Alaskans can’t afford Dunleavy’s mixed messages on Covid vaccines

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has proven to be allergic to political risk, won’t give a clear message about Covid vaccinations, putting Alaska at risk.

The headline in the Anchorage Daily News correctly summarizes the problem: “Vaccine hesitancy threatens Alaska pandemic recovery even as supplies ramp up, health officials say.”

Nearly 250,000 Alaskans have been fully vaccinated, but pushing that number higher is going to be difficult because of the right-wing opposition that Dunleavy refuses to confront.

On vaccinations, he delivers a mixed message couched in language that encourages the reluctant to skip the vaccination shots and feel good about themselves.

“Vaccination is a choice & it will not be mandated by the state, but I hope you consider it,” Dunleavy’s office said for him on Twitter. “I’m getting the vaccine because I want to help Alaska businesses get back to work & do the things we all love to do as Alaskans.”

In a Dunleavy ad, he says, “If you’re wiling, we hope you’ll join us. Sleeves up for summer, let’s get Alaska up and running.”

“I hope you consider it” and ‘If you’re willing” do not convey that this is urgent.

It conveys “take-it-or-leave-it.” It conveys the message that it doesn’t really matter if you get vaccinated or not.

Dunleavy is not willing to tell his supporters that refusing the vaccination is a way of endangering the recovery of Alaska from the pandemic. He is not willing to say that this is urgent and that the most important thing people can do right now for public health and the economy is to get vaccinated.

That’s the message he should be conveying in clear language, but he prefers to take refuge in weasel words.

Dermot Cole, a longtime columnist and reporter from Fairbanks, writes about Alaska politics and other topics on his blog Reporting From Alaska, which can be found at www.dermotcole.com.

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