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Keller @ Large: Stark Divide Over COVID Vaccine Mandates

BOSTON (CBS) - While more than 70 percent of all American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is stark.

The number of vaccinations may be growing as cities, states and businesses announce new mandates. But the backlash persists.

An anti-vax protest on Beacon Hill this week featured signs alleging "forced control," "censorship," and comparing the COVID-19 vaccine to Agent Orange, the deadly Vietnam War-era defoliant. And while governors like Charlie Baker stand firm on requiring State Police and other state workers who interact with the public to get the shot, the backlash is fierce, with the likes of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul roundly booed at a rally of vaccine-resistant health-care workers on Long Island.

Says Hochul: "That is a basic right, that everyone has to know that they'll be safe when entering a health-care facility."

But even as more of the hesitant come forward to get their shots, the dispute is contaminating the culture in some high-profile ways. Former Celtic Kyrie Irving, for instance, is taking heat for his vaccine resistance from New York's mayor and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who says of Irving and other refusers: "I don't think that they are behaving like good teammates, or good citizens."

And a new national poll of those over age 50 finds vaccine compliance is splitting older people into two parallel universes, with more than two-thirds of the vaccinated avoiding large gatherings compared with less than half of the unvaccinated, and the vaccinated nearly twice as likely to avoid nonessential travel.

Growing mistrust and resentment seem sure to follow, especially when a significant number of trained health professionals believe the vaccine is unproven.

What will it take to power down this divisiveness?

The sources of persuasion, like public health officials and trusted media outlets, that might once have calmed the waters are no longer listened to by large numbers of us. It does seem that fear is emerging as the most effective tactic - fear of losing your job, and fear of dying.

Although even that is subject to the era of online disinformation. One medical assistant interviewed by CNN repeated a long-debunked internet lie, that hundreds of thousands of COVID victims actually died of other causes.

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