Ranking Member Ruiz’s Opening Statement at Select Subcommittee Hearing Examining Vaccine Requirements
Washington, D.C. (July 27, 2023)—Below is Ranking Member Raul Ruiz’s, M.D. opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing examining the implementation and impact of COVID-19 vaccine requirements at the federal, state, and local level.
Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Hearing on “Because I Said So: Examining the Science and Impact of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates”
July 27, 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me just say this—COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and save lives.
We know this to be true because three years ago, we were in the darkest days of this pandemic and without the tools we needed to overcome this deadly novel threat.
We were able to close this chapter of the pandemic thanks to the Biden Administration’s leadership in implementing the largest and most successful vaccine administration program in history.
These policies—including vaccine requirements for health care workers, federal workers, and our servicemembers—allowed us to safely reunite loved ones; reopen schools, businesses, and workplaces; enhance our military readiness, and reach the end of the public health emergency.
So, at the end of the day, it was in large part thanks to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and the Biden Administration’s efforts to increase supply, access, and uptake that we were able to prevent the loss of another 3.2 million American lives, keep another 18.5 million people out of the hospital, and save our economy over $1 trillion in medical costs.
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.
In fact, the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and dozens of other distinguished medical groups and leaders have gone on the record in support of vaccine requirements for their role in pulling us through the darkest times of this pandemic and preventing additional loss of life.
I say all this because as a physician, it is important to me that we start this hearing off on the right foot and with the facts.
It’s important to me that we are accurate when we discuss how and why these policies—which by the way have been deemed consistent with the First Amendment for over one hundred years—were developed, supported, and guided by scientists, health care providers, and medical experts.
This is so important to me because the American people are watching what we do here today.
And when we sit from our highest perch in Congress with the loudest of megaphones and purposefully and intentionally sow doubt and mistrust in lifesaving public health measures, the American people pay the price.
We have seen what happens when we play with fire like this.
The Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Microsoft AI for Health found a growing distrust in vaccines has caused more than 300,000 additional, preventable COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
We’re seeing diseases that we previously had under control like the chickenpox and measles pop back up again across the country.
And we’re seeing an overall decline in trust in vaccines throughout the country.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the rate of childhood for vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella has decreased steadily since the 2019-2020 school year—leaving approximately 250,000 children unprotected against these dangerous diseases.
A peer-reviewed study published in JAMA Internal Medicine also found that the excess death rate from COVID-19 after the approval of COVID-19 vaccines was 43% higher among Republican voters compared to Democratic voters.
These are troubling signs of what’s to come if we continue down this path.
In order to best serve the American people—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and everyone—we must correct course, and we must do it now.
The way that we do that is not by holding hearings that wink and nod to rhetoric that undermines confidence in vaccines.
It’s not by giving way to the anti-vaccine bills that are moving through state legislatures all across the country.
And the fact is, no, it’s not by calling for a blind trust in science either.
It’s by making sure people have access to accurate and timely information about the thoroughly proven safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
It’s by building a strong public health workforce that can help get us through the next pandemic and ensure previously eradicated threats don’t come back.
And it’s by making sure that we as members of this body do what we can to protect the public’s health now and into the future.
I yield back.