Massie and Paul (Huntington Herald-Dispatch photo)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Fourth District Rep. Thomas Massie have made repeated posts in Twitter “casting doubt on public health experts’ consensus that people should mask up and get vaccinated to fight Covid-19,” reports Morgan Watkins, political writer for the Louisville Courier Journal.
“The libertarian-leaning congressmen have delivered a one-two punch of vocal and intense skepticism about those recommendations lately, even as the coronavirus’ super-contagious Delta variant rips through their home state and Covid-19 patients are being hospitalized at near-record levels,” Watkins writes.
“The duo, especially Paul, have inaccurately claimed masking is ineffective, and they’ve suggested people who previously caught Covid-19 won’t benefit from getting vaccinated, even though experts widely advise they do so. Massie also has questioned the vaccines’ efficacy and necessity more broadly, despite medical and public health professionals’ consensus that they remain safe and effective, especially at preventing hospitalization and death.”
Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of communication at the State University of New York‘s University at Buffalo, who researches misinformation on vaccines and other topics, “said some of the statements from Paul and Massie qualify as misinformation and can have real consequences for the people listening,” Watkins reports.
Ophir said, “In a polarized society where people are too trusting of their own side and too dismissive of the other side, what our favorite politicians are saying matters a lot. And some people will take their words over whatever the scientific community is saying.” But it’s unclear how often that happens, Watkins reports.
Stanford University medical professor Robert Kaplan told Watkins that research indicates “most people are not that affected by new information” about vaccination.
“Paul and Massie have depicted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the nation’s public health agency — as untrustworthy and have railed repeatedly against mandating masks or vaccines,” Watkins reports. “However, they maintain their opposition to requiring vaccination and other comments about Covid-19 vaccines doesn’t mean they’re anti-vaccine.”
Watkins notes that Massie “has posted repeatedly about potential but rare side effects of the vaccines, such as myocarditis, suggested “millions of people don’t need” vaccination and questioned the vaccines’ efficacy for the Delta variant.” He and Paul have made “misinformation by omission,” or cherry-picking, Ophir said: “They seem to cherry-pick tidbits of information that are congruent with their point of view … while ignoring information that is inconvenient for them.”