Johnson’s Vaccine Side Effects event sparks new round of condemnations
Amid pressure from doctors to cancel it, Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson held a press conference dedicated to sharing personal stories about health experiences after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Held Monday at the Milwaukee Federal Courthouse, the event was criticized in advance for denigrating the tool par excellence to end the pandemic: vaccines.
Johnson introduced a half-dozen vaccinees from across the United States who reported experiencing side effects from the vaccine and subsequently did not feel their experiences had received sufficient attention.
“We are the collateral damage of the pandemic,” said Brianne Dressen, preschool teacher in Saratoga Springs, Utah.
None of those people are from Wisconsin, but Johnson said he heard about concerns about vaccine side effects from his constituents in the state.
Side effects from vaccines are alarming for those who experience them, but Dr Jeff Pothof, quality manager for UW Health, noted that they are extremely rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that at least 179,615,165 people in the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of June 28. In Wisconsin, at least 2,919,229 people received at least one dose as of June 28.
Pothof said vaccine safety issues – the blood clotting seen with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for example – is occurring at a rate of a few cases per 1,000,000. Pothof noted that the rate of side effects is more sure to drive a car.
In comparison, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 in the United States is 1.8% or 18,000 per million.
This difference means that nationally there is about 6,000 times the chance of dying from COVID-19 compared to serious side effects from a vaccine. This big difference was at the center of criticism that gathered outside of Johnson’s press conference.
“You have to take the harm that the virus has actually caused, and statistically the two are miles apart and the virus appears to be more damaging, more harmful,” said Charles Manning, a medic in Milwaukee. who spoke outside the press conference.
“I find it strange that someone who is very pro-economically touting disinformation like this,” Manning said of Johnson, “because it goes against that sense of openness and of the revival of the economy “.
For his part, Johnson said he was not touting misinformation or making a recommendation on whether Wisconsinites should receive the vaccine.
“I don’t think it’s my role to recommend, encourage or discourage. My role is to provide the American public with transparent information,” he said.
Johnson wrote an opinion piece in May explaining why he hadn’t been vaccinated himself. The senator has repeatedly questioned the use and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, calling for more limited distribution, questioning their use for people who have already been infected, and distorting a CDC reporting system for potential side effect problems.
Pothof said showing side effects without discussing how rare they are can be dangerous and lead people to think problems with vaccines are more common than they are.
“Leaders have to be careful what they say,” Pothof said.
Criticism of Johnson’s press conference continued through Tuesday, with a trio of medics holding their own press appeal to denounce the Senator’s ongoing challenge to vaccines.