Opinion

My fellow Kansans, meet our new pro-vaccine champion: Donald Trump

December 22, 2021 3:33 am

President Donald Trump concludes his remarks at the 450th mile of the new border wall Tuesday near the Texas-Mexico border. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump did a good thing this week.

Or as he might put it, Donald Trump did a terrific, one-of-a-kind, really spectacular thing this week.

On tour Sunday with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump told a Dallas audience he had received a COVID-19 booster shot. O’Reilly confirmed that he had, as well. I’m writing this column because everyone needs to know — especially Trump’s supporters throughout Kansas — that the former president supports lifesaving, free vaccines. 

With the more transmissible omicron variant swirling, only 60.3% of Kansans age 5 and above are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 487,178 Kansans have received a third shot, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (boosters are especially important at controlling omicron). More of us throughout the Sunflower State need to be vaccinated, and more of us need to be boosted. 

I know how odd this sounds coming from me, but we should all listen to Trump.

The failed real estate developer and twice-impeached president didn’t just admit to receiving the shot, though. The Associated Press reports that Trump made a forceful case after the Dallas crowd booed him and O’Reilly.

“Look, we did something that was historic,” he said. “We saved tens of millions of lives worldwide. We together, all of us — not me, we — we got a vaccine done, three vaccines done, and tremendous therapeutics. This was going to ravage the country far beyond what it is right now. Take credit for it. Take credit for it. …

“You’re playing right into their hands when you sort of like, ‘Oh the vaccine.’ If you don’t want to take it, you shouldn’t be forced to take it. No mandates. But take credit because we saved tens of millions of lives. Take credit. Don’t let them take that away from you.”

Look, we did something that was historic. We saved tens of millions of lives worldwide. We together, all of us — not me, we — we got a vaccine done, three vaccines done, and tremendous therapeutics. This was going to ravage the country far beyond what it is right now. Take credit for it. Take credit for it.

– Donald Trump

You might want to take a moment now to print out several copies of this column to share with loved ones. Not only am I quoting Trump at length, I’m lavishing praise on the man who once wondered out loud about injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19.

Let’s hope Kansans listen to his latest advice. After all, Trump won the state by more than 20 percentage points in 2016 and more than 14 percentage points in 2020. 

Trump didn’t have to do this. Indeed, given how closely he monitors the fears and prejudices of his most diehard supporters, it’s almost shocking that Trump went there.

Then you might remember October 2020, when Trump was seriously ill with COVID-19. He could have died. You might remember that he lost an election as the virus sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands. Perhaps the combination of self interest and political ambition pushed him to do it. Perhaps he actually wants folks to be healthy. 

Regardless, he did a good thing.

As he said, the COVID-19 vaccines save lives. No, they don’t prevent all infection or transmission. But they reduce both. And they prevent people from falling seriously ill, being hospitalized, or dying from the virus. They’re safe for the elderly, middle-aged, pregnant women, teens and children. In most cases, they transform a potentially fatal disease into a mild cold – or nothing at all. Isn’t that worth a short, sharp shot?

The stakes couldn’t be higher. As of Dec. 21, 6,916 Kansans have died from the virus, and 16,574 have been hospitalized. Don’t add yourself or your loved ones to either toll. You can learn more about the shot from the KDHE’s special vaccine website. The CDC has a frequently asked questions section here.

None of this excuses anything else about Trump. He’s a would-be fascist autocrat, he attempted to subvert our constitutional order with a coup on Jan. 6, and the sooner the Republican Party in Kansas and the nation shakes off his corrupt and toxic legacy, the better.

But when it comes right down to it, wouldn’t you rather he be encouraging his followers to do something good — like getting vaccinated and boosted — rather than overrunning the U.S. Capitol to install him as president for life?

Progressives and conservatives often believe the worst about one another. Those feelings have been difficult to avoid during this protracted pandemic.

Still, I don’t want anyone to get sick. I don’t care what you believe. I don’t want anyone to suffer from this virus, no matter who you vote for, or even if you don’t vote at all. I want you to be well this holiday season and every season after. That’s right, you. The simplest way to ensure that outcome is to listen to former President Trump.

Get vaccinated. Get boosted. And be well.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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