SciCheck Digest

There is no evidence that a door-to-door campaign to encourage vaccinations against COVID-19 means President Joe Biden and Democrats “are coming to your front door to force you to take the vax,” as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted. She also cited a figure for reported deaths after vaccination, which is not the same as deaths caused by vaccination.

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President Joe Biden announced July 6 that the next phase of his administration’s outreach program to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 will include community volunteers knocking on doors to inform people about the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines and to let them know where they can get a vaccination.

Based on that announcement, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene made the unfounded claim that Biden and other Democrats will “force” unvaccinated people to get a shot.

In a July 9 tweet, the Republican lawmaker wrote: “5,946 reported deaths after taking the #COVID19 vaccine. The vaccine is NOT FDA approved. 33,631,656 Americans SURVIVED covid. But Biden & the Dems are coming to your front door to force you to take the vax, schools say your healthy kids need it, and you still think your free?”

But there is no evidence that the White House will require anyone whose home is visited to be vaccinated as part of the outreach effort. 

Greene’s other claims — about the number of reported deaths after vaccination, the approval status of the vaccines and the number of people who have survived COVID-19 — lack important context and could mislead readers.

Going Door to Door

In his July 6 remarks, Biden said that although nearly 160 million U.S. residents are fully vaccinated and more than 180 million have received at least one vaccine dose, “millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and unprotected” against COVID-19.

For that reason, he said, his administration will continue to focus on different ways to get even more of the population immunized.

“Because here’s the deal: We are continuing to wind down the mass vaccination sites that did so much in the spring to rapidly vaccinate those eager to get their first shot — and their second shot, for that matter, if they needed a second,” Biden said. “Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

He added: “Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated. So, as we shift from these centralized mass — mass vaccination sites, where we were doing thousands of people a day, we’re going to put even more emphasis on getting vaccinated in your community, close to home, conveniently at a location you’re already familiar with.”

Biden said this approach would make it so that more people can get vaccinated at their local pharmacy, doctor’s office, job or a nearby mobile clinic.

However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has made it clear that the federal government will not require anyone to be vaccinated against their wishes.

“What we’re doing is local officials are going to areas where there are lower vaccination rates and providing information on where people can get access to a vaccine, where they can go, that it’s free,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on July 7. “It’s up to individuals to decide whether they want to get vaccinated or not.”

That was after she made similar comments about individuals having a choice to get vaccinated in a CNN interview earlier that same day.

Psaki and members of the White House COVID-19 response team have explained that the “trusted messengers” who will be going door to door to provide information about the vaccines will be doctors, faith and community leaders, and other volunteers — not federal employees. She said the campaign is actually a continuation of an effort that has been ongoing since at least April.

“So, those are the people who are the trusted messengers around the country. And we believe that we need to empower these individuals to continue to work in communities to make sure people know that these vaccines are safe, that they can save lives,” Psaki said in a July 8 press briefing.

Even before the first vaccines were rolled out in mid-December, Biden himself said on Dec. 4 that he would not federally mandate that Americans get a vaccine when he became president.

“No, I don’t think it should be mandatory,” then-President-elect Biden said in response to a question about possible vaccine mandates. “I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory, but I would do everything in my power, just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide, I’ll do everything in my power as president of [the] United States to encourage people to do the right thing.”

In a July 12 press briefing, Psaki reaffirmed that the federal government would not mandate vaccinations — although, she said the administration would support entities that do require the shots.

“That’s not a decision that we are making. That’s not a — that is not our intention from the federal government,” she said in response to a question about local mandates. “There will be decisions made by private-sector entities, by universities, by educational institutions, and even perhaps by local leaders, should they decide that is how to keep their community safe. If they decide to make that decision, we certainly support them in that step.”

We asked Greene’s office for support for her claim that vaccinations would be required as part of the door-to-door campaign. We have not yet received a reply.

Greene’s Other Claims

The freshman Republican congresswoman from Georgia made other claims in her tweet that we have previously addressed.

She said there have been “5,946 reported deaths after taking the #COVID19 vaccine,” leaving the misleading impression that the deaths were caused by the vaccines.

It is true that 5,946 deaths were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, as of July 6. But “[r]eports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website.

As we’ve written before, anyone can submit a report of an adverse event to VAERS regardless of whether the vaccine was a factor. In the case of deaths, health care providers are required to “report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause,” the CDC says.

“A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC said of death reports. “However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.”

As of July 6, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC had identified 38 cases of the rare blood clotting condition, which is known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. There have been three deaths from the condition among those cases, as of May 7.

Greene also tweeted that “the vaccine is NOT FDA approved” — which is true, but misleading.

As we’ve noted, the FDA has authorized three COVID-19 vaccines — including the one manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — for emergency use. In order to grant an emergency use authorization, regulators must determine that the product “may be effective” and the “known and potential benefits of a product outweigh its known and potential risks” – a standard that is typically less stringent than the standard full licensure, which is called a biologics license application, or BLA

However, for the three COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA set up more rigorous EUA requirements that resemble the process for a BLA. The FDA required “at least one well-designed Phase 3 clinical trial that demonstrates the vaccine’s safety and efficacy in a clear and compelling manner” and wanted to see at least two months of follow-up data on half or more of the participants.

Greene disregards the rigorous clinical trials and real-world evidence that show the vaccines have been safe and effective.

According to CDC data, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths from COVID-19 has declined by about 94% since the vaccines became available in the U.S. The seven-day average of daily deaths was 2,779 on Dec. 14; as of July 11, it was down to 176.

Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have filed for final approval of their vaccines.

Finally, while claiming that “33,631,656 Americans SURVIVED covid,” Greene did not acknowledge that more than 600,000 U.S. deaths have been attributed to the disease. Even some individuals who have survived an infection have reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and side effects that persist for months.

What’s more, only a small percentage of recent COVID-19 deaths have been people who were vaccinated, according to government data.

In a July 1 White House COVID-19 response team briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that “preliminary data from a collection of states” since January “suggest 99.5% of deaths from COVID-19 in these states have occurred in unvaccinated people.”

“With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable,” she said.

Walensky’s remarks are in line with an Associated Press analysis that found that “nearly all” of the people in the U.S. who died from COVID-19 in May were not vaccinated.

About 150 out of more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths that month were in fully vaccinated people. “That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average,” the AP reported.

The news service also said that fully vaccinated people accounted for less than 1,200 — or about 1.1% — of more than 107,000 COVID-19 related hospitalizations that month.

Update, July 21: On July 19, Twitter announced that it would suspend Greene’s personal Twitter account for 12 hours for violating its COVID-19 misleading information policy.

In one of the July 18 and July 19 tweets that led to the temporary ban, the congresswoman falsely claimed that SARS-CoV-2 “is not dangerous for non-obese people and those under 65,” and misleadingly added that there have been “6,000 vax related deaths.”

As of July 19, there had been nearly 607,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC. While obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19 hospitalization and death, some who have died were of a healthy weight. And more than 123,000 of the deaths, as of July 14, were people under age 65.

In addition, as we previously wrote, thousands of deaths were reported to the VAERS monitoring system after vaccination, but that doesn’t mean the vaccine was the cause.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.

Sources

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Taylor Greene, Marjorie. @mtgreenee. “5,946 reported deaths after taking the #COVID19 vaccine. The vaccine is NOT FDA approved. 33,631,656 Americans SURVIVED covid. But Biden & the Dems are coming to your front door to force you to take the vax, schools say your healthy kids need it, and you still think your free?” Twitter. 9 Jul 2021.

Psaki, Jen. “Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jen Psaki Aboard Air Force One En Route Crystal Lake, IL.” Transcript. Whitehouse.gov. 7 Jul 2021.

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