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Senator Ron Johnson talks COVID at Boulder Junction town hall

Senator Ron Johnson talks with constituents after a town hall in Boulder Junction.
Erin Gottsacker
Senator Ron Johnson talks with constituents after a town hall in Boulder Junction.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson hosted a town hall in Boulder Junction Friday to address the concerns of Northwoods residents.

He took questions from a room full of about 150 people, covering topics ranging from government spending to redistricting efforts.

However, he dedicated the majority of his time to one subject — COVID-19.

As COVID cases continue to rise in Northern Wisconsin, Johnson presented false and misleading information about the tool that most health professionals laud as the key to overcoming the pandemic.

He suggested the COVID vaccine has caused the death of hundreds of people who have taken it.

“When you die the day you get the vaccine, and you’re otherwise healthy, you kind of start suspecting it, right?” he questioned.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, does show over 8,000 reports of people who have died after receiving the COVID shot.

That is 0.0021 percent of the total number of people who have been vaccinated against COVID.

But VAERS is just a place to report what people think is an effect of the vaccine, and a report does not necessarily mean there’s a connection between the adverse effect and the vaccine.

In fact, after reviewing autopsy and medical records, the CDC has not found evidence that the deaths are linked to the COVID vaccines, though the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been linked to a rare but serious blood clotting syndrome.

Johnson also falsely claimed the Pfizer vaccine available in the U.S. is not approved by the FDA.

Instead, he heralded early treatment options for COVID.

“I wish the vaccines would have been incredibly effective, but you take a look at the surge after we’re more than 50 percent vaccinated, and by the way with over a hundred million people with natural immunity, and now we have a Delta surge,” he said. “What’s happening? I’m just asking the question. What we should have always been doing is robustly exploring and researching early treatment.”

Even with the Delta Variant, the COVID vaccines have proven extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death due to the virus. Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die if they contract COVID than those who are vaccinated.

In making these claims, Johnson’s ultimate point was that the COVID vaccine should not be mandated, and should remain a choice for individuals.

“I am, as you can tell by my passion, completely opposed to these mandates,” he said.

It’s a point that people in the audience – from a nurse to the father of a U.S. air force doctor – applaud.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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