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On CNN, Sears makes baffling claims about COVID-19 vaccines

Person speaking into microphone
Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears speaks at an election night party in Chantilly. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Lt. Gov-elect Winsome Sears made four head-scratching statements about the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Although Sears and her Republican running mate, Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, oppose mandatory COVID vaccinations, they have urged people to get vaccines.

CNN’s host, Donna Bash, noted that Virginia schools require a number of vaccines, including for polio, measles and chickenpox. “So, why is it OK to mandate childhood vaccines in Virginia for so many diseases, but not COVID?” Bash asked.

“Let's ask ourselves, if the purpose of the COVID vaccine is to prevent us from getting COVID, then why is it that those who have had COVID must get the vaccine?” Sears replied. The one doesn't follow the other.”

Sears' statement overlooks findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that vaccinations offer higher protection against COVID-19 than having been previously infected by it.

The study examined more than 7,000 people in nine states who were hospitalized with COVID-like illness. The CDC found that “those who were unvaccinated and had a recent infection were five times more likely to have COVID-19 than those who were recently fully vaccinated and did not have a prior infection.”

Sears, while answering the same question about mandatory school vaccines, said, “Let me ask you this question: If you have the mask on, then why does somebody else have to wear the mask? You’ve got the mask and vaccine. You’re fully protected, armored.”

Bash corrected Sears, saying scientists have found the antibodies from vaccines or previous COVID infection weaken over time, “which is why people are getting boosters.”

Indeed. a CDC study found that vaccine effectiveness against infection dropped from 91.8% to 75% among New York state adults from May 3 to July 25, 2021. And others wearing masks, particularly if they’re unvaccinated, lower the risk of COVID spread.

Sears cast blame on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for politicizing the vaccine.

“President Biden, and Vice President Harris themselves both said they would not trust any vaccine that was developed by the Trump administration,” she said. “That was before their election. After their election, they were singing a different song. And now everybody has to be vaccinated.”

PolitiFact National this summer gave a False rating to a similar statement running on Tik Tok. Biden and Harris voiced concern during the 2020 election that Trump would rush out a COVID vaccine before it was fully vetted by scientists. They said they would get a vaccine that had undergone full scientific review.

Next, Bash asked Sears if she has been vaccinated for COVID. Sears wouldn’t say, saying the question created “slippery slopes.”

“The minute that I start telling you about my vaccine status, we're going to be down the bottom of the mountain trying to figure out how we got there, because now you want to know what's in my DNA,” she said. “You're going to want to know this, that and the other.”

Scientists have discredited widespread claims that the vaccine affects DNA. “COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way,” the CDC says. “...The material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.”

Sears, in an email to us, said she agrees with the CDC’s finding. “I never said that the vaccine changes DNA,” she wrote.  Sears offered no other elaboration on her DNA comment.

“I support vaccines and boosters,” she wrote. “Please consult your physician, not Facebook. If you are vaccinated and want to wear a mask, be my guest. I just don’t think government knows best in every situation. Again, people should work with their doctors.”

Sears stood by her claim that Biden and Harris politicized Trump’s efforts to develop a COVID vaccine.

“Candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris began the vaccine skepticism because they were trying to win an election and should apologize for their role in politicizing vaccines while undermining public trust,” she wrote.

Sources

Winsome Sears, Interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Nov. 21, 2021
Email from Sears, Nov. 23, 2021
Virginia  Department of Health, School and Day Care Minimum Immunization Requirements, accessed Nov. 22, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “New CDC Study: Vaccination Offers Higher Protection than Previous COVID-19 Infection,” Oct. 29, 2021
CDC, “New COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Among Adults, by Vaccination Status — New York, May 3–July 25, 2021,” Sept. 17, 2021
CDC, “Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines,” Nov. 12, 2021
PolitiFact, “Biden, Harris distrusted Trump with COVID-19 vaccines, not the vaccines themselves,” July 16, 2021
Rolling Stone, “Virginia’s Lt. Governor-elect Interview Veers Off the Rails as She Spreads Covid Misinformation,” Nov. 21, 2021