Misinformation spreads despite CDC chief's 'vaccine mandate' clarification
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Misinformation spreads despite CDC chief’s ‘vaccine mandate’ clarification

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a Senate hearing last month. (Reuters)

Late last week, Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared to suggest that a federal vaccine mandate was under consideration. Although her remarks were quickly clarified, they continue to spark misinformation about vaccines and mask-wearing.

“There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government,” read in part a tweet posted by Walensky on Friday. It was an apparent effort to clarify her remarks to a Fox News host earlier that day that a federal vaccine mandate was “something that I think the administration is looking into.”

A post yesterday in a state-level Telegram channel of Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group, highlighted Walensky’s comments — using misogynistic language and suggesting she was reading from an official “script.” Also on Telegram, Sherri Tenpenny, a well-known anti-vaccine influencer, shared an article from the far-right and libertarian website Zero Hedge, which alleged without evidence that a potential mask mandate was part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to push for further economic stimulus.

“What she meant is that to have all the narrative pieces that the media needs to persuade America that another lockdown is in its own favor in order to release another $1-2 trillion in stimmies in a time when the admin is openly paying vaccine holdouts hundreds (and soon thousands) of dollars to get a jab, some sacrifices in terms of script continuity had to be made,” read Tenpenny’s Saturday post, which has been viewed at least 27,000 times.

Walensky’s initial comments and later clarification came amid a context where the highly contagious Delta variant has led to a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. Authorities have begun to look at increasingly expansive measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread. New York City, California and the US Department of Veterans Affairs have all recently announced vaccine mandates for certain workers, while the CDC once again recommended the use of masks nationwide, even for those who are fully vaccinated. — Keenan Chen


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