The latest contretemps involves Meghan McCain, co-host of “The View,” who on Monday demanded that the Biden administration fire Anthony S. Fauci and replace him with someone who “does understand science.” She did so in a way that would put every Real Housewife to shame:
Some media outlets are misguidedly jumping all over McCain with “how dare she?!” outrage. The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts will not join that pack. Because this is exactly the kind of celebrity scandal I want to see over the next few months!
Let me explain. Proving a negative is impossible, but to date I have seen remarkably little press coverage about the rich, athletic or beautiful gaming the U.S. system to get a vaccine. This is not to say that there has been no opportunistic behavior. The Massachusetts distribution system, which provides a vaccine to caregivers taking the elderly to get vaccinated, prompted some Craigslist shenanigans akin to the old days when wealthy families would bring along a disabled child to bypass long lines at Disney parks.
There have also been a few international scandals in this vein. “Vaccinegate” is rocking Peru, where government officials received shots ahead of public heath workers. In Canada, a wealthy Ontario couple flew to Yukon and posed as local motel workers to receive vaccines intended for the Indigenous population. American celebrities? Not so much.
Amid fierce debates about whether the U.S. is in decline, the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts is shocked and appalled at the dearth of American celebrities and wannabe celebrities not trying to get the vaccine ahead of senior citizens. Where is Jennifer Lopez when the country needs her? Her beau Alex Rodriguez is familiar with cheating — shouldn’t he be trying to get his hands on a vaccine? Why is Cardi B respecting the rules of the game?! If Kim Kardashian can jet her friends to a private island getaway for her 40th birthday and then tweet about it, why can’t she jet them to a vaccination center?
Until this week every celebrity seems to be following Dolly Parton’s lead and acting noble and virtuous. Thank goodness McCain used her celebrity to demand a vaccine RIGHT NOW. We want all Americans to be clamoring for a vaccine.
I am mostly, but not entirely, joking here. While the current constraint on vaccinations is supply, that will not be true by late spring. The Associated Press’s Zeke Miller notes that the pace of vaccine deliveries is accelerating rapidly: “About 145 million doses are set for delivery in the next 5 1/2 weeks, with an additional 200 million expected by the end of May and a further 200 million by the end of July.” And that only covers the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines; more FDA approvals are on the way.
Once supply expands, demand needs to match it. But there have been stories about vaccine reluctance and poor messaging from public health officials (all kidding aside, this was the intended point of McCain’s rant). Will that change?
The polling on this is modestly encouraging. As expected, the number of Americans willing to get the vaccine has increased compared to last summer and fall. Axios’ Bryan Walsh reports on a recent survey showing an overwhelming majority of the population can be persuaded to take the vaccine. The most resistant groups are system distrusters — “more likely to be minorities” — and conspiracy believers — “who tended to be Republican and had little fear of COVID-19 itself. They often subscribed to more outlandish and harmful theories about vaccines.”
The survey’s results suggest that strategies to reach most Americans are relatively straightforward and should be prioritized. They suggest that conspiracy believers be de-emphasized in the short term so as to promote the most rapid ascent to herd immunity possible.
That seems sound, but perhaps some more unconventional approaches should be deployed to reach the MAGA crowd. We need more scandalous behavior beyond McCain. I want to see rumors swirl that Tucker Carlson has already been vaccinated. Or that there’s a secret vaccination green lounge in the CPAC conference later this week. If conspiracy theorists cannot be dissuaded from theorizing, perhaps that tendency can be exploited.
So thank you for getting the ball rolling, Meghan McCain. I only hope that the Steve Bannons, Tiffany Trumps and Laura Ingrahams of the MAGA mediaverse follow in your wake and demand to jump the queue.