Sen. Van Hollen, health officials urge Americans to get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines
MARYLAND – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen is hoping to tackle disinformation being spread about COVID-19. “Every day that goes by that some disinformation is allowed to spread, whether it’s intentional lies or people who haven’t bothered to get the facts – every day that goes on, more people die,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
Taking part in a virtual press conference Wednesday, the Senator said false information about the virus and vaccines is rampant and dangerous. “It’s been absolutely disgraceful to see members of Congress, the House, and the Senate – to see right wing talk show hosts and others attack the credibility of the scientists at a time when it’s more important than ever that the American public hear the truth,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
The Senator blames Republican leaders in states like Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, Maine, Missouri, as well as right wing media personalities. Sen. Van Hollen pointed to a recent heated exchange between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Sen. Paul said he would ask for a criminal investigation done on Dr. Fauci over his testimony on COVID-19 research. “It’s very important that elected officials and leaders in those states join with the health care experts, rather than be fighting against the health care experts in order to make sure that we vaccinate the American people,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
Sen. Van Hollen says public health officials and other members of congress need to keep the pressure on those spreading disinformation. He also says even with about half of Americans vaccinated, and billions of dollars provided in emergency funding, those numbers aren’t good enough. “We have seen vaccine hesitancy continue to exist and spread. It is costing lives,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
Senior advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Andy Slavitt echoed Sen. Van Hollen’s sentiments. Slavitt says with the tools at hand to find COVID-19, more Americans need to know factual data to protect themselves. “In 2020 we were relatively helpless against a fast-growing virus. We really didn’t have any tools. 2021 is different in that we have an even faster growing virus – probably twice as fast as the 2020 version. Yet, the difference is we have a tool that is better. We have a tool that can stop it,” said Slavitt. “People have valid questions about whether they should take the vaccine or not. No one is suggesting that people be talked into getting the vaccine or doing anything against their wishes.”
Johns Hopkins professor and medical researcher Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo says as the world recently reached the milestone of four million COVID-19 deaths across the globe. She called the number of people continuing to lose their lives to COVID-19 despite available vaccines a tragedy. Dr. Nuzzo also says the United States is entering into a worrisome phase of the pandemic, as the Delta variant surges and vaccine hesitancy continues. “Unfortunately our efforts have slowed, and our rollout of vaccines is gaining a tremendous amount of resistance that just setting us back from where we need to be by now,” said Dr. Nuzzo.
In fact, Director of the Centers for Disease Control Rochelle Walensky says more than 97% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated, according to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Dr. Nuzzo urged Americans to reconsider their options when it comes to getting vaccinated. She says even states with high vaccination rates have pockets where some communities are lagging behind. Because of this, Dr. Nuzzo says hospitals could struggle to take care of those who aren’t vaccinated. “We’ve learned a lot about how to treat COVID and how to save lives. But our abilities to be able to do that depends on their being enough resources in the system to provide life-saving care. But when there are surges in hospitals beyond what they’re able to do, other lives that could have been saved are, unfortunately, not going to be,” said Dr. Nuzzo.