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Sen. Ron Johnson

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

As the world readies for the release of a coronavirus vaccine, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) invited an anti-vaccine doctor to testify in a hearing that promotes the use of a coronavirus treatment the Federal Drug Administration not only deems ineffective but also dangerous.

Dr. Jane Orient is one of four witnesses set to testify Tuesday morning at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that Johnson leads. She told the New York Times that she's skeptical of the forthcoming vaccine because, among other reasons, its "effect on fertility has not been determined" — a concern that is not based on any evidence.

Orient is testifying in the second part of a hearing called by Johnson titled "Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution." Orient told the Times she "intended to use her testimony to call for government guidelines informing doctors about hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients."

Doctors slammed Johnson following the first installment of the hearing, saying his decision to try to legitimize a dangerous treatment was "outrageous" and a waste of time as the pandemic worsened.

"I found myself defending evidence, doctors, and scientists. There are key issues we need Congress to be airing right now. Hydroxychloroquine isn't one of them," Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health who Democrats on the committee called to testify, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in November.

Donald Trump has long touted the use of the drug, but the FDA has revoked the drug's Emergency Use Authorization, saying it is both "unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19" and that "the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use."

However, Johnson is bringing in Orient, who has questioned the use of masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, railed against the initial lockdowns that helped keep hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots from becoming overwhelmed, and heads an organization that is currently suing the federal government, demanding that it "end its arbitrary restrictions on hydroxychloroquine."

Johnson's office did not respond to the New York Times' inquiry as to why he would call an anti-vaccine crusader to testify in a hearing just before the coronavirus vaccine is slated to be released to the public.

The hearing comes as the coronavirus is surging across the entirety of the United States, with deaths skyrocketing and hospitals at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

In South Dakota, where GOP Gov. Kristi Noem has refused to implement policies to stop the spread of the virus, hospitals are so overwhelmed that patients are being air-lifted out of the state for treatment.

To date, more than 282,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting that tens of thousands more could die before Christmas.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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