President Joe Biden will be speaking about COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday, as the average number of shots per day has dropped and many of the people who have not yet been vaccinated say they do not plan to do so. The FDA is expected to soon authorize the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old, though, so some people who have been eagerly waiting will soon get their turn. And people who have reported being unsure if they would be vaccinated may decide to get their shots as easily accessible drop-in clinics become more prevalent.
But there remain a significant number of people—especially Republicans—who say they will not be vaccinated no matter what, and outrageous anti-vaxxing from some corners encouraging that hesitancy. In a pandemic in which a lot of people have gotten things very, very wrong, anti-vaccination messaging is joining the race for the title of wrongest.
Let’s take a look back at some of the contenders for wrongest predictions and statements about COVID-19 and vaccination. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake offers some of the classics, and we’ll add a few more.
Mike Pence wrote, in June 2020, “In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown.” In case you didn’t get the message, he repeated it: “The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different.” At that point, there had been around 116,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. The current number is over 550,000.
Kayleigh McEnany, not even yet the White House press secretary at the time, said in Feb. 2020, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here. And isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”
Jared Kushner, April 2020, “I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.”
Right-wing commentator Candace Owens, April 2020: “Two weeks ago I told you all that India was the country to watch as millions of their workers were stranded along the railroad—no means of social distancing. India has just 169 deaths. Reported its first case in January.” India is now reporting hundreds of thousands of cases a day and its hospitals and crematoriums are overwhelmed.
Soon-to-be Saturday Night Live host Elon Musk, March, 2020: “Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April.”
And Donald Trump deserves multiple entries in this competition, of course:
Feb. 26, 2020: “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low. … When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
March 31, 2020: “It's going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month and if not, it hopefully will be soon after that.”
July 19, 2020: “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”
Sept. 21, 2020: “It affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
Oct. 23, 2020: “On Nov. 4, you won’t hear anything about it [the pandemic], because we are rounding that turn.”
Then there are the vaccination skeptics. Too many of them to fully discuss, unfortunately, but let’s check out a couple notable ones:
Former New York Times reporter and current Fox News darling Alex Berenson, Feb. 2021: “Vaccine advocates need to start ratcheting down expectations for the @pfizer @moderna_tx mRNA vaccines immediately. The Israeli data is increasingly clear - the clinical trials significantly overstated their efficacy. Meanwhile the US side effect reports are ugly...” The Israeli data has been extremely clear about the efficacy of the vaccines, and not in the way Berenson meant.
Bro podcaster Joe Rogan, April 2021: “If you’re, like, 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go ‘No.’” Rogan at least walked it back somewhat, describing himself as a “moron,” so he got one thing right.
And last but not least, there’s the Miami private school, the Centner Academy, that told teachers not to get vaccinated and banned newly vaccinated teachers from contact with students because they might be “shedding” vaccine.
There are so many more contenders, though—offer yours in the comments.