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Vaccinations becomes an Alabama gubernatorial race issue

Gov. Kay Ivey’s four Republican rivals criticized her comments calling out unvaccinated Alabamians.


On July 22, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said: “It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” when asked why Alabama leads the nation in unvaccinated persons. “These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. We’ve got to get folks to take the shot. The vaccine is the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID. There’s no question about that.”

Ivey’s strong stance in favor of the COVID-19 vaccine has not gone unnoticed by her political opponents, who accused her of shaming those Alabamians who have chosen not to get the vaccine.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler said: “What Gov. Ivey has forgotten – or never knew – is that those who are not vaccinated include a huge number who do not trust the government.  A governor pushing so hard for vaccinations makes those distrustful of government even less likely to take the vaccine.  Common sense is lacking here.”

Zeigler has said that he is exploring running for governor and will make a decision by Aug. 21.

Dean Odle has announced he is challenging Ivey in the GOP primary. Odle is a Lee County pastor and school headmaster. Dean is not vaccinated and has been a vocal opponent of vaccination efforts.

“I believe the people of Alabama need to ask Governor Kay Ivey why she is pushing an experimental vaccine so hard and yet she stayed silent about the lifesaving, inexpensive treatments that were made known in March of 2020,” Odle charged. “As I said before, Ivey’s comments were divisive, irresponsible, and dangerous. Our leaders should not divide and encourage anger and hatred toward Alabamians that choose a different medical treatment. That is simply unacceptable.”

The CDC and nearly all medical authorities are advising almost all persons 12 and over to get the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 has killed 628,121 Americans including 11,434 Alabamians. The vaccine is proving to be well over 95 percent effective at preventing serious COVID-19 cases that lead to intensive care ward stays, ventilators and death.

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Former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George is also running in the Republican primary for governor. George previously ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2014 against then-incumbent Gov. Robert Bentley.

“I thought it was really sad,” George said in response to Ivey’s comments. “I saw an angry governor this morning. She belittled a group of people today, and I say shame on the governor.”

“I am one of those non-vaccinated people that Governor Ivey was talking about,” George said, “I chose not to get the vaccine for various reasons. A governor should never belittle the people of Alabama, even the ones that disagree with her. As governor of Alabama I would never shut down small businesses or pay an unemployment benefit that is greater than their wages.”

Tim James is a businessman and son of former Gov. Fob James. Tim James ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 and 2002. Many sources have told APR that James is likely to get in the 2022 gubernatorial race. On Thursday, James wrote an opinion piece critical of Ivey’s comments last week.

“The unvaccinated people represent approximately 60 percent of the population in our state,” the younger James said.

“I believe the governor’s comments were off-base,” James continued. “I also believe she likely misspoke in the heat of the moment; something any of us could do. As we navigate forward, we need to lower the tone and not take the bait of those whose goal is to sow seeds of division amongst Alabamians.”

Zeigler said the comments were actually counterproductive: “I have heard from dozens of Alabama folks criticizing Gov. Ivey’s use of the blame game for vaccinations,” Zeigler said. “People have convinced me that what Ivey has done is counter-productive, actually reinforcing that distrust of government that may have contributed to Alabama’s high unvaccinated percentage.”

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“I was shocked to hear Governor Kay Ivey’s divisive, irresponsible, and dangerous attack on such a large portion of Alabamians,” Odle said in a statement. “Does Kay Ivey know the medical history of every unvaccinated person? And before suggesting that the unvaccinated lack “common sense,” has Governor Ivey taken the time to find out why they are concerned and so hesitant to take Covid-19 vaccines? No, she has not. Just like her Covid-19 response in 2020, Kay Ivey is bowing to the narrative of the liberal media and federal government propaganda.”

Similarly, James chastised the media for their role in promoting vaccination efforts.

“I have a message for the American press corps concerning their hysterical, fear-based coverage of the pandemic,” James said. “It’s a quote from Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist during the first half of the 20th Century. He effectively warned his fellow journalists what would happen if the free press became compromised. He wrote: ‘No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.’”

Ivey, for her part, also had a message to the media.

“Media, I want you to start reporting the facts,” Ivey said. “The few cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths certainly are occurring with unvaccinated folks.”

The Republican primary will be May 24, 2022.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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