Like so much of American life, partisan politics has undermined the effort to inoculate the nation against COVID-19.
While former President Donald Trump has taken credit for the vaccines and encouraged his followers to take advantage of them, his anti-science skepticism has fostered vaccine hesitancy – and outright hostility – among his base.
Seventeen of the eighteen states with the lowest adult vaccination rates broke for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
But Trump is hardly the sole entity responsible for the reluctance to get jabbed. In Ohio, the House Health Committee gave a platform to a deranged conspiracy theorist who claimed that the vaccines cause magnetism.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who’ve had these shots and now they’re magnetized!” Dr. Sherri Tenpenny told the committee, which was considering a law that would make it illegal for employers or schools to mandate vaccination. “They can put a key on their forehead, it sticks, they can put spoons and forks all over them, it sticks. Because now we think there’s a metal piece to that.”
Another woman claiming to be a former nurse tried to demonstrate the magnetism of those who received a COVID-19 vaccine. From Talking Points Memo:
At first, Overholt stuck a key to her chest. Then, she tried unsuccessfully to stick the key onto her neck. Then she tried, also unsuccessfully, to stick a hairpin onto her neck.
The magnetism myth is apparently so prevalent, that the CDC had to address the outlandish claim on its website. “Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic,” the CDC’s “Myths and Facts” page states.
Another speaker at the Ohio House Health Committee claimed vaccines are derived from formaldehyde and fetal cells. They’re not.
The bill in question comes at a time when Ohio’s vaccination uptake is dipping and the nation seems unlikely to meet President Biden’s goal to get 70% of American adults at least one shot before July 4th.
Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, is the bill’s lead sponsor. Last month she said, ““This is not a scientific bill. This is a freedom bill.”
She’s right about the first half.