The partisan divide over the country’s pandemic response has reinvigorated the anti-vaccine movement nationwide, with mostly Republican lawmakers in nearly 40 states backing bills to restrict Covid-19 vaccine mandates or vaccine passports.
Anti-vaccine fervor that was previously concentrated in specific communities — like Orthodox Jews in New Jersey and New York, and Somali immigrants in Minnesota — spread more widely during the pandemic as the U.S. government urged people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
At least six states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah — have enacted legislation to limit Covid shot mandates, giving vaccine opponents some of their most prominent victories in recent memory. At least 11 states have banned the use of vaccine passports, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, and another 31 states at minimum are considering similar legislation.
The wave of opposition to Covid-19 shots, and efforts to curb public-health authorities more generally, have alarmed health experts. They say the new legislation will make it harder to quell the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks of Covid-19 and other illnesses. Many families now emerging from isolation have delayed routine immunizations during the pandemic, and two dozen states have dispensed Covid-19 shots to fewer than 50 percent of eligible residents.