GOP Rep. Chip Roy attacks Biden administration over plan to stop COVID vaccine lies

501

The Texas Republican opposes a Department of Health and Human Services program to develop tools for dealing with the dissemination of misinformation about vaccination.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is soliciting proposals for the development of a model to use in predicting the kinds of stories containing falsehoods about vaccination that would be most likely to gain traction with the public.

In a grant notice posted on Oct. 20 with the title "Developing a Public Health Tool to Predict the Virality of Vaccine Misinformation Narratives," HHS stated: "The purpose of this Notice of Funding Opportunity is to support research to develop a predictive forecasting model that identifies new or reemerging misinformation narratives that are likely to disseminate widely and have a high potential for impact on vaccine confidence. "

The notice said that the estimated funding for the grant would be $1 million.

The department also noted that with the spread of vaccine misinformation "there are often negative public health consequences," citing as an example the spread of diseases that could have been prevented with vaccination.

Despite the impact on public health and safety, the grant solicitation came under attack from Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas.

Roy told the conservative Fox News that the grant proposal "proves the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is rolling full steam ahead with their censorship campaign against citizens who speak up. This new scheme to use taxpayer money — intended to further scientific inquiry — to instead stifle researchers and anyone who dares dissent from the Biden administration's ever-changing COVID narrative is unsurprising and unacceptable."

Roy added, "The CDC has no business trying to predict future 'thought crimes' nor, as they've done in the past, leverage their power to collude with big tech companies against the American people."

Roy himself is among those who have been promoting lies about the coronavirus and vaccination since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

In February, Roy responded to pharmaceutical company Pfizer's request that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5: "Literally using the force of government and the culture of fear to jab children under 5 - with zero basis in science - to make billions of dollars. Shameful, ⁦@pfizer."

His statement was analyzed by a PolitiFact fact-checker at the Austin American-Statesman, who rated Roy's claim a "pants on fire" lie.

The fact-checker noted that the urgency behind the push to vaccinate children "stems from the effect of the omicron variant and its transmissibility" and that without vaccination children could become ill themselves or pass the virus on to others.

She also noted that the development and production of Pfizer's vaccine was "based on science" throughout the entire process, as would be the decision to authorize use for children.

In June, the CDC recommended the vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, noting the vaccines had undergone "the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history."

Studies have shown a correlation between misinformation about vaccines and slower rates of vaccination.

Scholars at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and the University of Basel published research on Oct. 7 and concluded: "We find that, in the earlier stages of the vaccine roll-out (starting May 2021), higher local viewership of Fox News Channel has been associated with lower local vaccination rates."

The researchers did not find the same effect for people who watched CNN and MSNBC.

Fox News has promoted numerous vaccine-related falsehoods in its daytime and prime-time programming.

A 2021 study by Media Matters for America found that attacks on vaccines had been aired on 99% of broadcasts of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the network's highest-rated show, in the period between President Joe Biden's inauguration in January 2021 through November of that year.

In January 2022, Media Matters reported that multiple Fox News personalities had promoted the lie that getting the COVID-19 vaccine made it more likely that someone would become infected with the virus.

Since taking office, Biden has promoted vaccination as the best way to prevent infection and return to normalcy. On Tuesday, he held a briefing with the White House COVID response team and told the public, "We're here with a simple message: Get vaccinated."

Biden then received his COVID-19 booster shot in front of the assembled media.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.