WASHINGTON (TND) — The debate over vaccines and natural immunity is still hot as ever on Capitol Hill.
Medical experts testified before the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Thursday. During the hearing lawmakers peppered experts with questions about why health leaders dismissed natural immunity as a legitimate defense to COVID-19 while treating vaccines as the only acceptable option.
"I think we all agree that early on no one knew exactly what so we were all clambering for a vaccine but at the same time should have been looking at natural immunity," said chairman of the subcommitte Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, who is also medical doctor by trade.
Democrats on the committee worry bringing up natural immunity will increase vaccine hesitancy.
"It sounds like the narrative being pushed is to get infected by COVID-19 then you don’t need a vaccine. Or prefer to get a natural infection over a vaccine for a deadly virus. That’s just wrong guys," said Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif. Ruiz is a medical doctor as well.
Dr. Marty Makary a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University testified as a GOP witness. Makary says Democrats and the experts siding with them, are missing the point, calling it an "all-or-nothing cult around the vaccine."
"I don’t like the conversation framed around all or nothing, entirely relying on natural immunity. Doctors custom tailor treatments all the time," Makary pointed out.
Fellow GOP witness Dr. Margery Smelkinson says ignoring the efficacy of natural immunity approach caused real harm, especially in the early days when vaccines were in limited supply.
"It also caused loss of life as vaccines were given to workers with natural immunity instead of being prioritized for the elderly," said Smelkinson.
"Why would you give two life preservers when some were drowning with none," Makary added.
Democrats on the committee say pandemic leaders did the best they could with what they had.
"Is it important to look back? Absolutely yes. That’s the only way we can identify things that we agreed with disagreed with, things that worked and didn’t work. But to assign blame as we were working to figure this out together is absolutely the wrong way to go," said Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.
Meanwhile in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new laws on Thursday permanently banning businesses and government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or discriminating against unvaccinated employees.
“These mandates, the purpose of them was not to safeguard your health. The purpose of them was to control your behavior," said DeSantis during a signing event in Destin.
Democrats worry the current investigation will increase vaccine hesitancy. Republicans say it’s crucial to understand what happened so lawmakers can do better in the future.