According to a report from the Washington Post, the COVID-19 related death of a prominent Republican city council member in Texas has hardened attitudes about vaccines and led to some ugly attacks on citizens in the town.
In early August 45-year-old Dickinson City Council member Scott Apley died from COVID just days after posting on Facebook that vaccines don't work.
Apley's story went viral, turning him into the poster boy for conservative intransigence in the face of a resurgent pandemic and set off a debate in his hometown between people who are listening to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and COVID-19 skeptics.
In an extensive piece for the WaPo, Hannah Knowles wrote that Apley's death has led outsiders to attack residents of the town while they deal with their grief and continue the debate over mitigating the spread of COVID.
"In the GOP circles where Apley was well known, however, there was little mention of covid-19 or how to prevent it. Two days after mourning their former vice chairman in a Facebook post that did not say what put him on a ventilator, the Galveston County Republican Party shared a far-right website's medical-evidence-free claim that immunization against the coronavirus had killed a young conservative activist. 'Another tragedy - From the Vaccine!!!!!' they warned," she wrote. "Apley's hospitalization and death showcased the bitterness of the country's divide over coronavirus vaccination, and over how to bridge it, as the pandemic makes personal tragedy inseparable from politics."
Knowles added, " His family was suffering, and now, with cruel comments and laughing emoji, strangers from out-of-state were piling on. In Apley's political sphere, some said the tragedy was only entrenching people's divisions over the vaccines and a resurging virus — much less sending people soul-searching about their beliefs or their party's messaging,"
That has set up a battle between the various factions.
"Apley's friend Hank Dugie said he believes the most effective messaging on vaccines is 'positive, upbeat, motivational' — encouraging but not judgmental. 'We don't press people on getting vaccinated,'" Knowles reports with Dugie adding, "If anything people have retreated into their own confirmation biases."
Asked about the Facebook post from the Galveston County GOP that claimed the vaccine killed someone, Dugie replied. "I don't think it represents the party at all."
"Jeff Larson, an official with the Harris County Republican Party, said he believes that some leaders of local GOP groups are reflecting their base's views on vaccines or 'don't want to tackle the issue directly for fear — for fear of alienating a large segment of the party,'" the report continues with Larson admitting, "Certainly if you are a person in the United States today and you want to believe a conspiracy theory about vaccines … you'll probably land in our party."
You can read more here.