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Other Views: Leaders promoting vaccine misinformation is dangerous and divisive

At a recent town hall in Frazee on Oct. 26, Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, and Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, promoted, corroborated and disseminated false COVID-19 vaccine information to their constituents to head nods, and cheers of confirmation bias from the crowd. This sort of misinformation puts Minnesotan lives in danger and continues the erosion of trust in public health initiatives, government and facts. It should not be applauded, it should be condemned and dismissed.

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Our elected leaders should be respected.

They carry the weight of their area voters and represent them to the county, state and country. They are intended to be a true reflection of a slice of America.

They are not supposed to fuel and confirm information they know not to be true, but that's exactly what happened at a recent town hall meeting with Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, and Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, in Frazee on Oct. 26.

"In the information that I’ve been reading, and I’m pretty sure it’s correct, is that half of the (COVID-19) vaccines are placebo," said Green, without any sourcing. "They are giving you a saline solution and it’s nothing. And, the other half are the real vaccine, which is the RNA. And, no one knows which one they are getting, but then they’ll do the test to see how many people get COVID after they get the vaccine and then they’ll know if they got, if they didn’t really get a vaccine, they got something else. So, they are using our kids, and us, as the lab experiment to do these things."

Of course it can't be proven that Green was knowingly spreading false information during the event, but he knew enough to give himself a protective carve-out, "in the information that I’ve been reading, and I’m pretty sure it’s correct," but that leads to another question: Why would he tell a room full of people something he didn't know for a fact was true?

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Because he knew that's what the crowd wanted to hear, and that puts them on the same "team." It also makes vaccine-uncertain attendees more likely to side against public health recommendations because an "official" told them the "truth."

Adding his thoughts on vaccine mandates, Utke said, "this whole thing is criminal." He said doctors weren't able to prescribe remedies that they knew worked.

But that’s because public health officials have consistently pushed back on these fringe treatments, like Hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin and a regimen of Zinc, due to the fact they are not drugs proven to treat a viral respiratory infection.

Utke even doubted the official COVID-19 death totals because dying of COVID and dying with COVID are two different things, according to the Park Rapids legislator.

"You’ve got those that have died from COVID and those that have died with COVID and there’s a huge difference because there’s a whole lot of people who died and the statistics show that they would have died within days, or a month, or whatever of when they actually died, with or without COVID," said Utke. "But, how many died from the effects of COVID that would be living today if those therapeutics that we’ve had on the shelf for years were prescribed? I mean, this thing is absolutely criminal."

We would remind the state senator that most patients who die of AIDS don't actually die of HIV. But it is that virus that destroys the body's immune system so severely that any range of common diseases could be a death sentence. With COVID, it’s the virus combined with the body’s immune response that can starve the body of oxygen and lead to organ failure, respiratory failure and septic shock.

Green also railed about how communism leads to mass murder and how vaccine mandates, "fall right in there."

Here's the truth: Public health officials have been doing their best over the last 20 months to keep as many people as safe as possible from a deadly, novel virus, and part of that is trying to persuade residents to take COVID-19 vaccines to decrease their chances of severe illness and death. But, with placebo-questioning rhetoric from leaders like Green and Utke, it has made the persuasion practically unattainable.

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It also confirms their constituents' feelings from what they have "researched" on their own and leads to a continued stalemate of people unwilling to trust anyone who is not on their respective team.

It would take true leadership to tell someone their understanding about these proven, safe and effective vaccines is wrong. That they should get vaccinated so we can put this two-year chapter of COVID hell behind us, but that isn't what's happening. Utke and Green are making the situation worse by spreading vaccine misinformation, which could end up with one of their residents becoming fatally ill when they could have been saved.

Their approach to politics has become constituent confirmation bias in the absence of true, independent leadership. They have shown there are no longer Republicans who would defend an incorrect statement about Barack Obama being an Arab, which is an incident that occurred in Minnesota in 2008; instead, they would choose to cheer them on, sharpen their pitchforks and light their figurative torches just to send them toward the nearest state official.

Minnesota needs their leaders to be truthful, even when it's difficult, and Sen. Utke and Rep. Green have failed wholeheartedly in that regard as of late.

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