As far as Sen. Rand Paul is concerned, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra owes an apology to those who have opted against being vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19.
Mr. Becerra took a swing last week at “flat-earthers” as he pushed for vaccines at a health-policy forum sponsored by the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky, saying that “because some flat-earthers, especially those in places of influence, choose to peddle fiction, we’re losing more of our loved ones.”
Taking umbrage was Mr. Paul, who ripped Mr. Becerra during a Thursday hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, citing an extensive Israeli study that found those in the vaccinated group were more likely to contract COVID-19 than those with naturally acquired immunity.
“Do you want to apologize to the hundred million Americans who suffered through Covid, survived, have immunity, and yet you want to hold them down and vaccinate them?” asked the Kentucky Republican. “Do you want to apologize for calling those people flat-earthers?”
Evidently, Mr. Becerra did not, replying, “I appreciate that everyone has their opinion.”
“We follow the facts and the science at HHS. We use the expertise of the medical professionals, the scientists at HHS to make decisions,” Mr. Becerra said. “It’s a team effort and we rely on what is on the ground showing us results.”
Mr. Paul also made a point of highlighting Mr. Becerra’s lack of medical training. The former Democratic congressman has a B.A. in economics and a law degree from Stanford, and his absence of scientific credentials became an issue during his confirmation process.
“You’re not a medical doctor. Do you have a science degree?” Mr. Paul asked rhetorically.
He continued: “And yet you travel the country, calling people flat-earthers who have had Covid, looked at studies of millions of people, and made their own personal decision that their immunity they naturally acquired is sufficient. But you presume somehow to tell over a hundred million Americans who survived Covid that we have no right to determine our own medical care?”
Mr. Becerra said that “I have worked for over 30 years on health policy.”
Mr. Paul, an ophthalmologist, supports vaccines but declined to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after contracting and recovering from the virus last year, citing his naturally acquired immunity.
“You ignore history and science to shame the ‘flat-earthers,’ as you call them,” he told the secretary. “You should be ashamed of yourself and apologize to the American people for being dishonest about naturally acquired immunity.”
In his Sept. 21 speech, Mr. Becerra urged Kentuckians to get vaccinated. A foundation poll found that 20% of state residents were hesitant about receiving the vaccine.
“More than 660,000 Americans have died from COVID-19,” said Mr. Becerra, as reported by WKU Public Radio. “And because some flat-earthers, especially those in places of influence, choose to peddle fiction, we’re losing more of our loved ones today than we were a few months ago.”
The Centers for Disease Control reported Friday that 65.1% of U.S. residents age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two doses.