Alabama doctor describes how sick COVID patients ‘beg’ for the vaccine but she can only hold their hand and tell them it is too late

texas vaccine covid
Medical staff member Gabriel Cervera Rodriguez raises his fist to celebrate after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 21, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

  • Amid rising cases of COVID-19, doctors are begging people to get their vaccines.
  • One doctor said, “it’s a choice between the jab or death.”
  • But anti-vaxx trolls are attacking these people online, making them nervous to speak out.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Whilst COVID-19 deaths soar in the USA amongst unvaccinated people, doctors have been pleading with people to get their vaccines.

Dr Brytney Cobia, a doctor based in Alabama, made a heartfelt Facebook post this week – sharing the potentially life-saving importance of getting the COVID-19 jab when offered.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.

“A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax.”

Read more: The anti-vax movement is killing people, and the right-wing media is egging it on

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, who for much of the coronavirus pandemic resisted public-health measures, criticized her state’s unvaccinated population.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” she said when asked what it would take to get more people vaccinated. “Folks supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Alabama has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate nationwide, according to a New York Times tracker.

Dr Cobia’s post attracted a lot of attention, with many praising her candid approach to sharing the lessons she’s learnt working as a doctor in the pandemic. However, others trolled her with insults and death theats – meaning she is now uncomfortable with giving any interviews to the media – reported an NBC reporter who tried to get in touch with Dr Cobia.

Hateful messaging were even posted on the reviews section of Dr Cobia’s Web MD page.

A screenshot of recent sham reviews of Dr Brytney Cobia, who is being trolled for begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19
A screenshot of recent sham reviews of Dr Brytney Cobia, who is being trolled for begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Dr Catherine O’Neal – a doctor in Louisiana – echoed Dr Cobia’s message in a news conference on 16 July: “I want to be clear after seeing what I’ve seen the past two weeks. We only have two choices: we are either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic. Or we are going to accept death.”

A number of people on Twitter replied to the video of Dr O’Neal’s pleas, slamming it as “propaganda,” and that the Delta variant was “released” in order to re-up fear of COVID-19.

Currently, 40% of COVID-19 cases in the USA are in just three states – Texas, Florida and Missouri – with low rates of vaccinations, with1 in 5 cases in Florida alone.

Now, as the cases of COVID rise at an alarming rate – with 63,818 new cases recorded in the USA on July 22 – previously vaccine-hesitant Republican senators are urging people to get their jabs.

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Anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist tells rally that healthcare workers fighting COVID could face Nuremberg-style trials

Kate Shemirani speaks to thousands of protesters during the demonstration.
Kate Shemirani speaks to thousands of protesters during the demonstration. Demonstrators protest in Trafalgar Square, London as part of the Worldwide Rally for Freedom. Protesters are demonstrating against the vaccine passport, Covid-19 vaccination for children and a raft of other coronavirus restrictions.

  • Thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest the use of COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Kate Shemirani – a former nurse who was struck off – compared the use of the jabs to Nazi-era medical testing.
  • Several other high-profile conspiracy theorists spoke at the event, including David Icke and Piers Corbyn.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mass anti-vaxx protests occurred in London last night, with one conspiracy theorist causing outrage for telling doctors and nurses that they could be tried and hung in Nuremberg-style trials.

Speaking at the protests were several renowned right-wing conspiracy theorists, including David Icke, Katie Hopkins – who just got refused entry to Australia for refusing to produce COVID-19 documentation – and Gillian McKeith.

The protest, dubbed a “worldwide rally for freedom,” in London’s Trafalgar Square was held five days after England lifted most of its COVID restrictions.

Read more: Gaia was a wildly popular yoga brand. Now it’s a publicly traded Netflix rival pushing conspiracy theories while employees fear the CEO is invading their dreams.

Kate Shemirani, a former nurse who was struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council in June 2021 for spreading COVID misinformation, addressed the crowd.

She told them: “Get their names [of doctors and nurses]. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremberg Trials, the doctors and nurses stood trial, and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus… and stand with us, the people,” reported The Independent.

Shemirani’s comments have caused a major uproar – not just for endangering and undermining the efforts of healthcare workers in the pandemic – but also for their antisemitic overtones.

The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals held after World War II to convict Nazis of their war crimes, including six million Jews and other minorities for medical trials.

The documentation from the Nursing and Midwifery council’s case against Shemirani shows the scale of her conspiratorial beliefs – including stating that “you can’t catch a virus,” describing the “genocidal” NHS as “murdering patients,” and claiming that vaccines have been “rushed through” because “they want to kill you.”

Joining Shemirani was David Icke, an infamous conspiracy theorist who told crowds, “staggering numbers of people worldwide will die from the fake vaccination.” He added: “It’s the pandemic of the fake vaccinated.”

David Icke speaks to the protesters during the demonstration
David Icke speaks to the protesters during the demonstration

Piers Corbyn – brother of the former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – also spoke, saying, “you’re much more likely to die or get ill from the jab that you are from COVID.”

The UK has one of the highest vaccination rates globally, with 80% of adults have received at least one dose and 55.4% both. These rates are linking to low hospitalization in the UK.

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The GOP governor of Arkansas, where vaccines are lagging and COVID-19 is surging, said it’s ‘disappointing’ vaccines are ‘political’

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at a news conference at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

  • Arkansas is among the states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, as many residents are unvaccinated.
  • Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said it’s “disappointing” that vaccines have become “political.”
  • He’s been traveling throughout the state to combat hesitancy and encourage people to get the shot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday it’s “disappointing” vaccines have become “political,” as his state deals with a COVID-19 surge.

Hutchinson, a Republican, was speaking to Greta Van Susteren on her show “Full Court Press” when the host asked him about the state’s low vaccination rate.

“That’s a big challenge for us,” Hutchinson said, noting that there is lots of vaccine resistance. “It’s a conservative state. Sometimes conservatives are hesitant about the government. And we just got to counteract that by getting better information to them, building confidence.”

Read more: Don’t punish the vaccinated – make it harder to choose to be unvaccinated

In Arkansas, 44.8% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, while 52.1% has received at least one dose. That leaves the state with one of the lowest vaccination rates per capita. Only Alabama and Mississippi have a smaller percentage of fully vaccinated residents, according to CDC data compiled by the Mayo Clinic.

Susteren asked Hutchinson about how vaccine hesitancy happens along political lines.

“It is disappointing that there’s a political part to this,” he said.

Vaccine hesitancy has been especially prominent among Republicans and in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump.

But Hutchinson said he both supported Trump and got the vaccine, and noted that Trump himself is also vaccinated. He also said that in Arkansas, where more than 65% of the vote went to Trump, tens of thousands of people had already gotten the vaccine.

Arkansas is among the states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant rapidly spreads. Hutchinson has been traveling around the state to address vaccine hesitancy and encourage people to get vaccinated, NPR reported.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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After a Hillsong Church member who derided the vaccine online died of COVID-19, its founder called the shot a ‘personal decision’

Brian Houston on the "TODAY" show.
Brian Houston on the “TODAY” show.

  • A Hillsong Church member in his 30s died of COVID-19 this week after declining to get vaccinated.
  • The man, who lived in California, had derided the vaccine online and joked about the coronavirus.
  • Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston told CNN the vaccine was a “personal decision.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a congregant of the Hillsong Church in California refused to get vaccinated and died from COVID-19 complications, its founder is not encouraging the shot.

Brian Houston, founder and global senior pastor at Hillsong, told CNN vaccines are a “personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals.”

Stephen Harmon, who was in his early 30s, was part of a Hillsong Church in California and a graduate of Hillsong College in Mesa, Arizona. Houston said on Instagram Thursday Harmon had died from COVID-19.

Read more: Don’t punish the vaccinated – make it harder to choose to be unvaccinated

“He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him,” Houston wrote.

Hillsong Church, based in Australia, is a popular megachurch with celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Vanessa Hudgens. Recently, the church has been accused of racist and anti-LGBTQ behavior.

Prior to his death, Harmon had makes jokes online about the coronavirus and said he was not vaccinated, Insider’s Ashley Collman reported.

In a June 3 tweet, he referenced Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems” and wrote: “If you’re having email problems, I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a vax ain’t one!”

On July 8, he again posted an anti-vaccine joke even after he was sick with COVID-19 and in an isolation ward, writing: “And no, i will not be getting vaccinated once i am discharged and released.”

In his post about Harmon, Houston wrote, “Stephen’s thoughts on vaccines were his own.”

“They do not represent the views and thoughts of Hillsong Church. Many of our pastors, staff, and congregation are fully vaccinated and more will be when vaccines become available to them in their countries,” he added.

Insider has reached out to Hillsong Church for comment.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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At the recent CPAC, attendees celebrated the failure of Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70% of adults. Now top Republicans have U-turned, urging people to get their jab.

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens as the Senate Rules Committee holds a hearing on the “For the People Act,” which would expand access to voting and other voting reforms, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

  • A number of high-profile Republicans are now urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Deaths from COVID-19 in the US are largely attributed to the unvaccinated population
  • Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville has said the jabs are “effective, safe, and don’t cost you a dime.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

High-profile Republicans are switching from a previous vaccine hesitant stance and now urging Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccines, as soon as possible.

Only two weeks ago at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, attendees cheered and clapped that Biden had not been able to”sucker” people and had missed his goal of vaccinating 70% of adults. Vaccine hesitancy on the right had metastasized into outright hostility.

But the mood music has changed again as the Delta variant rips through the red states where low vaccination rates are filling hospital ICU’s at an alarming rate.

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, who for much of the coronavirus pandemic resisted public-health measures, criticized her state’s unvaccinated population.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” she said when asked what it would take to get more people vaccinated. “Folks supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Alabama has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate nationwide, according to a New York Times tracker.

Ivey followed a slew of Republican big-hitters to call for a greater vaccination urgency. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell led this movement, urging people on Tuesday, to ignore the “demonstrably bad advice” which spreads mistrust of the vaccines, and said, “If there is anybody out there willing to listen: Get vaccinated.”

Read more: Meet the government worker who cut through months’ worth of federal bureaucracy in 10 days to help millions of Americans get vaccinated

Ron DeSantis – Governor of Florida, where 1 in 5 Covid cases in the USA are – told the public in the Trump heartland: “If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero … These vaccines are saving lives,” he said during a press conference.

donald trump ron desantis
President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida.

Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville is another high-profile Republican exhibiting a change in tune. He took to Twitter July 21 to say that the vaccines are “effective, safe, and don’t cost you a dime.”

Joining the Republican U-turn, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) – who had previously attempted to block Senate funding for the COVID-19 vaccine in tandem with his anti-vaxx stance – received his dose of the vaccine, telling people they should get theirs and that it is “safe and effective.”

He added: “When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of people in hospitals with Delta variant have not been vaccinated. That’s another signal the vaccine works,” The Times-Picayune reported.

President Biden and the head of the CDC, have called the current state of COVID-19 in the USA the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Three strongly GOP states account for 40% of Covid cases – Florida, Missouri, and Texas – announced White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients at a press briefing on July 21.

Rob Wilson, former GOP strategist and founder of the Lincoln Project, said on Twitter that he believes this change in tone is a polling strategy – the result of a realization that it may not be politically palpable to reject the vaccine whilst COVID-19 deaths and cases surge.

So far, less than half of the US population has had their COVID-19 vaccine, with 63,818 new cases recorded across the country on July 22 alone.

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A conservative talk show host who said ‘you’re probably safer not getting’ the vaccine is now seriously ill with COVID-19 and his family is asking people to ‘PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!’

COVID-19 vaccine vials next to a syringe.
Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine is hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19, his family said.

  • Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine is hospitalized with COVID-19, his family said.
  • Valentine has said “you’re probably safer not getting” the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re not at high risk.
  • His family says he now “regrets” not being more “pro-vaccine.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A conservative radio talk show host who told followers “you’re probably safer not getting” the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re not at high risk is now hospitalized in serious condition with the coronavirus, according to his family.

Phil Valentine, who hosts “The Phil Valentine Show” on Nashville, Tennessee’s WWTN-FM station, contracted COVID-19 more than a week ago “and has since been hospitalized and is in very serious condition,” his family said in a statement Thursday.

Valentine, 61, is suffering from “COVID pneumonia and the attendant side effects,” said the statement, which added, “He is in the hospital in the critical care unit breathing with assistance but is NOT on a ventilator.”

Now that the radio host has become ill with the coronavirus he has “regrets” about past comments he has made about the vaccines for the virus, his family said.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ [sic] he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” the family said.

Read more: Don’t punish the vaccinated – make it harder to choose to be unvaccinated

In a Dec. 17 post on his blog, Valentine gave his views on the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m just using common sense. What are my odds of getting COVID? They’re pretty low. What are my odds of dying from COVID if I do get it? Probably way less than one percent,” he wrote.

Valentine continued, “If you have underlying health issues you probably need to get the vaccine. If you’re not at high risk of dying from COVID then you’re probably safer not getting it. That evokes shrieks of horror from many, but it’s true.”

In the same post, Valentine wrote, “If I decide not to get vaccinated, I’m not putting anyone else’s life in danger except perhaps people who have made the same decision.”

Public health experts have urged people to get vaccinated against the disease, finding that the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the US are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and the spread of the disease.

Still, large swaths of the country remain unvaccinated as misinformation about the safety of the vaccines spreads.

Valentine posted on Facebook on July 11 that he had COVID-19.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” he wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution. It’ll be a game-time decision.”

As recently as July 15, he shared doubts about the vaccine while posting a story about cancer-causing chemicals in Johnson & Johnson suncreen.

“Ah, but I’m sure their vaccine is perfectly safe,” Valentine wrote. “Don’t worry about it.”

He has not posted since.

Valentine’s family closed out the statement released this week, saying, “Please continue to pray for his recovery and PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!”

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Fauci says fully vaccinated people ‘might want to consider’ wearing a mask indoors as a precaution against the Delta variant

Dr. Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a face mask.

  • Fully vaccinated Americans may “want to consider” masks indoors, Dr. Fauci said.
  • Fauci said the Delta variant had an “extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”
  • More fully vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19, albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’ top doctor, said fully vaccinated people may “want to consider” wearing masks indoors to help protect against the Delta coronavirus variant, which is spreading fast across the country.

Dr. Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, told CNBC on Wednesday that “if you want to go the extra mile of safety even though you’re vaccinated when you’re indoors, particularly in crowded places, you might want to consider wearing a mask.”

Fauci explained that wearing a mask indoors was “suggested” when a virus was spreading fast in a community.

The Delta variant is more infectious, and has mutations that help it avoid the body’s immune response. As it spreads in the US, more fully-vaccinated Americans are catching COVID-19 – albeit with milder, or no, symptoms.

“This virus is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person,” Fauci said.

The Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that fully-vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks, except in certain situations, for example during flights.

States, workplaces and businesses can enforce their own mask rules.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The public health body has come under pressure to review it’s guidance in recent weeks due to the emergence of the Delta variant, which is at least 50% more infectious than the formerly-dominant Alpha variant.

Delta now accounts for 83% of all new infections in the US. The nation recorded 52,032 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General, said Sunday that “the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it and mask it.” The World Health Organization said June 26 that fully-vaccinated people should wear masks in public settings.

More than 161 million Americans are fully-vaccinated, or 48% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some states have already urged fully-vaccinated citizens to put their masks back on.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said June 28 that it “strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure,” citing the more-infectious Delta variant.

Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, re-introduced mask mandates indoors for all workers on Wednesday.

Despite his views on masks, Fauci said that “the easiest and best and most effective way that we can prevent the emergence of a new variant and crush the already existing Delta variant is to get everyone vaccinated.”

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 88% effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms caused by the Delta variant, according to real-world UK data published Wednesday.

In the US, 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people. “That is a statistic that speaks for itself,” Fauci said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produced fewer antibodies against Delta compared with other shots in an experiment. Experts say we shouldn’t worry about the results.

covid-19 vaccine card
Gerald McDavitt, 81, a Veteran of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, holds his CDC vaccine card after being inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Janssen Vaccine.

  • In a study, J&J’s vaccine produced fewer antibodies to the Delta variant compared with other shots.
  • The study authors said that the lower antibody response “could result in decreased protection.”
  • But other experts said the COVID-19 lab-based study didn’t represent the real world.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A lab experiment showed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine produced a weaker antibody response against the Delta variant when compared with Moderna and Pfizer’s double-dose shots – but it will probably still work against the variant in real life, experts say.

New York University researchers drew blood from eight people who received Moderna’s vaccine, nine people who got Pfizer’s, and 10 people that got J&J’s, according to a preprint version of the study posted Tuesday. They compared the antibody response against Delta with the antibody response against the original strain of the coronavirus.

In the Moderna and Pfizer group, the antibody response was three times lower against Delta, on average. For J&J’s shot, it was 5.4 times lower against Delta, the study authors said.

The study authors said that the lower antibody response for J&J’s shot “could result in decreased protection.” More than 9 million Americans have received the vaccine.

The Delta coronavirus variant, which is the most common cause of new infections in the US, is about 50% more infectious than the formerly-dominant Alpha variant, and has mutations that can help it avoid the immune response.

Dr. Ned Landau, who led the experiment, told CNBC that the findings suggested people who got the J&J vaccine “should at least consider” a second dose of the same vaccine, or one from Pfizer or Moderna.

But other experts aren’t convinced about the findings of a small lab study, which hasn’t yet been scrutinized by other experts in a peer review. They say Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could still work against Delta in real life.

Insider’s Hilary Brueck reported Tuesday that fully vaccinated people can get COVID-19 – but if they do, they usually get mild symptoms, or none at all.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

Eric Topol, professor of Molecular Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, said on Twitter Tuesday that the antibody response with J&J’s vaccine was above the threshold “for concern.”

“There’s also the T cell response,” he added. The T cell response is another aspect of the immune system – it is harder to study in the lab, but is thought to be crucial to protect against variants. The NYU team didn’t examine this in their study.

Peter Chin-Hong, professor of infectious disease at University of California, San Francisco, told ABC10 News that “you can’t necessarily extrapolate laboratory-based studies to what happens in real life,” citing J&J’s performance against the Beta variant.

The same NYU study showed that the J&J vaccine’s antibody response against Beta variant, first found in South Africa, was 6.5 times lower than against the original variant. But in humans, J&J’s vaccine was 64% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease in its South Africa trials, when 95% infections were caused by the Beta variant.

Real-world data from South Africa, posted by the South African Medical Research Council on July 1, showed that 94% of health workers who were vaccinated with J&J’s shot and then caught COVID-19 only had mild infections.

The company said on July 2 that its COVID-19 vaccine should work against Delta.

Despite this, some experts who received J&J shots have opted to have an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine.

Neither The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Food and Drug Administration recommend that people who received J&J take an extra dose. There isn’t enough data to support the approach, they say.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Biden White House confronted Fox News about its hosts’ bid to erode trust in the COVID-19 vaccine

Jen Psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House May 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • The White House has held discussions with Fox News about its COVID-19 vaccine coverage.
  • Fox News hosts have for months encouraged viewers to question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
  • Studies have found a partisan divide in willingness to get the shot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration has confronted Fox News over the bid by some of its top-rated hosts to erode trust in the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

White House Press secretary Jen Psaki at a press briefing on Tuesday confirmed that officials had held talks with the right-wing Fox News network and other media outlets about their coverage of the vaccine rollout strategy.

“We’ve been in touch with every network and many, many media outlets about coverage of COVID-19 to make sure people have accurate information, to voice concerns when we have them,” Psaki said.

And addressing Fox News specifically, Psaki emphasized “the importance of reaching Fox News’ audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits, and like we are with all of you here today we, of course, are in regular contact.”

Psaki’s statement came after CNN reported that the discussions between White House officials and Fox News over its vaccination coverage had taken place regularly and at a “high level.”

A Fox News spokesperson denied CNN’s characterisation of the White House meetings.

“CNN’s reporting is inaccurate. There have been no high level conversations between Fox News Media and the White House regarding our coverage. We had one routine briefing with the White House in early May on vaccination rates and our DC bureau personnel are regularly in touch with them on a variety of issues, as is the case with every other network,” said the spokesperson.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for information on the meetings.

Over the past week the Biden administration has stepped up its pushback against vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists as vaccination rates lag and the highly contagious Delta variant spreads rapidly.

Last week President Joe Biden accused Facebook of “killing people” by hosting anti-vaccine propaganda on its platform, in comments he subsequently moderated. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical officer, on Saturday said media networks which have pushed vaccine skeptical views have played a key role in discouraging many to get a shot.

Several surveys have found a clear partisan divide in willingness to get vaccinated, with the states where vaccination rates are lowest among the most conservative in the country.

Some of Fox News’ top-rated hosts, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have for months been encouraging Americans to question the safety of vaccines, misrepresenting the views of public health officials and skewing data in their arguments.

Critics told Insider back in February the campaign was likely a bid to damage the Biden administration, and boost ratings by stirring paranoia about plots by liberal and scientific “elites.”

In an abrupt shift in message emphasis on Monday, hosts including Sean Hannity and Steve Doocey urged viewers to get the vaccine. Senior Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also issued public statements Monday urging Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A Fox News spokesperson denied claims that the positive comments made about vaccines by hosts Monday were a new position, directing Insider to a list of times hosts in recent months had expressed support for the drive to get Americans vaccinated.

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Fox News and vaccines: What changed this week and what didn’t as fears over Delta variant rise

Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch (left) watch the US Open.
Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch (left).

Analysis banner
  • Fox News heavily emphasized vaccine awareness and promoted their efficacy on Monday.
  • While several hosts had previously touted the shots, Monday marked a significant departure.
  • Splinters remain among the primetime lineup, and the White House has been in touch with the network.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Typified by Sean Hannity’s monologue Monday night imploring his viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, a sea change has come over the Fox News airwaves this week when it comes to the life-saving shots.

The same day Insider and other outlets reported on Fox Corporation’s strict return to work policy involving an internal type of vaccine passport – first reported by Ryan Grim of The Intercept – Fox News hosts cranked up their vaccine messaging and banners featuring the federal government’s vaccine domain page ran across Monday’s programming.

Fox News’ vaccine coverage has often mirrored its overall pandemic framing of public health measures as culture wars, a format pioneered by its late founder and CEO Roger Ailes.

Fox News would not comment on internal deliberations for this story, and the network’s top hosts have long boasted about the autonomy they are given from leadership when it comes to their shows.

However, what may have seemed like a surprising development on Monday was actually the result of a months-long trajectory, with notable holdouts in the primetime lineup remaining.

Lots of Fox News hosts have been vaccinated, but Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have remained vocally anti-vax

Over the past few months, Fox’s pandemic segments did not usually feature open hostility toward vaccines, but some guests and top primetime hosts would baselessly lambast the Biden administration for potentially forcing the shots on Americans.

More than a year into the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans and continues to result in preventable deaths among the unvaccinated, the takes remain high in how Fox News covers the coronavirus and vaccines.

Worries the highly infectious Delta-variant of the virus could continue spreading among the unvaccinated and force more lockdowns sent financial markets plunging Monday.

Conservative men are still among the most likely Americans to refuse the shots, and Fox viewers more likely than the general population to say the same, according to polling from Pew Research and the Public Religion Research Institute.

The network has maintained that it has a sharp division between its news and opinion programming, with most shows airing during the day falling into the former category, while the “Fox & Friends” morning show, “The Five,” and primetime shows fall under opinion and routinely attract the largest audiences.

Yet when it comes to overall framing of COVID-19 measures, there have been similarities stretching from early mask mandates to vaccine passports.

The administration’s door-to-door outreach program was the latest subject of misleading segments, with both daytime and primetime hosts often focusing on the backlash to the program and a slippery slope toward authoritarianism rather than what it was: a nationwide outreach campaign led by local “community corps” groups.

Government overreach has been a consistent theme when it comes to the Biden administration’s pandemic response and vaccine rollout, but many anchors and hosts have attested to the benefits of the vaccine from personal experience.

Beyond news anchors who have spoken about getting the vaccine, opinion hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Jesse Watters, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld, and Sean Hannity have all gone on-air to share that they got the shots.

Hannity initially said he was “beginning to have doubts” about the vaccine back in January, then said on his radio show that “it’s none of your business” before eventually disclosing on his radio show that he’d gotten the jab.

In an exclusive interview with Insider earlier in July, Watters framed his vaccine endorsement in terms of personal choice.

“Well, I got vaxxed. I got the J&J because I’m afraid of needles,” the co-host of “The Five” and host of “Watters World” told Insider. “And I told people, if you want to get the vaccine, go get the vaccine, go get vaccinated and it’s going to help kill this bug. And it did. Thank God. And it’s great.”

Other Fox personalities who have gone on record to say they’ve been vaccinated include Maria Bartiromo, Lawrence Jones, Trace Gallagher, Griff Jenkins, Mike Emmanuel, Bill Hemmer, George “Tyrus” Murdoch, Laura Ingle, Janice Dean, Charles Gasparino, John Roberts, and Guy Benson.

Yet while Hannity made an impassioned plea for his viewers to get the shot – or, at the very least, to do their own “research” and consult with their doctors – Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham did no such thing at the end of Monday’s vaccine blitz.

Both have espoused vaccine skepticism of their own and warned of nefarious alterior motives in the Biden administration’s efforts, and both have featured guests peddling conspiracy theories and outright false information about the immunizations, most notably with frequent appearances from Alex Berenson.

Berenson, a former New York Times reporter and fiction author, has peddled disinformation on the virus from the beginning, and many of his claims have been thoroughly debunked.

Despite the copious fact checks on Berenson and the fact that he is not a doctor nor an epidemiologist – and despite the wall-to-wall coverage promoting the vaccine on Monday – he was right back on Ingraham’s show that night.

As for Carlson, neither he nor the network will say if he has been vaccinated or if he ever plans to.

Carlson has had ample opportunities to say he refused to take the jab, but he has yet to do that, either.

Instead of taking the lead from his colleagues on Monday, Carlson doubled down and told his viewers to ignore “medical advice on television.”

While the rest of the network slowly eased up on framing the vaccine around conflict and culture wars, Carlson and Ingraham have continued to go full steam ahead in depicting the immunizations as something to not only be skeptical toward, but weary and afraid.

The influence of the White House and the Murdochs

At her press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has been in touch with Fox and other outlets over vaccine coverage, going on to address the conservative network specifically.

“We understand also the importance of reaching Fox’s audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits, and like we are with you here today, we are in regular contact and we of course make efforts to have officials out on a range of networks to talk about COVID-19,” the press secretary said.

There have also reportedly been discussions between White House officials and network brass over vaccine coverage, including a private briefing earlier this year between Fox producers and senior Biden officials on it, according to Politico.

A Fox News Media spokesperson denied that there have been any high level discussions with the White House, referring to a tweet from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins earlier on Tuesday.

“CNN’s reporting is inaccurate,” the spokesperson told Insider in an email. “There have been no high level conversations between FOX News Media and the White House regarding our coverage. We had one routine briefing with the White House in early May on vaccination rates and our DC bureau personnel are regularly in touch with them on a variety of issues, as is the case with every other network.”

Fox Corp. did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the involvement of Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and whether they stand by what Carlson and Igraham have been saying about the vaccines.

In a May interview with Insider’s Claire Atkinson, Lachlan defended Carlson and his coverage, calling the top rated host’s willingness to say what many Americans are thinking “brave.”

Rupert Murdoch even got vaccinated before Queen Elizabeth II and President Biden back in December 2020, but he has not weighed in on his American network’s top hosts dismissing its efficacy.

The Murdochs have more power than anyone else on the planet to steer Fox News’ vaccine coverage amid the global coronavirus crisis – along with Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott – but Carlson and Ingraham continue to enjoy their apparent autonomy.

Speaking to Piers Morgan back in April, Carlson went out of his way to thank the Murdochs for allowing him to say whatever he wants.

“The only reason we are having this conversation is because the Murdoch family, which controls Fox, is standing up in the face of the mob, and they haven’t bowed,” Carlson said. “I mean that’s literally the only reason that I still have my job, and we’re having this conversation.”

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