Most of the states with low vaccination rates have Republican Governors. That is because they have majority Republican constituencies who don’t like government telling them what to do.
There are a lot of reasons people are not getting vaccinated. There are still some access issues and not everyone knows the vaccines are free. But a main reason is resistance to government, which wants you to get the vaccine, and resistance to elites saying it is stupid not to.
The latter problem should just stop. I get the frustration but it is counterproductive and feeds an “Us v. Them” polarization that is part of the problem. Getting a vaccine is a choice. And, in the end, so is wearing a mask in most circumstances because it is often true that “no one can make me.”
Now, some Republican Governors in states with low vaccination rates just care about being demagogues and playing to their base, and so loudly oppose mandates of any kind by anybody. If as Governor you really believe that mandates are the main problem and that low vaccination rates are fine, well, bless your (cold) heart and God love ya. I have nothing more to say.
But if you would like to encourage vaccination and mask wearing, here are some thoughts. These likely go well beyond what your own message consultants suggest. While your consultants care about your political future (it is theirs too), there is no reason to think they care about your constituents. Then I come from the old school in which consultants are supposed to help you accomplish your goals, not just keep you out of trouble. And, of course, I am a Democrat, and all for vaccinations and mask wearing.
First, I was really impressed with Senator Bill Cassidy on the subject who was so careful to say he was speaking as a Doctor, not as a government authority, and as a doctor, he favored vaccination and mask-wearing. Most Republican office holders are not doctors, although they can quote them – I wouldn’t recommend quoting Dr. Fauci, or anyone in Washington, but I bet you have local family doctors you can quote. For example, “I’m not a doctor and I don’t believe everything I hear, but I have talked to a lot of doctors here in _, and they all seem to have confidence in these shots. I had one six months ago, and my wife (most Republican Governors have one) and I brought our kids to get shots as soon as we could. We thought that was safest for them.
Second, you have a significant role in tamping down disinformation. I am sure you have heard that you can’t get COVID if you have Type O blood, that you can’t transmit it unless you are showing symptoms, that young women who get vaccines can’t have children, etc. I have heard all of that and I am not out and about that much. Try: “I know people here don’t believe everything they hear. (You can even insert and example here that would offend me but exhibits your conservative credentials.) And people shouldn’t believe everything they read on the Internet either. That thing that you can’t get COVID if you have Type O blood has long been disproven. Seems like everyone can get it, and a lot of people don’t ever get past it.”
Third, recognize that people are only successfully persuaded when they have some sense of conflict. People don’t generally flip, but if they are nervous about the vaccines, and don’t trust government, but nervous about COVID too, then you have some opportunity. Try: “I was a little nervous about this vaccine myself. I don’t like shots and I didn’t trust all the initials in Washington like the C-D-C and the F-D-A and what have you. But I was more concerned about getting this virus and maybe giving it to my family so I got the shot. It’s been six months now, and I believe I am safer.”
Finally, there is the truth about your own conflicts: “I am a conservative. To me that means keeping government out of people’s personal decisions. It is your choice whether you get a vaccine. I believe it will make you and your family safer. Now, I have thought long and hard about requiring masks (or vaccines for state employees, or masks in schools). It is counter to my nature to put requirements on people unless it is absolutely necessary. (Insert an example of when you have stood up to unnecessary regulation.). But we are in a crisis here – hospital beds are full and kids are going back to school where they can infect other kids. So for 60 days, I am requiring people to wear masks indoors in public settings or large groups. It is going to make some people mad at me, and I understand that, but sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do.”
Note, none of these rely on federal government advice, nor do they intentionally disrespect anybody. They are about your personal thought process in the hope that others will share it or at least respect it.