GOP doc provides brief medical advice on virus immunity

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Roger Marshall won’t let people forget he’s a doctor, by putting “Doc” on the letterhead of his US Senate office press releases. But when he talks about COVID-19 vaccines, some doctors and experts say the Kansas Republican looks a lot more like a politician than a doctor.

He has made statements about vaccines and immunity that defy both medical consensus and official U.S. government guidelines. He aggressively fights President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements, arguing that they would infringe on people’s freedoms and ruin the economy. He admitted to having experimented on himself with an untested treatment to ward off the coronavirus.

Marshall’s positions bring the senator and obstetrician closer to the first term of the medical fringe. But he has company in other GOP doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Congress, several of whom have also issued sketchy medical advice regarding the pandemic.

Critics say statements by lawmakers are dangerous and unethical, and that Marshall’s medical degree lends a perception of expertise that carries weight with voters and other members of Congress.

“He has a huge role to play here because he is a doctor and a senator,” said Arthur Caplan, founder of New York University’s division of medical ethics and director of a vaccine ethics program. . “He carries the very powerful responsibility of getting it right. ”

Marshall says he is fully vaccinated and said he recently urged his parents for booster shots. He and other GOP doctors in Congress appeared in a public service campaign in April to encourage people to get vaccinated.

But that was before Biden’s vaccine warrants triggered the party’s conservative base and activists predicted popular opposition could help ruling Republicans in Congress in 2022. It was also before schools reopened for fall and angry parents flocked to school board meetings to protest cover up the warrants.

“The off-year election is about transforming your base,” said Gregg Keller, a St. Louis area GOP strategist who has worked for conservative groups and US Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “Republicans are excited. ”

Recent polls show about half of Americans – just enough for a majority – are in favor of workers in large companies getting vaccinated or tested every week. Biden also demands military, government contractors, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

But perhaps crucially for Marshall and other Republicans, the poll also showed that people are deeply divided based on their political party. About 6 in 10 Republicans opposed workers’ tenure, survey finds by the Associated Press and the NORC-Center for Public Affairs Research.

Marshall has positioned himself as a staunch supporter of Trump by winning his Senate seat last year. The two-term congressman from western Kansas has come forward against a Democratic and retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist concerned about public health orthodoxy on COVID-19.

Marshall regularly exposed himself at campaign events and said he was taking a weekly dose of the antimalarial drug hydroxychoroquine promoted by Trump. This was despite the warning from the United States Food and Drug Administration against its use to prevent infection with COVID-19.

Marshall has since tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would ban vaccination warrants and ban dishonorable discharge from the military for not getting vaccinated. He argues that mandates for workers will cause them to quit or be fired, exacerbate supply chain problems and increase inflation.

“Without even touching the constitutionality of a federal mandate, I want people to realize the impact this will have on the economy,” he said in a recent interview.

At the end of last month, he joined lawmakers pushing unsubstantiated theories about COVID-19 immunity. He and 14 other congressional GOP doctors, dentists and pharmacists sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urging the agency, when setting vaccination policies, to consider natural immunity in patients. people who have had the virus.

The signatories included Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, and Texas Representative Ronny Jackson, who served as Trump’s physician and medical adviser. Most are from states or districts that Trump wore widely last year.

Experts agree that natural immunity occurs after infection, but the general medical consensus is that the degree of protection varies from person to person and is likely to wane over time. That’s why the CDC is currently urging even those who have had the virus to get vaccinated. A CDC report released in August found the vaccine boosted protection among those who recovered from the infection. Studies published in September showed that unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die than those vaccinated.

Marshall disputes this orientation. In a recent interview with AP, he noted that his adult children had had COVID-19 and, “I don’t think they need the vaccine anymore.”

He argued that the problem needs more investigation: “We could bring 20 scientists here and have a two-hour discussion about it. ”

Keller, the GOP consultant, said he saw a political incentive for Marshall and other lawmakers to focus on the issue of natural immunity. This calls into question the policies of the Biden administration without attacking vaccines, Keller said.

“Smart Republicans are realizing that there is some confidence among the electorate at large in the vaccine,” Keller said.

Marshall says that as a practicing obstetrician and as director of the local health department, he took CDC advice on issues such as flu shots not harming pregnant women. But he says he lost faith in the CDC due to mixed messages at the start of the pandemic on masks: “It has been a difficult time for the CDC. It was a difficult time for all of us. “

Dr Leanna Wen, an emergency physician and former Baltimore health commissioner, said the mandated vaccines “clearly work” to contain COVID-19.

“Vaccination is what we have because the price of immunity from natural infection is way too high,” Wen said, adding that she was concerned that people would do something akin to “the holidays. chickenpox “that some parents have organized for their children. “We certainly wouldn’t have a policy that could make people choose to be infected.”

Sabrina Pass, who lives in a small town northwest of Fort Riley, Kansas, said she supports Marshall’s positions and said a candidate’s willingness to actively fight vaccination mandates will be important to she. She is a 37-year-old US Department of Defense employee, the mother of two teenage boys and a registered Republican. She considers the protests against the school mask mandates to be “brilliant”.

But Dr Beth Oller, a family doctor in Rooks County, northwest Kansas, said she was frustrated because Marshall’s medical degree was one of the reasons patients who gave her normally trust everything else resist his advice to get vaccinated. Thinking “I really don’t think he’s that stupid,” she said he knew how immunity works and why people need flu shots and tetanus boosters.

“He should just be ashamed of himself,” said Oller.

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