Dr. Scott Jensen, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2022 Minnesota Gubernatorial race, has signed on to a lawsuit seeking to block the approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children.
States including Minnesota have recently started vaccinating children aged 12-15 against the virus, following emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the FDA and CDC.
But a right-wing political group of medical professionals, calling themselves America's Frontline Doctors, has filed a federal lawsuit in Alabama seeking a temporary restraining order preventing approval of the vaccine for use in children.
Jensen, a family physician and former state senator who has appeared at events alongside a number of prominent anti-vaxxers in recent months, is one of 10 people who have signed onto the lawsuit led by Simone Gold. Gold is the founder of America's Frontline Doctors, and was arrested earlier this year for taking part in the U.S. Capitol Insurrection on Jan. 6.
Speaking to the Star Tribune Wednesday, Jensen said he'd befriended Gold a year ago and "honestly didn't know" she had been charged in connection with the Capitol Insurrection.
He told the newspaper that he joined the lawsuit "because we don't have the same level of data for kids under 16," noting that the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is lower in children.
Jensen has said he won't be getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as he has previously had the virus and retains the antibodies, despite the CDC advising that those who have had the virus should still get vaccinated as it's not yet known how long those antibodies will last.
MedPage Today reports that America's Frontline Doctors was among the prominent spreaders of misinformation about COVID-19 – including the pushing of hydroxychloroquine as a "cure" – and has since pivoted to "sowing doubt about the vaccine."
The petition makes a number of unproven claims that have spread in the right-wing and anti-vaxxer community over the past year, including the claim that America's COVID-19 cases and deaths have been inflated (something Jensen has himself claimed before), that a number of "alternative" treatments to COVID-19 (such as hydroxychloroquine, vitamin D and zinc) have been "suppressed," and that vaccinated children could spread the vaccine to unvaccinated children.
This last claim cites "real-world examples" from an article on a website called "From The Trenches World Report | Reinstate our Republic," which also includes evidence-free conspiracy theories that women who have been vaccinated are affecting the menstrual cycle of those who aren't, and suggests those that have been vaccinated are being "programmed" to do something.
It describes the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been given approval for emergency use following a number of trials conducted in the past year, as "experimental," saying they should be "strongly discouraged" for use in adults aged 20-69.
The rollout of COVID vaccines to Americans has subsequently led to significant drops in COVID-19 cases and deaths. There have been instances of adverse reactions to the vaccines, but they have been extremely rare, and approved vaccines are considered safe and effective by state, national, and global health bodies.
The lawsuit also misrepresents the number of deaths linked to vaccines in the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, claiming the number has skyrocketed in 2021.
It fails to note that that CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System accepts reports of any adverse event that follows a vaccine, "even if it is not clear the vaccine caused the problem," while a CDC review of "available clinical information" has not established any link between the COVID-19 vaccines and deaths.
The suit argues that "children are at a statistical zero" risk of dying from COVID-19, despite there being a small number of pediatric COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. this past year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children comprise between 0-0.2% of all COVID-19 deaths, but the argument for vaccinating children is to ultimately eliminate the virus' spread, and protect adults more vulnerable from COVID-19, as well as those who can't get vaccinated due to medical exemptions.
In the lawsuit, Jensen notes that recommending the vaccine for children "would violate his oath as a doctor and place him in an untenable position" due to what he considers the risk the vaccine presents to the children, and argues its rollout would undermine public trust in other vaccines.
His involvement in the lawsuit has been heavily criticized by Minnesota DFLers, with party chairman Ken Martin saying: "Scott Jensen has spent over a year pushing dangerous conspiracy theories and peddling misinformation to the detriment of Minnesotans.
"Now, he’s joined a fringe group of right-wing doctors and January 6th insurrectionists to spread dangerous lies that will only harm public health. Jensen continues to put his political career over the health and well-being of our community. Scott Jensen can’t be trusted to keep Minnesotans safe and he certainly can’t be trusted as our governor."