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Since the coronavirus is a deadly serious topic, it’s tempting to lead this piece with a storm of controversy surrounding Nicki Minaj.

But that would be – well, first they have to get into the tent.

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Indeed, what the hip-hop star did is spark a flood of misinformation about vaccines. And by the way, for all the conservative criticism of President Biden’s vaccine mandate, a new poll shows majority support for his stance.

I shouldn’t say this, but anyone who knows anything about science understands that an anecdote doesn’t make sense. The I-know-a-boy-who-knows-a-boy approach is beyond meaningless.

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Biden’s fate fell if some sympathetic conservatives turned on him

But Minaj went there with this tweet: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine because her friend got it and became impotent. Her testicles are swollen. Her friend was a few weeks from getting married, now girl annulled the wedding Done. So just pray over it and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision, not bullied.”

So a man she doesn’t know has personally developed a testicular problem that could be caused by a sexually transmitted disease or something other than the COVID vaccine. And Minaj uses it to alert her 22 million followers.

The reaction was fierce. MSNBC’s Joy Reid took off on the singer: “You guys don’t have to die, oh my god, to use your platform to put them in a position to die from a disease. As a fan, a hip As a hop fan, as is someone who’s a fan of yours, I’m so sad you did it. It’s so sad you did it, sister. Oh my god.”

Minaj essentially responded by calling the cable host a racial traitor: “It’s when you’re so thirsty for another black woman (at the request of a white man) that you didn’t even bother to read all my tweets. Imagine getting your dumb ass on TV for a minute after a tweet saying ‘My God Sister Do Better’ spread a false story about a black woman.”

By request of the white man?

She also called Reid “Uncle Tomania”. And he told Meghan McCain “S to eat—.”

Minaj says her words were distorted. She said she didn’t go to New York’s Met Gala (where the AOC wore a “Tax the Rich” gown) because “if I get vaccinated it won’t be [be] for mate. That’s when I feel I’ve done enough research.” Vaccines have been available since late last year and Pfizer has been approved by the FDA; how much more research does one need?

This flap, which made it into the Granthshala prime-time segment, is entertaining, but it goes a bit deeper. Many of the 80 million illiterate Americans may feel they have valid reasons to refuse, some of them politically entrenched, but this hesitation remains a major obstacle to our nation.

Given the sharp criticism of Biden’s move by many elected Republicans, the Morning Consult/Politico poll has some illuminating figures.

Twenty-eight percent of adults surveyed favor vaccination mandates or weekly testing for all employees except small businesses.

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Sixty-two percent want states to encourage shots for all school workers; support 60% mandate for most health care workers; 56% support that approach for most federal employees and contractors.

But – and it won’t come as a shock – the partisan gap is huge. On vaccine mandates for private sector workers, 80% of Democrats say yes, compared to only 33% of Republicans.

There is now a significant debate over whether Biden is overstepping his legal authority. But I suspect that Republican support would have been so low if Donald Trump were still president and made such a move.

In the real world, an average of 172,000 new cases of Covid-19 are reported every day. In the real world, one in four hospitals say they occupy more than 95% of their intensive care beds. And all ICU beds in Alabama are occupied. That means other patients “are in the waiting room, some in the back of an ambulance, things of that nature,” a spokesperson for the Alabama Hospital Association told The New York Times.

Remember, as the story goes, unvaccinated Americans are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than those who have received the shots.

Biden had originally opposed the vaccine mandate, but his attempts at persuasion have come to a wall. I’m tired of reading about anti-vaxxers dying from the disease, either in talk radio — there was another, Denver Pastor Bob Enyart, on Monday — or ordinary people. In some cases, they are leaving children behind. Every such case is a tragedy, and these are preventable deaths. We need shots regularly for measles, chickenpox, hepatitis – why has the COVID vaccine become such a lightning rod?

Many people would prefer to view vaccines as a political controversy, rather than as a way to save lives. And, like Nicki Minaj, they’re singing the wrong tune.