The top law enforcement officer in Oklahoma is facing a wave of criticism after he suggested on Tuesday that science surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines—which have been researched by scientists around the world for almost two years and approved in the U.S. even for children as young as five—remains unclear.
“I think the science isn’t really clear on this COVID vaccine,” Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said during a press conference about the state’s legal battle over COVID vaccine mandates. He stood alongside Gov. Kevin Stitt, who defended the state’s role in five lawsuits aimed at blocking federal vaccine requirements.
“I have been vaccinated, and my problem is not with the vaccine, my problem is with the notion of it being mandated,” he said, before he went on to accuse federal officials of making employers “do the dirty work of the Biden administration” by requiring employees get the jab.
“Who do you trust for the information?” O’Connor said. “At one point we were told that the natural immunity was 27 times more effective than the vaccine, and yet, when all of these mandates roll out, they don’t give any respect to natural immunity.”
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment about O’Connor’s claims suggesting that “natural immunity” trumped vaccines.
O’Connor’s comment on immunity goes against CDC guidance which urges all eligible people—including those previously infected with the virus—to get vaccinated. His suggestion that the science backing vaccines isn’t clear also appears to ignore the agency’s data, which has involved clinical trials and ongoing real-world evaluation indicating that vaccines “are highly effective against hospitalization and death for a variety of strains” of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, which continues to dominate in the United States.
His skepticism about the science behind vaccines came as the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported nearly 1,000 new COVID cases Tuesday and as nations around the world struggle to contend with the Omicron variant. President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has encouraged Americans to “get boosted” in an effort to provide an added layer of protection against the new strain.
Caroline Swink, a registered nurse, who referred to “the experimental COVID-19 vaccine,” and cited “discrimination” against the unvaccinated, also spoke at Stitt’s press conference Tuesday.
“Pfizer has asked that for 55 years that the data not be released—what are they trying to hide?” she said.
The comments are a misrepresentation of the FDA’s proposal about how it would release roughly 329,000 pages of data and information it used to approve the Pfizer vaccine to a group of professors and scientists who filed suit in September in federal court to expedite access to the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
In a joint status report last month, Justice Department attorneys said that before the FDA can turn over the documents, it must strike from them “confidential business and trade secret information of Pfizer or BioNTech and personal privacy information of patients who participated in clinical trials.”
The FDA has proposed releasing 500 pages per month on a rolling basis, Reuters reported.
Oklahoma State Medical Association’s president Dr. Mary Clarke slammed state leaders in the wake of the comments, criticizing their efforts to undermine the science supporting COVID-19 vaccines.
“With respect to the AG, to question the science that we’ve been working on for two years globally, I think, is misunderstanding the science,” Clarke said during a briefing about the virus hours later, according to Tulsa World. “I think, really, to question your science and your medical professionals and say that someone doesn’t agree with that—being a nonscience person themselves—I think is a gross disservice to the public.”