The push to get more American’s vaccinated against COVID has ramped up after missing President Biden’s July 4th goal. The new tactics to encourage people to get vaccinated include door-to-door campaigns to share information regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines as well as where to get them.¹
Backlash was immediate from concerned citizens wondering how safe their medical information is and why people would be coming to their door to discuss it. The White House maintained that it is not their role to mandate vaccines, nor do they have a database with information as to who is vaccinated.²
While the White House asserted there was no database, HHS Secretary, Xavier Baccera, stated in an interview with CNN that “it is absolutely the government’s business, the taxpayer’s business” to know who is vaccinated.³ Baccera continued, “the president has demonstrated he is open to moving in any direction we can to help American’s get safe…we want to give people the sense they have the freedom to choose…We try to give people as much freedom and choice as possible, but clearly when over 600,000 people have died, the best choice is to get vaccinated.”⁴
Further Comments from the White House and Supporters
During a press gaggle aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that mandates are not the federal government’s role. She continued, “There are institutions, there are private sector entities that will take this step. We’re not standing in their way. Those are innovative steps. Go forward and take steps that you feel are appropriate. We’re just talking about what the steps are, what the role is of the federal government.⁵
Recently, former Planned Parenthood President, Dr. Leana Wen spoke to CNN stating, “vaccination isn’t just an individual decision,” as she pushed President Biden to take a firmer position on requiring proof of vaccines. Dr. Wen continued suggesting the president “assist” employers to put mandates into place as well.⁶
In a follow-up interview, Wen stated, “It needs to be hard for people to remain unvaccinated.”
“Right now, it’s kind of the opposite.” She continued, “But at some point these mandates, by workplaces, by schools, I think it will be important to say, ‘Hey, you can opt out, but if you want to opt out, you have to sign these forms, you have to get twice weekly testing,’” Wen said. “Basically, we need to make getting vaccinated the easy choice.”⁷
Even today, Dr. Fauci commented that he is anticipating vaccine mandates to become a reality as soon as the FDA grants full approval. He reiterated his support for the mandates.⁸ Fauci is the chief medical advisor to President Biden.
Several states and Congressmen and women stood up, calling the door-to-door push a violation of privacy. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton commented, “We’re definitely going to be looking at our opportunities in court to stop them from going door to door and then we’re also going to get into the whole issue of what information do they have about us?”⁹ He continued by reiterating the vaccines are easily accessible to any Texan who may want it.
Arizona’s Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, stated in a letter to the White House, “Americans trust medical researchers and their family doctors to provide information and recommendations to make personal decisions but they do not trust government intrusion or the politicization of the health care process.”¹⁰
SMS and Fact Checkers
On Monday, Politico reported, “Biden allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee, are also planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over social media and text messages.”
“We are steadfastly committed to keeping politics out of the effort to get every American vaccinated so that we can save lives and help our economy further recover,” White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said. “When we see deliberate efforts to spread misinformation, we view that as an impediment to the country’s public health and will not shy away from calling that out.”¹¹
The admission that SMS (text message)’s will now also be subjected to fact checkers also raised concerns about Americans’ privacy and First Amendment rights. Previously Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media giants had been using Section 203 as a method to fact check and censor material that went against their policies.
The FCC and Free Speech
Telecommunications, radio and TV broadcasting fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission.
According to the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) website, “The FCC is barred by law from trying to prevent the broadcast of any point of view. The Communications Act prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material, in most cases, and from making any regulation that would interfere with freedom of speech. Expressions of views that do not involve a “clear and present danger of serious, substantive evil” come under the protection of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press and prevents suppression of these expressions by the FCC. According to an FCC opinion on this subject, “the public interest is best served by permitting free expression of views.” This principle ensures that the most diverse and opposing opinions will be expressed, even though some may be highly offensive.
In 2018, the FCC voted 3-1 to make text messages an “information service” instead of a “telecommunications service.” The intent was to allow for an easier block of spam texts to consumers.¹³ How the information of vaccines sent in private text messages will be affected is yet to be seen.