COVID bill testimony rife with falsehoods

Editor’s note: The following is a commentary published by Louisiana Illuminator.
The Louisiana House Education Committee on Wednesday approved a bill offered by Rep. Kathy Edmondston, which would apply to public and private schools. Edmonston, a Baton Rouge Republican, has insisted her legislation is needed, although a process has long existed for parents to exempt their children from required vaccines.
Just as in years past, Edmonston and supporters of her proposal conveyed highly questionable information in support of the measure. In this space, we strive to promote fact-based truth with full, applicable context, so let’s tackle their distorted talking points one by one.
COVID is not a vaccine-preventable disease
No vaccine on its own — COVID-19 or otherwise — is a stand-alone shield against a communicable disease. For a vaccine to be effective, there must be widespread acceptance so that the virus in question finds fewer hosts without vaccine-generated antibodies. If a large enough share of the population obtains the shot, herd immunity can be reached.
But if enough people forego vaccinations, the virus in question can easily find a more friendly home from which it can mutate and be spread. In turn, those who take the vaccine don’t have as powerful a defense as they would if more people were vaccinated.
COVID vaccine is a major myocarditis risk
More than one proponent of Edmonston’s plan claimed the COVID-19 vaccine created a “major risk” for myocarditis in children. They gave the impression that all children are susceptible to heart tissue inflammation, when in fact global research has shown myocarditis is a “rare complication” of the vaccine. The vast majority of such cases saw symptoms resolve within days.
In fact, for children contract the COVID virus the risk of myocarditis is more severe, said vaccine proponent Jennifer Herricks, a microbiologist and public health advocate who testified against Edmonston’s bill.
WHO says children don’t need the vaccine
Contrary to Edmonston’s claim, the World Health Organization recommends the initial COVID-19 vaccine for children and adolescents with comorbidities based on its latest update to guidelines as of November. The same goes for pregnant women, health care workers and anyone who is immunocompromised.
COVID boosters are “not routinely recommended” for healthy children, adolescents and adults, according to the WHO’s latest guidance. Edmonston is an educated woman. She knows the difference.
DNA fragments in vaccine are harmful
Dr. Kathleen Willis, an internal medicine practitioner in Covington, testified in support of Edmonston’s bill, saying COVID-19 vaccines can contain fragmented DNA that can lead to serious medical issues.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo made news earlier this year with a similarly dubious claim that the vaccine could cause genetic mutations that lead to cancer and autoimmune diseases. In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he suggested use of the vaccines should be halted.
The FDA has said there is ample evidence that fragmented DNA does not cause any harm. Additionally, scientists have confirmed again and again that even if tiny fragments of DNA enter human cells, they are unlikely to survive for long and cannot enter the cell nucleus to alter the genome.
COVID vaccine is an ‘experimental drug.’
Rep. Chuck Owen, R-Leesville, curtly challenged Herricks on whether children should be required to take an “experimental drug” in order to attend school. Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Schriever, also referred to the COVID vaccine as experimental.
Federal health officials have given full approval for the use of COVID vaccines for people 12 and older. They are authorized under emergency use for children between 6 months and 11 years old.
Emergency use is not synonymous with experimental status. An expedited 14-month experimental phase happened during Operation Warp Speed, which former President Donald Trump launched to make vaccines available as soon as possible. The emergency use authorization is given to drugs during the approval process after they’re no longer experimental.
Approved vaccines are not available in U.S.
“Last I checked, the approved versions of the vaccine aren’t even available in the country, at least nowhere… near Louisiana,” Amedee said during the committee hearing. “So the vaccines that are available here are not the ones that are approved, and so we’re still talking about emergency use authorization, meaning experimental, meaning cannot be mandated.”
See Claim 5 about experimental not equating to emergency use.
Earlier COVID vaccine versions have lost their use authorization, but the FDA has given full approval (not experimental or emergency use) to their replacements. Most recently, the 2023-24 versions of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax vaccines were approved for use in September 2023. This isn’t uncommon when research produces more effective versions of vaccines.
An online search that took under a minute revealed same-day COVID vaccinations are available at the Walgreens location just 3 miles from Amedee’s district office in Gray. The only shots available are the approved 2023-24 doses.
The state’s largest health systems — Ochsner, LCMC Health and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady — also only offer the current vaccine. Ochsner offers shots by appointment at selected primary care and pediatric clinics, with next-day availability. LCMC Health and FMOL did not respond to questions about appointment availability.
The credentials of some of the most prominent voices who spoke out for and against Edmonston’s bill should be noted.
Herrick, who opposes the legislation, told the committee she holds doctoral degrees in microbiology and molecular genetics and has studied global health policy on infectious diseases.
Supporter Jill Hines, co-director of the anti-vax mandate group Health Freedom Louisiana, holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, according to her LinkedIn profile.
It’s no surprise the most salient comment during Wednesday’s committee hearing came from Herrick.
“I just worry that if we start holding vaccines to this higher standard that we never have before, then suddenly many diseases become not vaccine-preventable, and then we start dismantling our public health infrastructure.”
You’re not the only one worried, Dr. Herrick.

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