the spread of an epidemic following a pandemic,” DeWald said.
In Kentucky, the GOP-controlled legislature overturned Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s veto on bills to limit how long he could declare a state of emergency and to give lawmakers more control over those powers. A judge has blocked the implementation of the laws and the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the issue on Thursday.
Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has faced similar efforts in Kansas to limit her emergency authority; she eventually signed compromise legislation restricting her emergency powers during the pandemic, and more broadly thereafter, following negotiations with the Republican-led legislature.
But in other states, GOP lawmakers target their own party leaders. The Republican-controlled legislatures of Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio have quashed vetoes by their GOP governors on measures to restrict their ability to issue orders during public health emergencies.
In his veto letter, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine warned the bill could have far-reaching effects beyond the current pandemic.
“The emergence of a still unknown epidemic disease that is bursting onto the scene – just as COVID-19 has done – remains a very real threat,” he wrote, saying the measure “cuffs the ability of Ohio to deal with crises ”.
The unknowns surrounding the next pandemic worry scientists like Berman.
“The next one could be worse,” he said. “If the next one comes along and we still have these laws prohibiting public health measures, then we might find ourselves in a situation where … we might have withdrawn some of the tools we had to deal with it.” “