Luján Chairs Commerce Subcommittee on Communications Hearing Examining Vaccine Disinformation in the Media
Washington, D.C. – Holding the gavel for the first time, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) led the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband’s first hearing of the 117th Congress. Titled “Shot of Truth: Communicating Trusted Vaccine Information,” the hearing examined how the media is disseminating vaccine safety and COVID-health related information to encourage Americans, particularly those in rural areas and in communities of color, to get vaccinated. Witnesses, including New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins, testified about how trusted sources like local news outlets have been crucial to building trust in the COVID-19 vaccine and combatting dangerous disinformation.
“We need to stop the spread of misinformation out there. As we’ve heard from every one of our witnesses today, it’s so important to share facts and accurate information with our constituents, with people across the United States of America, and that there needs to be an active effort to stop the lies, to stop the spread of misinformation because it’s costing people their lives,” said Luján.
Video of the hearing is available HERE.
An excerpt of Senator Luján’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:
This subcommittee has an important responsibility to look at our national communications strategy to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated.
For the last year, our nation has faced a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. As President Biden has said, we remain on a war footing. Dedicated researchers spent tireless months developing safe and effective vaccines in record time.
Now, with safe and effective vaccines increasingly available, the nation must work to get vaccination rates up to defeat this pandemic. Communicating reliable, trustworthy, and evidence-based vaccine information is the final step to getting our lives back.
I am particularly proud of the efforts by Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Secretary Collins at the New Mexico Department of Health. New Mexico has been a national front-runner in efficient vaccine distribution. I am deeply grateful for their efforts and the lives they’ve saved.
Tuesday’s decision by the CDC and FDA regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine underscores the importance of communicating trusted vaccine information. State and federal partners are working now to get anyone scheduled for a Johnson and Johnson vaccine quickly rescheduled for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
This week’s announcement shouldn’t cause worry, but make it clear that the FDA and the federal government is taking every step necessary to ensure that the American people have clear and transparent information about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. That’s what this hearing is all about.
Unfortunately, in too many places, we are struggling to provide trusted, evidence-based information, creating a void. Misinformation and disinformation rushes to fill this gap.
Even today, a U.S. Census survey found that over three million Americans weren’t sure if they would receive the vaccine due to fears of how much it would cost.
They’re worried about the cost of a free vaccine. Let me be clear. The vaccine is provided at no cost. It is free.
We must do better. A clear and consistent message will save lives.
Reaching every single American who can safely get a vaccine is critical to defeating this virus.
That is why the American Rescue Plan increased funding for the program by one billion dollars. This was a historic investment in public health communication. It will help us build a framework for all future health crises. We have also seen state health departments rise to the occasion through vaccine equity programs and trusted community partners.
Before we start I want to make one thing crystal clear: Most Americans want to get vaccinated. Across all ages and races. No matter where they live. But first, we must stop the spread of this deadly virus.
The only way to win this fight is by getting every American the information they need, from sources they trust, so they can make the right decision for their health and the health of their community. Vaccines save lives, and I urge all Americans to continue their plans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Today, our witnesses will help ensure the national vaccine rollout is paired with an effective communication campaign. They will share their insight on how to achieve an effective and consistent message across all forms of media. I thank them all for the vital role they will play in shaping this discussion.