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Tag: covid vaccine lies

Sen. Johnson Spreads Lie That Vaccines Caused 'Over 19,000 Deaths'

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Wednesday falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine had caused "over 19,000 deaths worldwide," citing the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a database of raw, unverified information.

Johnson made the claim during an appearance on Fox News Radio's Brian Kilmeade Show.

"I've talked to the vaccine-injured. Vaccine injuries are real," said Johnson. "The VAERS system, today, the latest report, over 19,000 deaths worldwide associated with these three vaccines, over 900,000 adverse events, and the CDC, the FDA is just looking the other way, they're going, What, me worry? What's there to look at here?"

VAERS is a government website for collecting information on possible adverse effects related to vaccines. It is a database of raw information that allows anyone to contribute a report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website:

Healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers, and the public can submit reports to VAERS. While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Most reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases.

The CDC also notes:

Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccinations are rare. More than 459 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through November 29, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 10,128 reports of death (0.0022%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

White Nationalist Gab Now Sabotaging Vaccination Effort

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Gab's Andrew Torba, the CEO of a site known as a haven for white nationalists, has been using his platform to actively help people avoid getting coronavirus vaccines in response to possible mandates from government agencies and private companies.

Torba founded Gab in 2016 and it aimed to be a place for extremist content under the garb of free speech that other platforms had banned. Since then, the site has become a haven for white nationalists and extremist users, including the man accused of killing multiple people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Torba has also made his activity central to Gab. All Gab users follow his account by default and his blog posts are sent directly to their email accounts. Now, Torba is using the platform to encourage people to avoid getting coronavirus vaccines, which are safe and extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

Torba has made his anti-vaccine views clear for months and spread misinformation about the vaccines in blog posts sent to the platform's users, falsely calling them "an experimental vaccine" and "the largest science experiment in history." Torba has also shared messages he claims are from active-duty military users or their family members worried about a vaccine mandate, and his avatar on Gab openly promotes that he is "not vaccinated." (He also emailed Gab users a viral video of a man at a town hall meeting sharing vaccine misinformation, thereby playing a significant role in its spread.)

But in recent weeks Torba has ramped up his opposition to the vaccines and is now sending users materials that can be used to avoid taking it. In late July, Torba shared documents he claimed he got from a Twitter user, writing in a post that they contained "what the creator of the documents calls an 'air tight religious exemption request' for the COVID vaccine if it is mandatory for you at work, school, or in the military." These documents featured vaccine misinformation and also cite Solari Report, a site run by Catherine Austin Fitts, the star of a viral coronavirus misinformation video. Torba encouraged Gab users to "share" the documents "everywhere." Later in a video, he bragged about the documents, saying, "We've had a lot of great feedback on these. People are very thankful that we put these out there. You're not going to find these anywhere else."

Torba exemption documents wanting shares post

Torba's post featuring the documents, besides being shared on Gab, has also received more than 24,000 Facebook engagements, according to the tracking tool CrowdTangle. MultipleQAnon influencers also shared the post and those received hundreds of thousands of combined views. (A former candidate for chair of the Colorado Republican Party also sharedthe post.) Additionally, a user on the far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald" wrote that Torba's post helped a family member get an exemption from the vaccine at college.

More recently, Torba launched another anti-vax initiative, announcing a Gab group that is meant to serve as a job board "for employers who are hiring and do not require their employees to inject an experimental substance into their bodies in order to retain employment." The group, which has more than 30,000 members, has featured numerous job listings for people looking to avoid taking the vaccines, including a posting from far-right and antisemitic outletTruNews, which listed positions "that will NEVER require you to get the jab." Torba has also used the group to promote another site for jobs not requiring vaccines and one with "a great religious exemption template for employees." The Gab group job board was also promoted onthe far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald."

Torba job board announcement post

Around the same time, on August 24, Torba sent users yet another vaccine exemption template, this time for college students, writing, "My twin brothers received a letter from their College letting them know six days before they start classes that the college will be mandating vaccines for all students. … I worked with them to draft their exemption request and thought it could be helpful to other college students out there who are facing the same insane abuse of their religious liberty and bodily autonomy." (The post was shared on Facebook by an Arizona county Republican Party chapter.)

Torba and his platform have repeatedly shown support for extremism, such as courting QAnon supporters and antisemites (as well as pushing antisemitism), repeatedly promoting content from white nationalist Nick Fuentes to users, and cheering on the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol as it was occurring. Torba has been trying to create his own services for Gab users who have been barred from using other sites for payment processing and more. These services include what Torba calls "an alternative to PayPal," Gab's own streaming service, and even its own phone. In his email announcing his anti-vax job board, Torba acknowledged these efforts, writing, "This job board aligns with Gab's vision of building infrastructure for a parallel economy and we hope to expand further on this job board initiative in the coming months."

New Anti-Vax Disinformation Video Got 30 Million Views On Social Media

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A viral video pushing misleading claims about coronavirus vaccines and masks has earned at least 30 million views from uploads directly on mainstream social media platforms. In addition to this extensive view count, the video has also seemingly received millions of Facebook engagements despite these platforms' rules against coronavirus misinformation.

Previously, Facebook claimed that it would remove content from its platform that pushes false claims about vaccines. YouTube has said it prohibits content "about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm" or "contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical information about COVID-19." TikTok has said it prohibits "misinformation related to COVID-19, vaccines, and anti-vaccine disinformation," and Twitter has said it prohibits "false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm."

Despite those rules, the new video promoting lies about the pandemic and vaccines has already spread extensively on these platforms in just a few days.

The viral video features a man named Dan Stock -- who has said he was at the United States Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection -- speaking in front of an Indiana city's school board, where he makes multiple false claims. Calling himself a "functional family medicine physician," Stock falsely suggested that coronavirus vaccines were not effective, saying, "Why is a vaccine that is supposedly so effective having a breakout in the middle of the summer when respiratory viral syndromes don't do that?" He also falsely claimed, "People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all," and inaccurately alleged that masks do not work, saying that "coronavirus and all other respiratory viruses ... are spread by aerosol particles, which are small enough to go through every mask." And rather than vaccines, Stock suggested people use the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 -- which the FDA has specifically advised against.

A review by Media Matters found that the video has earned tens of millions of views from direct uploads on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok combined.

On Instagram, uploads of the video have earned more than 4.6 million combined views. One upload, from right-wing host Sebastian Gorka, has received more than 3.5 million views alone. (In fact, Gorka's uploads of the clip on Instagram and Twitter appear to have contributed to nearly 30 percent of the known views of native uploads on mainstream social media platforms.) Another Instagram upload has nearly half a million views alone. And "Disinformation Dozen" member Sherri Tenpenny, who is ban evading on the platform, got thousands of views for her upload of the video.

Gorka Instagram Stock video

Uploads have also circulated on Facebook, with copies of the video earning at least 100,000 views. A page called Hancock County Indiana Patriots, which claims to have first uploaded the viral clip, got more than 90,000 views for its upload of the video which was then shared by John Jacob, a Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives. (Jacob also earned thousands of views for his own upload of the video.)

John Jacob Hancock County Indiana Patriots Facebook Stock video

On YouTube, uploads of the video have earned at least 6.5 million views. One version earned well over 3.6 million views before it was taken down for violating YouTube's community guidelines. Multiple uploads of the video -- including the one with millions of views -- also carried ads, meaning YouTube had profited off of spreading these harmful COVID misinformation claims.

Dan Stock YouTube video ads1

On Twitter, uploads of the video have received more than 5.5 million views. Similar to Instagram shares, most of the Twitter views come from an upload by Gorka which was shared on the platform by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and The Daily Wire's Candace Owens, among others. Gorka's upload was ultimately blocked from being shared on Twitter, but only after days of remaining active.

Jordan Gorka Twitter Stock video

And on TikTok, one user's upload of the video (divided into two parts) earned roughly 14 million views alone. A member of the major TikTok conservative group Republican Hype House also uploaded the video, getting thousands of views.

TikTok Stock video

That a new coronavirus misinformation video was not just able to go viral but apparently surpass the wide spread of previous COVID conspiracy theory videos suggests that many social media platforms continue to struggle with enforcing their policies against misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. Similarly, the video's ongoing reach shows that efforts by these platforms to label or take it down are not happening nearly fast enough to contain the spread of such harmful misinformation.

Research contributions from Olivia Little, Camden Carter, Spencer Silva, Nena Beecham, Jeremy Tuthill, Kayla Gogarty & Carly Evans.

Opposing Masks And Vaccines, Ghoulish Greene Chirps: ‘We Can’t Live Forever’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said on Wednesday in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections, "We're human, we can't live forever, we are going to catch all kinds of diseases and illnesses and other viruses and we get hurt sometimes."

Greene's comments came during an interview on the Real America's Voice network program The Water Cooler.

Greene also said, "I don't think the FDA should approve a vaccine that doesn't seem to be that effective ... yes, the waiting rooms get full, but guess what? The waiting rooms are full of all kinds of things. Not just COVID. You know, car accidents, trauma, other illnesses, cancer and so forth."

Multiple scientific studies have shown that the vaccines available against the coronavirus are effective in stopping its transmission.

And data provided by state medical offices has shown that hospital beds are increasingly being occupied by COVID patients, particularly by people who had not been vaccinated.

On Tuesday, Rep. Greene was once again suspended from Twitter after using her account to make false claims about COVID-19. In an August 9 tweet, Greene wrote, "These vaccines are failing & do not reduce the spread of the virus & neither do masks" in violation of Twitter's terms of service, which prohibit transmitting misinformation about topics like the outbreak.

It's the fourth time her account has been suspended.

From the Aug. 11 edition of Real America's Voice's The Water Cooler:

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: I don't think the FDA should approve a vaccine that doesn't seem to be that effective, especially with COVID-19 raging all over the country, at least that's what the media tells us every single day.

I talked to local hospitals here in my district and here in my state. Yes, the waiting rooms get full, but guess what? The waiting rooms are full of all kinds of things, not just COVID. You know, car accidents, trauma, other illnesses, cancer, and so forth.

But they're seeing about 30% of those numbers being COVID cases. So while the news tries to tell us the hospitals are slam-packed with COVID, that's just not the case. Everyone needs to get back down, back down to common sense and remember that, you know, we're human, we can't live forever, we are going to catch all kinds of diseases and illnesses and other viruses and we get hurt sometimes.

So I'm all for, let's be rational with this, let's be careful, let's be cautious, and let's not turn into an authoritarian regime that forces shots in arms of people that don't want it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Former FDA Flack Mocks Vaccination, Dismisses Delta Danger To Kids

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Emily Miller says kids are "safe" from the coronavirus pandemic despite at least 371 children having died from COVID-19 and the number of children contracting the disease and being hospitalized is increasing.

Miller, who made her remarks on social media Monday in a thread defending her own refusal to be vaccinated, is facing strong criticism as she attacks her vaccinated critics as "scared."

"My decision not to get vaccinated does not affect anyone else's health. Full stop. The #ScaredVaccinated are dividing our communities and the country," she tweeted.

She says scared vaccinated Americans' "cognitive bias and panic make them perceive that they could die. They are afraid of their children dying. This is why they want everyone else vaccinated."

Despite having no medical background Miller served as Assistant Commissioner for Media Affairs at the FDA in the Trump administration, although for just 11 days. She's also been a reporter at OANN and WTTG, and worked for Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Tom DeLay. And like some, she appears to believe she has the right "take" on why people should not be vaccinated against a virus that has killed over 630,000 Americans.

Last year Media Matters called Miller "a pro-Trump sycophant who spreads COVID-19 misinformation."

She also claims, vaccinated or not, "For adults under 65 with no health conditions, it's virtually impossible to die from COVID.

Last year Media Matters called Miller "a pro-Trump sycophant who spreads COVID-19 misinformation."

She also claims, vaccinated or not, "For adults under 65 with no health conditions, it's virtually impossible to die from COVID.

Those 371 children who have died from COVID is an incomplete number, because not all states break down mortality by age. The number comes from just 43 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and New York City.

So listen to what this children's hospital physician says:

The child hospitalization numbers are even less complete, with just 21 states and NYC reporting. Florida, for example, stopped reporting child hospitalization rates in June. But given the numbers available, at least 3849 children have been hospitalized with COVID.

Last week there were more than 93,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children. Here's what that looks like:

None of this sounds like kids are "safe" from COVID, despite Miller's claim.

Here's how one pediatrician responded to Miller:

And how a clinical psychologist responded:

She's getting roundly criticized for her remarks.

Vaccination Rates Rising Again, But Disinformation Still Kills

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

After weeks of sometimes depressing, sometimes infuriating headlines about intransigent vaccine hesitancy in mostly red areas of the country, health officials appear to be making some headway with the unvaccinated even as case counts surge and some hospitals begin to reach a breaking point.

The pace of vaccine shots being administered on a daily basis is the highest it's been in two weeks, with a seven-day average of 582,659 shots per day, according to CDC data relayed by CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.

And as of Monday, the seven-day average of newly vaccinated people in the U.S. was up 24 percent over a week ago, according to Cyrus Shahpar, the White House COVID-19 data director.

Last Thursday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that the five states with the highest case rates—Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada—"had a higher rate of people getting newly vaccinated compared to the national average."

But even with some positive signs emerging, the reality on the ground in many red states is still dire and extraordinarily frustrating for health officials.

In Alabama, George Grabryan and Mike Melton, two emergency management officials who have helped local residents navigate a series of natural disasters over several decades have been flummoxed by their inability to reach those very same people with messages about the vaccine. In rural Lauderdale County, just 34 percent of residents are vaccinated, writes Politico, while the delta variant has spiked new infections in the area by 300 percent in the past couple weeks.

"I've been out to the funeral home for more visitations this year than I have before," Grabryan said. "There's no one in this area that doesn't know someone who was affected by it."

And yet the gusher of misinformation and disinformation driven mainly by social media (Facebook, in particular) and Fox News has dealt a lethal blow to health officials struggling to get more local residents vaccinated. Indeed, in two of the states hardest hit by the delta variant—Louisiana and Alabama—health advocates ranging from public officials to physicians to local volunteers told Politico that social media and some news outlets are the main culprits in suppressing vaccination rates.

Doctors and health officials in Alabama and Louisiana say their only hope for getting people vaccinated is if the media outlets that message to these areas, primarily Fox News, start advocating people get the shot, instead of pushing them away from the jab.

But as desperate as they continue to be, local health officials in many red states have warned against sending federal "surge teams" to go door-to-door in conservative areas, fearing it would only exacerbate the problem. At base, Fox News and many Republican politicians have taught their loyalists to distrust the federal government, even when lives are at stake.

"I don't know going door to door would help us," said Karen Landers, an Alabama state health officer in Sheffield. "People in more rural areas … you're going on to their property. It might not be the best idea to have them do that because people are protective of their privacy."

The reality that red states are reeling from the latest surge in cases is also starting to tear into the core of GOP messaging on the pandemic. While some Republicans are reveling in the inability of the Biden administration to fully vanquish the coronavirus, others are starting to realize they might have a real political problem on their hands.

After House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana finally got vaccinated last week and encouraged other unvaccinated folks to follow suit, he also lied about the many conservative pundits and lawmakers who have purposely stoked anti-vaccine fears for months now. "I haven't heard any conservatives raising doubts," Scalise said despite all evidence to the contrary.

In Florida, where new COVID-19 infections are at their highest rate since January, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has developed a split personality on the issue. On the one hand, DeSantis has railed against mask mandates and tried to score political points by promising that he wouldn't let his 3-year-old be "muzzled" by any forthcoming federal guidelines about masking in schools.

"I've got a 3-year-old son, and you've got people like [Dr. Anthony] Fauci saying 'he should be muzzled and you should be throwing masks on these 3-year-old kids,'" DeSantis said late last week. "It's totally unacceptable."

For the record, Dr. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, has never said kids should be muzzled. But after the American Academy of Pediatrics backed universal school masking in new guidelines last week, Fauci said the CDC is "carefully looking" at encouraging universal masking in schools for everyone over two regardless of vaccination status. Fauci also said Sunday that the CDC is considering making new masking recommendations for vaccinated individuals and potentially urging booster shots for people with suppressed immune systems.

But back in Florida, anti-masker DeSantis has also touted the effectiveness of the vaccines.

"So here's, I think, the most important thing with the data: if you are vaccinated—fully vaccinated—the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero," DeSantis said at a press conference last week. "These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality."

On a national level, health officials are continuing to do what they can to promote vaccination. Medical groups representing million of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers on Monday urged a vaccine requirement for all U.S. health officials, according to the Washington Post.

"We call for all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19," the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and 55 other groups wrote in a joint statement. "The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it."

Leaders of the groups involved in the effort see health care workers as important message carriers to the broader communities they are serving.

Rachel Villanueva, an OB/GYN and president of the National Medical Association representing more than 50,000 Black physicians, told the Post that leading by example is essential since many communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

"We want to continue to dispel myths, educate, increase confidence and increase vaccination rates in our communities," Villanueva said.

In Hotspot Missouri, Infected GOP Legislators Still Oppose Vaccination

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Missouri, a recent Facebook conversation between two Republican state lawmakers is telling.

Around Independence Day, State Rep. Bill Kidd, from the Kansas City suburbs, revealed that he has been infected by the coronavirus.

"And no, we didn't get the vaccine," he wrote in a post that has since been deleted. "We're Republicans 😆"

State Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Taney County, home to the tourist destination of Branson, commented on the post by falsely claiming that the virus had been developed by top government scientist Anthony Fauci and billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. They "knew what was coming," Seitz wrote.

"The jury is still out on the 'vaccine' (who knows what's in that)," he wrote.

As the number of coronavirus infections rises around the country, lawmakers like Kidd and Seitz have adopted responses that trouble many health officials. In Tennessee, Republicans legislators threatened to shut down the state health department, saying it was targeting minors for mass vaccinations without the consent of parents. In Ohio, lawmakers allowed a doctor to testify at a legislative hearing last month that coronavirus vaccines could leave people magnetized (they can't). During a hearing in the Montana Senate, a senator said he had read articles about "putting a chip in the vaccine." (There are no chips in vaccines.)

Just as with his insistence that he won the election, former president Donald Trump's attitudes about COVID-19 hold great sway with his supporters. Trump routinely bashed Fauci and infectious disease experts throughout the pandemic and questioned the severity of the coronavirus.

He also strongly carried Missouri's southwest corner in the November election. While Trump beat Joe Biden by 15.4 percentage points statewide, in rural Taney County, the margin was 57.8 points.

Those supporters now tend to oppose efforts to get everyone vaccinated, believing they are being led by Democrats, said Ken Warren, a professor of political science at Saint Louis University who tracks state and local politics. "It's a sad reality," he said. "We can't get together on anything, even fighting COVID."

Such attitudes are accelerating an anti-vaccine sentiment that has run strong in the state legislature for years, particularly with lawmakers from the area of Missouri now facing increased infection rates. In 2018, Republican state Rep. Lynn Morris, a pharmacist from southwest Missouri, pushed a proposal to prohibit discrimination against unvaccinated children. Public school children are required to be vaccinated against several diseases, but families can claim a medical or religious exemption. The legislature took up a similar proposal in 2019. Each failed.

Late last year, state Rep. Suzie Pollock, a Republican from south-central Missouri, proposed a bill to prohibit discrimination against people who choose not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. She claimed the vaccine against the virus had "been rushed" and that its efficacy was "in question," myths that have been relentlessly amplified by right-wing media.

The bill did not advance, but GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a related bill blocking local governments from requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination for people seeking to access transportation systems or other public services.

It's not enough for some. "Now people are pushing back even against the idea of private employers like hospitals and health care providers telling their employees you have to be vaccinated," said state Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Republican from the St. Louis suburbs. "I think that some of the legitimate concerns of government overreach have turned into this broader resistance to any vaccination, which is something I don't agree with."

Late in this year's legislative session, Pollack pushed a proposal that would allow more parents to opt out of vaccinating their children against diseases including polio, measles, and mumps. Pollock insisted she was not against vaccines, but said that people should have the freedom to choose. The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee voted 10-6 in favor of the bill.

The full House defeated it on April 28 in a 79-67 vote.

"There is a tremendous skepticism about the good that government can do," said Dan Ponder, a political science professor at Drury University in Springfield and director of the Meador Center for Politics & Citizenship there.

Ponder said many residents of southwest Missouri question the motives behind the policies that governments are pushing and show "a tremendous skepticism about information." He added, "People don't believe the vaccines are working. People don't believe the federal government isn't going to come down here and … basically strong-arm them into taking a vaccine."

Indeed, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deployed a two-person "surge response" team to southwest Missouri this month to combat an outbreak attributed to the dangerous delta variant, both Parson and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, from south-central Missouri, tweeted opposition to federal agents going door to door to compel vaccines, something President Joe Biden's administration said it never had any intent to do.

On Sunday, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure told CBS' Face the Nation that his community was "being hurt" by rampant vaccine misinformation. He said people were sharing "health-related fears, what it might do to them later on in their lives, what might be contained in the vaccinations. And that information is just incorrect."

Taney County is near the heart of the surge of the delta variant, which health officials say spreads more easily than earlier versions of the virus. The county is leading the state with the highest rate of coronavirus cases over the past seven days, according to Missouri health department data. Surrounding counties have similarly high rates, raising alarms for federal health officials.

Despite the spike, just 28 percent of Taney County's residents are fully vaccinated, below the state average of 40 percent.

Seitz, who once owned a newspaper that promoted Branson's entertainment industry, boasted in an interview that the Ozark tourist town was doing gangbuster business after a year of being mostly shut down.

"There were 27,000 people at our July 3 celebration," he said, noting that he attended with U.S. Rep. Billy Long and "he said something like, 'I'm so glad to see there are very few chin diapers in the crowd.' The roar was huge … we're so happy not to be forced by government to either wear a mask or take a vaccine."

Seitz said he had no business telling his constituents how to live. The media has shifted its focus from deaths to the raw numbers of cases, he said, glossing over that most people who catch the virus don't die. While 600,000 American deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, Seitz questioned whether people were dying from the disease or from existing health problems: "If a person is grossly overweight and caught a very virulent virus, did they die because they were in very ill health or did they die because of the virus?"

Seitz falsely claimed that COVID vaccines have not been tested and are unsafe. He backed down on his comment about Fauci on Kidd's Facebook post, acknowledging that the virology expert did not create the coronavirus but asserting that he had been engaged for years in experiments to make viruses more dangerous or transmissible. Fauci has insisted the U.S. government did not participate in experiments that could have caused the pandemic.

Seitz said he had nothing against people who take the vaccine or wear masks. It's their choice, he said. He said it wasn't his job to keep people safe, but to keep people free.

"I haven't had the flu even since 1994," he said. "Why would I take a vaccine? ... My life was normal for the past year, very few instances of wearing a mask, and so forth, and I'm just fine."

Betsy Fogle, who recently completed her first session as a Democratic state representative from Springfield, said it was "fascinating kind of watching the narrative and the rhetoric" in the state capital of Jefferson City surrounding COVID-19, "and then watching it all get politicized and polarized. And then seeing that real-life impact that has on our neighbors back in Springfield when our hospitals are full and our hospital CEOs are begging people to get vaccinated and people just aren't doing it."

She said there was a mentality among Republican leaders "that COVID is a hoax, or that vaccines are a hoax, and that trickles down."

She said she has several constituents who didn't get vaccinated "because they think that this is a joke, and then these people reach out a month later to say, 'I'm sorry I didn't listen.'"

Kidd, the Republican from the Kansas City area, posted almost two weeks after his initial Facebook post that he was seeking prayers because he was "having a difficult time with COVID" and "really sick." Kidd posted again on Thursday that he was "doing better" after the virus "kicked my butt." He did not respond to a message from a reporter.

Fogle said she hoped Kidd recovered, "but that's the frustrating part about it, is that our hospitals, our doctors, our people who are in charge of making these decisions are telling us how severe it is, and we refuse to accept that severity."

She said she makes daily calls to everyone she knows who isn't vaccinated "and what I hear is, 'No, it's my right, it's my body, it's my choice, like, stop bringing this up.' And it's hard to win those arguments."

Study: Right-Wing Media Promote Conspiracies And Distrust In Health Officials

People who regularly consume conservative media, like Fox News and Newsmax, are much more likely to believe in Covid-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, and less likely to trust public health officials, according to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The survey, conducted in June, found that though the general public's trust in the Covid vaccine went up -- 78 percent in June compared to 74 percent in April -- the more ideologically conservative someone is, the "less likely" they are to believe it is safer to get the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Axios.

"When you begin to reduce trust in experts and agencies telling you that vaccines are safe, you're creating all kinds of susceptibilities that can be exploited for partisan gain," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said, quoted by Axios.

The study also found a growing number of people believe conspiracy theories about the virus that has killed over 600,000 Americans.

For example, more than a third of Americans, 35 percent, believe that coronavirus is a biological weapon created by China, which was up from 31 percent in April.

Axios reports the news as public officials are sounding alarms over Covid vaccine misinformation leading to flat-lining vaccination rates, especially in convective communities.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stopped just short of saying Fox News is killing people last week on CNN.

"My worry is that all of this is misinformation that's floating around, it's having a real cost that can be measured in lives lost and that is just tragic," said Murthy when asked by Anchor Dana Bash if conservative media is killing people.

Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in Michigan, took that next step, blaming conservative media for spreading "life-threateningly wrong" information about coronavirus.

"They should listen to their family doctors for medical advice, not Sean Hannity — whom researchers have connected to higher infection rates — or Tucker Carlson, who suggested with zero evidence that Covid-19 vaccines don't work," wrote Dr. Davidson in an NBC News opinion.

He doesn't blame his patients for their refusal to get the highly effective vaccine, he "blame[s] Fox News and other right-wing media outlets for poisoning the minds of millions of Americans with the deceptive propaganda they spray into living rooms 24/7."