Vaccine misinformation has played a huge role in the disappointing U.S. turnout for coronavirus shots, according to a former White House health policy adviser.
“Because of misinformation, because of all sorts of lies that have been propagated out there — like it causes infertility or serious side effects, they’re implanting chips in people’s brains, crazy stuff — we’ve plateaued at about 60% of the population vaccinated,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised both the Obama and Biden administrations on health policy, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “That’s not good enough.”
About 63.9% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, 41.8% are boosted, while 75.4% have received at least one dose. The nation ranks far behind countries like Denmark, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Germany in administering booster shots.
A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 35% of Americans either believe or are unsure about whether deaths from the COVID vaccine “are being intentionally hidden by the government” while roughly 31% believe or are unsure about if the vaccines “have been shown to cause infertility.” (Data has shown there are no links between the COVID vaccines and infertility.)
The same survey also found that 1 in 4 individuals either believe or were unsure whether vaccines could give you COVID or contain a microchip, and 1 in 5 entertained the idea that the vaccine could change your DNA.
One thing that could help address this worrisome trend, Emanuel said, would be setting the record straight on vaccines and the benefits they provide.
“It’s not the only thing we need to do, but [misinformation is] certainly a major problem and that has caused a major misstep,’ he said.
The politicized pandemic
Emanuel noted that when President Biden took office in January 2021, he began executing a “very good strategic plan” that focused on increasing vaccination turnout.
Unfortunately, however, the politicized nature of the pandemic has meant that many are refusing to get vaccinated, which Emanuel said “hasn’t allowed the country to get behind a unified approach.”
Rather than let things continue as they are, he suggested homing in on three specific areas to increase vaccination numbers.
The first relates to workplace vaccines mandates.
“You can mandate certain employers that have high-risk situations objectively — food processor plants, other high-risk environments like long-term care facilities, correctional facilities — I think the Supreme Court is going to have to accept as critical and a targeted mandate,” Emanuel said.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that Biden’s vaccine mandate for large companies was unconstitutional, but upheld his mandate for health care workers working in institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, stating that the Department of Health and Human Services has an obligation to “ensure that the health care providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients’ health and safety.”
The second area that could be used to boost vaccination numbers is travel, specifically by airplane and train, which are considered interstate commerce, meaning the federal government has legal authority over it.
There are no vaccine mandates in effect for anyone traveling within the United States, but non-citizens who are entering from another country by air must show proof of vaccination in order to enter.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor and a subject of various COVID conspiracy theories, has stated that a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel “seriously should be considered,” though he conceded that while it’s “on the table, and we consider it … that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
The third area is around children in schools, “where assistance and help with lots of things to schools can be linked to getting children, staff, and teachers vaccinated,” Emanuel said.
Currently, only four states and the District of Columbia mandate COVID vaccines for students while 17 states have outright banned those mandates. For faculty, 11 states and D.C. mandate COVID vaccines while 11 states have banned the requirement.
“I think those are probably the three areas I would look at for expanding the numbers,” Emanuel said. “In addition, getting boosters to the vulnerable immunocompromised people, people over 65, are very important as well.”
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