At Select Subcommittee Hearing, Democrats Defend America’s Public Health, Undercut Republicans’ Extreme Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric
Washington, D.C. (July 28, 2023)—Yesterday, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led Select Subcommittee Democrats in prioritizing the health and safety of the American people by underscoring the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, highlighting the success of policies that increased their uptake, and pushing back against misinformation that undermines vaccine confidence.
“We would not have been able to save lives or prevent severe illness and suffering without the policies in place that not only got vaccines out into communities and to our most vulnerable but also increased vaccination rates across the board to ensure a safe and responsible return to typical American life. These public health measures enacted in support and in consultation with public health experts, doctors, and scientists from the federal all the way down to the local level have been proven to reduce harm and save lives,” said Ranking Member Ruiz in his opening statement.
The hearing included testimony from Dr. John Lynch, Professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Medical Director of Harborview Medical Center’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship, and Employee Health Programs.
Select Subcommittee Democrats refuted Republicans’ claims about safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and the public health policies that increased uptake of them.
- Congresswoman Deborah Ross highlighted the constitutionality of vaccine requirements: “It sometimes feels like we talk about the COVID-19 vaccine requirements as if they were the first vaccine requirements to ever exist in this country. Vaccination requirements, including in the military, have had a long and storied history. All the way back in 1777, General George Washington required his Continental troops to be inoculated against smallpox.”
- Ranking Member Raul Ruiz said: “In announcing today’s hearing, my Republican colleagues suggested that when implementing vaccine requirements, the Biden Administration ‘disregarded… patient-physician relationships’ and took doctors completely out of the conversation. America’s leading medical societies—including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and several others—all expressed strong support for vaccine requirements as a critical tool to help America overcome the pandemic.”
Select Subcommittee Democrats highlighted the success of the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccination policies in saving lives, reopening the economy, and enhancing military preparedness.
- Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin said: “COVID-19 cost us nearly a million and a half people in the country—it was calamitous to public health and a terrible shock to the economy and society. President Biden’s vaccine program, according to the Commonwealth Fund, saved three million lives and 18 million hospitalizations for serious effects from COVID-19.”
- Congresswoman Jill Tokuda said: “Increasing vaccination rates in the military, including through vaccination requirements, helped to ensure that our servicemembers were better protected against the spread and harm of COVID-19. These policies worked. In combination with other policies, vaccine requirements resulted in a 96% vaccination rate amongst servicemembers, and most importantly, thanks to these policies, we have not lost a single servicemember to COVID-19 since November 2022.”
Select Subcommittee Democrat s pushed back on Republicans’ extreme rhetoric that has contributed to the rise of misinformation online and fueled mistrust in vaccines.
- Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said: “In the United States, vaccination rates for preventable diseases like polio and measles have not bounced back to pre-pandemic rates because of misinformation. Declining vaccination rates are driving dangerous outbreaks of infectious diseases.”
- In response to questions from Congresswoman Dingell about how misinformation harms public health, Dr. Lynch said: “Misinformation from any source weakens vaccine confidence, which could lead to more people not being vaccinated. Not enough people are getting COVID-19 boosters, which means we are not protected from COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths and the impact on health systems. Declining vaccine rates from diseases like measles, pertussis, and polio are causing outbreaks that are not only dangerous from a public health perspective but have profound economic consequences for our society.”
- Congressman Robert Garcia pointed out how Republicans have embraced extreme views, amplifying harmful misinformation: “We also know that studies have found that COVID death rates were 11 percent higher in states…with Republican-controlled government and 26% higher in areas where voters lean more conservative. In fact, in the 15 U.S. states with the highest adjusted death rates, 13 of them were led by Republican governors during the pandemic, and I say this because vaccine hesitancy and causing and pushing folks to not get vaccinated actually leads to higher death. That is a fact.”