Senator Rand Paul’s positions on COVID-19, the virus’s origins, and pandemic management are generally spot-on. Video of him grilling Dr. Anthony Fauci always goes viral. In hearings last week, it was Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra’s turn in the hot seat, and Paul did not hold back.
Paul opened his questioning during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing by asking if Becerra was aware of a recent population-level study in Israel. Paul noted that the study included the health records of over 2 million Israelis. It demonstrated that vaccinated people were seven times more likely to catch COVID-19 than recovered patients. Becerra said he was not familiar with the study.
The research has made national news and even got discussed on CNN, where Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked Dr. Fauci about the study and how he would justify vaccinating recovered Americans. Fauci famously said, “I don’t have a really firm answer for you on that. That’s something that we’re going to have to discuss regarding the durability of the response.” The second sentence is absurd since Fauci is pushing boosters after six months for vaccinated Americans. The Israeli study looked at all recovered patients over a period of 18 months.
Becerra’s ignorance of these findings is a concern since three of his agencies direct nearly all of the pandemic response. From a policy-making perspective, over 100 million Americans with strong, durable natural immunity seem kind of important. Especially if you sit on the president’s cabinet and advise him. Paul called him out hard.
“Well, you think you might wanna be if you’re going to travel the country insulting the millions of Americans, including NBA star Jonathan Isaac, who have had COVID, recovered, look at a study with 2.5 million people and say, ‘Well it looks like my immunity is as good as a vaccine or not.'” Paul continued, “And in a free country, maybe you ought to be able to make that decision. Instead, you’ve chosen to travel the country calling people like Jonathan Isaac and others, myself included flat-earthers.”
Paul asked Becerra if he was a doctor. Paul, of course, is a licensed physician who often does charity eye surgery during congressional breaks. Becerra offered his 30 years of work on health policy, but Paul kept going.
“You presume somehow to tell over 100 million Americans who have survived COVID that we have no right to determine our own medical care?” Paul asked. “You alone are on high, and you’ve made these decisions? A lawyer with no scientific background, no medical degree. This is an arrogance coupled with an authoritarianism that is unseemly and unAmerican. You, sir, are the one ignoring the science.”
Paul noted that dozens of studies show robust, long-lasting immunity following a COVID infection. He pointed out other illnesses like measles and smallpox, where the CDC does not recommend vaccination after a person recovers. As almost anyone over the age of 40 knows, we were not vaccinated for chickenpox if we had it as children.
Paul told Becerra he should be ashamed of himself and accused him of being dishonest about natural immunity. “Today, after hearing millions of people in a study prove, show without a doubt that there’s a great deal of immunity from getting it naturally, do you want to apologize to the 100 million Americans who suffered through COVID, survived, have immunity, and yet you want to hold them down and vaccinate them? Do you want to apologize for calling those people flat-earthers?”
Becerra, of course, did not.
Becerra called Paul’s assertion about natural immunity, which is backed up by dozens of studies, an “opinion” and said his organization follows data, science, and on-the-ground results. Paul noted that this did not include the dozens of studies he referenced. “You’re selectively doing this because you want us to submit to your will. You have no scientific background and no scientific degrees. And yet, you aren’t really concerned about 100 million Americans who had the disease. You just want to tell us, ‘Do as you’re told.’ That’s what you’re telling us. You want to mandate this on all of us.”
Paul discussed the outrageous $700,000 proposed fine for employers with 100 or more employees that do not comply with the mandate. “This is incredibly arrogant combined with this authoritarian nature that you think we’ll just tell all of America to do as I say and they better or we’ll fine them or put them in jail or not let them go to school or not let them travel. The science is against you on this.”
Paul said his argument was not against the vaccine. He’s arguing for recovered patients to be allowed to make their own decision about getting vaccinated. He directly asked if Becerra was willing to consider natural immunity. Becerra answered that his team was reviewing every study and making recommendations based on them. He noted the current death count, which is invariably overcounted according to local studies in California and CDC data on breakthrough infections. Becerra said, “We’re using the facts, were following the science, and following the law.”
Paul shot back: “Nobody’s arguing the severity of this. But you are completely ignoring the science on natural immunity. So’s Fauci. So’s the whole group. You’re just ignoring it because you want submission. You want everybody to just submit to your will, do as you’re told, despite the evidence, the large body of scientific evidence that says natural immunity does work.”
Paul also noted that Americans with natural immunity are an essential part of how we will recover from the pandemic. When recovered and vaccinated Americans are added together, he said, we’re in a much different place in the pandemic. Paul pointed out that healthcare workers who recovered from COVID before the vaccine are now being coerced into vaccination by HHS mandates.
“Now, people like you are arrogant enough to say you can no longer work in the hospital because you’ve already had the disease. We’re going to force you to take a vaccine that the science does not prove is better than natural immunity. That’s an arrogance that should be chastened.”
Paul recovered from COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic and has advocated relentlessly for the recognition of natural immunity and early outpatient treatment. Becerra brought a feather to a knife fight. Astonishingly, he was not better prepared to answer fundamental questions that have permeated the public discourse.
WATCH the full exchange between Senator Paul and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.