GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has repeatedly promoted myths and falsehoods about COVID-19.
Medical experts are criticizing Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his decision to hold a vaccine skepticism event even as most new deaths connected to the COVID-19 pandemic are occurring among unvaccinated people.
Johnson announced on Friday that he would hold a media event the following Monday to discuss purported adverse reactions to the vaccines. The senator said that he would be joined at the event by the wife of a former Green Bay Packers player who claims to have experienced problems after being vaccinated.
Johnson told a local outlet he was not anti-vaccine, but insisted, "I don't think you can ignore some of the issues, some of the problems."
Speaking with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, affiliate Fox 6 News, Johnson cited information from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, an open database where concerns about adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines can be registered, as the source of his concerns.
The VAERS website notes that the information in the database may be "incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental or unverifiable," as reports are largely "voluntary, which means they are subject to biases."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, has said the COVID-19 vaccines are "safe and effective."
"Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history," the agency stated on its website.
As Fox 6 News noted, even if every alleged vaccine-related death was accurate — something that is extremely unlikely — they would represent just 0.001% of the more than 320 million doses of the vaccine that have been administered so far.
Dr. Joanna Bisgrove, a primary care physician in Wisconsin, expressed concern about Johnson's event.
"This misinformation is putting people at risk and already hurting people," she told Fox 6 reporters.
Another expert, Dr. Bob Freedland, who serves as the Wisconsin State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, criticized Johnson as well, urging him to cancel Monday's event.
"As a physician and concerned constituent of Sen. Ron Johnson, I call on him to cancel his anti-vaccine event, or, better yet, use his platform and time to hold an event encouraging people to get the safe, effective vaccine," Freedland said in a press release. "If he can't stop spreading misinformation and undermining the best tool we have to protect against COVID-19 and dangerous variants, Sen. Johnson needs to get out of the way and let the rest of us do our jobs."
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) criticized Johnson's planned event, calling him "reckless and irresponsible" and pointed out the COVID-19 vaccine is "safe and effective and based on years of science and research."
Monday's event comes as a new analysis of COVID-19 data shows that most recent deaths related to the virus are occurring among those who are not vaccinated.
In an analysis published by the Associated Press, using data from May, the overwhelming majority of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths were people who had not been vaccinated. Only about 0.8% of those deaths involved fully vaccinated people.
Johnson has expressed skepticism about COVID-19 vaccination efforts for months.
In May, the Wisconsin senator, who tested positive for coronavirus in the fall of 2020, suggested the vaccines were potentially linked to thousands of deaths, and that experts needed to investigate and research the issue further. He cited the VAERS website data to back his claims.
In December, Johnson invited an anti-vaccine activist to testify in Congress in support of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug promoted by former President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19. Experts have warned repeatedly that the drug is not a safe or reliable treatment for the disease.
And in April, Johnson sat down for an interview with vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been criticized for sharing misinformation about COVID vaccines on social media.
During that interview, Johnson notably did not rebut Kennedy's allegations that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was working on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry instead of advocating on the behalf of patients.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.