Social media giant Facebook has flagged as untrue a post by Washington state Rep. Jenny Graham questioning the nation’s top coronavirus adviser’s position on a vaccine.
The first-term Republican lawmaker from Spokane said Wednesday she was surprised by the fact-check message from Facebook on the May 23 post. The post, initially shared by a Facebook user in Alabama who has shared articles from far-right news website Breitbart and other memes critical of Democrats, includes a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci and features conflicting statements about the experimental coronavirus treatment drug hydroxychloroquine and a vaccine.
The post, which does not include quotation marks around the statements, indicate apprehension about the effectiveness of hydroxycloroquine in treating the novel coronavirus, and a push to ramp up manufacturing and distribution of a potential vaccine. Several such drugs are on a fast-track to development as the country looks to reopen its schools, workplaces and more following closures to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease.
Graham said she shared the post because she was concerned about the medical field moving too quickly to promote a vaccine. But the post falsely suggests Fauci supports the vaccine’s manufacture and use before going through clinical trials, a claim the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has not made. That’s supported by research from the firm FactCheck.org.
“Fauci has said distribution and administration of a vaccine would only occur if the clinical trial shows that ‘in fact it is effective’ and safe,” the organization, which is working with Facebook to debunk false statements made using the service, wrote in a June 5 article fact-checking the widely shared message.
The physician has endorsed expedited production of a vaccine, but has not pushed for use of a drug until it has been proven safe. The FactCheck.org article is linked to Graham’s initial post, along with a warning that the content appearing on her page is “false information.”
Graham said she viewed the two statements – one urging caution about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug initially pushed by President Donald Trump, and another expressing Fauci’s enthusiasm for a vaccine – as “two separate issues.” The post Graham shared included the message, “One thing is not like the other …,” suggesting that Fauci’s statements on hydroxychloroquine and a vaccine were inconsistent and at odds with the president.
“I’m not negative on either one,” Graham said.
But her opponent in the August primary, Democrat Tom McGarry, said Graham’s decision to share false information about a vaccine created a false sense of fear about any future preventive treatment.
“I stand by what (Fauci) says,” McGarry said. “There should not be a vaccine until it has been shown to be effective and be safe.”
Graham said her views on vaccines have been consistent. She voted with a coalition of Republican lawmakers against a bill in the 2019 Legislative session that limited the exemptions a family could claim to avoid vaccination requirements for attending public school. Graham did so, she said, because she believed families that have had children with adverse reactions to vaccinations should be allowed to seek an exemption for their other children, a proposal made by state Sen. Mike Padden but that was not included in the final draft of the law.
Graham said she didn’t have a problem with Facebook fact-checking posts, but would have appreciated notification that her post was being scrutinized before the message appeared on Facebook. She did not intend to take the post down, she said, because she thought it would give the perception she was “hiding something.”
“I am not a doctor, but I am a mom,” said Graham, noting that her children had been vaccinated against other diseases. “This could be my grandchild. I just want to make sure they’re not cutting corners.”
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