“The facts are incredibly obvious”

WASHINGTON — Top public health authorities in the Biden administration have denounced misinformation about coronavirus vaccines following an anti-vaccine rally in Washington, DC, over the weekend and a busy segment of lies on Fox News Tuesday night that was widely shared on social media.

“You can’t get away from the facts. And the facts are incredibly obvious,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a White House Pandemic Response Team briefing in response to a question on the Fox News segment, which had aired during Tucker Carlson’s nighttime show the night before and who the washington post quickly labeled as “the most dishonest and dangerous pandemic segment yet”.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in July. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool via AP)

carlson is the most watched news anchor in the country, and he used his program to discredit vaccines, masks and other pandemic-related measures. This message seems to resonate with the conservatives who make up his audience; Americans with right-wing political views are less likely to take the pandemic seriously than liberals. They are also less likely to be vaccinated.

Carlson’s guest on Tuesday night was Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter turned anti-vaccination crusader. Berenson was banned from Twitter for spreading untruths and was tagged “The most evil man of the pandemic” by Atlantic magazine. Fox News, however, remains a safe space for its opinions, despite the fact that the network implemented a vaccination mandate for its employees.

During his appearance, Berenson challenged the efficacy and safety of mRNA vaccines, so called because they use a “messenger” molecule. Vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna both use mRNA biotechnology; they make up the majority of doses given in the United States, followed by the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which confers immunity by a different method.

A split screen shows Tucker Carlson and Alex Berenson, a guest on Carlson's show.

Alex Berenson, right, appears on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on Tuesday. (via Fox News video)

In addition to being linked to a rare heart disease that affects younger men, mRNA vaccines have been shown to be safe. But the novelty of these vaccines, along with partisan divisions around the pandemic and the rise of social media, made it easy for Berenson and others to find a receptive audience for false vaccine claims.

Speaking to Carlson, Berenson denounced mRNA vaccines as a “dangerous and ineffective product”, arguing that they “don’t really work against Omicron at all”.

Breakthrough infections against the Omicron variant have led to new questions about the effectiveness of vaccines against new strains of the coronavirus. But most of these infections come with relatively mild symptoms or no symptoms at all if a person is vaccinated – and especially if they’ve had a booster shot.

In short, vaccines protect their recipients from the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, thereby saving many lives.

During the Fox News segment, Berenson added that mRNA vaccines “need to be taken off the market now. No one should get them. No one should be boosted. Yahoo News contacted Berenson, asking him to explain how he arrived at these dramatic conclusions, which are not supported by most public health officials.

It emerged that Fox News executives may have also been nervous about Berenson’s appearance. The next morning, “Fox & Friends” saw an appearance by Dr. Marc Siegel, a frequent guest on network programs. “Vaccines actually work,” Siegel said. He also countered Berenson’s argument that high infection rates in Israel and other high-vaccination countries were proof of the ineffectiveness of vaccines.

Dr. Marc Siegel on Fox & Friends.

Dr. Marc Siegel on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday. (via Fox News video)

Public health officials have little recourse but to play mole with the misinformation that regularly sweeps the internet. Earlier this month, a poorly edited clip appeared to have Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitting that most people who died from COVID-19 had other serious conditions. In fact, she was talking about a completely different point, that of the effectiveness of vaccines, but at the time when the correction was made by ABC, conservative social media sites had spent days touting the original clip as proof that the coronavirus is only fatal if one is already seriously ill with a chronic disease such as diabetes.

As it stands, the unvaccinated bear the brunt of Omicron’s push, making the anti-vaccine messages they continue to absorb particularly harmful.

“Our hospitals are full of people who haven’t been vaccinated,” Walensky noted during Wednesday’s briefing, pointing out that someone who has had a booster shot is 68 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than a person who has not been vaccinated. vaccinated at all.

Yet millions had seen Berenson’s appearance on Wednesday morning. It follows a Sunday rally in Washington, DC, where vaccine skeptic and conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. compared the fate of the unvaccinated to that of Jews hunted down by the Nazis during World War II. Kennedy’s book attacking Fauci and the biomedical establishment is among the best sellers on Amazon, suggesting how deep antipathy towards vaccines has become.

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