Fact-checking COVID-19 statements from congressional debate

At a debate Tuesday evening, congressional candidates Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, challenged one another’s stances on a multitude of topics ranging from economic prosperity to health, both of which the candidates linked to their views on the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the deadly virus spread throughout the globe, businesses closed their doors, companies transitioned from physical to a virtual workspaces, and events were halted. These efforts, albeit necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, led to an economic downturn.

Both candidates were quick to nod to the pandemic’s hold on the country’s struggling economy, with Kent harping on the role COVID-related mandates had on these challenges.

“We have to learn from past mistakes, hold people accountable and never go back to those dark days again,” he said.

But some of his stances required more fact-checking, as they are rooted in widespread conspiracy theories.

Vaccine misinformation

“The COVID-19 vaccine is an experimental gene therapy (…) We also need the federal government to release the vaccine reaction database that they’re suppressing right now. We need that release, so we know what all the actual side effects are of the vaccine before we continue to give it out to a massive population,” Kent said.

After Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations rolled out, people online were quick to circulate claims that the shots manipulate recipients’ genetic code. However, this is false.

Both vaccines use a portion of the genetic code from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to provoke the body’s immune response, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is not the same as genetic therapy, as they do not alter one’s genetic makeup. Gene therapy is an intentional process that targets a specific genetic condition to cure or treat it, according to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Cancer, heart disease and diabetes are some of the various diseases that gene therapy can be used to address.

For further reporting on the claim that COVID-19 vaccinations are “experimental gene therapy,” visit Reuters Fact Check.

Kent’s claim that the federal government is concealing information related to vaccine side effects is also misleading. The CDC has a comprehensive overview of COVID-19 vaccines, including its side effects, ingredients and how they interact within one’s body, which can be viewed on the agency’s website.

Origins of the virus

“Anthony Fauci and a lot of his underlings, they were running amok as unelected bureaucrats funding gain of function research under the nose of our federal government. They were funding the very same people who cooked up the COVID-19 virus in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Kent said.

Beliefs that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, have been exhaustively debunked. Researchers have nodded to animals serving as the origin of the virus and rejected the theory that it was produced or engineered in a lab, according to The Scripps Research Institute.

A Wuhan lab investigated bat coronavirus, research the U.S. indirectly partially funded through grants, but the experiments cannot be tied to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, according to FactCheck.org.

National leaders, including former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, spread misinformation that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci caused the pandemic by greenlighting these grants.

The $3.7 million grant, which began in 2014, was directed to the U.S.-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance that studied coronaviruses in bats, and $600,000 of that funding went to an EcoHealth associate at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to FactCheck.org. Again, the bat viruses are not the same as SARS-CoV-2.

To watch the debate, visit The Columbian’s website or check out RV Inn Style Resort’s Facebook page.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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