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Republicans invite discredited vaccine critic to testify before Senate panel

They say Dr. Jane Orient is a vaccine skeptic who has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients, despite the Food and Drug Administration stating that it should not be used to treat coronavirus patients and has criticized the federal government’s role in urging Americans to get vaccinated against the virus.

The Democrats note that coronavirus cases across the United States are spiking, and that approved treatments and new vaccines are crucial tools in combating the pandemic.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman, said in a statement that his panel’s hearing will focus on early treatments as “an essential part of a Covid-19 solution,” and that he supports the “development of a safe and effective vaccine.”

Orient is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a right-wing advocacy group that opposes government involvement in health care. The group has reportedly published a journal with articles asserting that being gay shortens life expectancy and that HIV does not cause AIDS. She has lately expressed skepticism over the Covid-19 vaccine trials while pushing alternative treatments.

In a phone interview on Monday, Orient, said her testimony would focus on expanding access to early, prophylactic treatment for Covid-19 such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Though the drug was initially pushed by President Donald Trump, the FDA reversed its emergency use authorization for its use to treat the virus after a series of studies showed not only that it did not help coronavirus patients but might be harmful.

She also said her group was not opposed to vaccines but government mandates, even though the federal government has only recommended that the public take vaccines to help stop the spread of the virus.

Senate Democrats strongly objected to Johnson’s invitation for her to testify.

“At such a crucial time, giving a platform to conspiracy theorists to spread myths and falsehoods about coronavirus vaccines is downright dangerous and one of the last things Senate Republicans should be doing right now,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Orient told CNN that she didn’t think Schumer knew “anything” about her and didn’t know what conspiracy theories he referenced.

“I am concerned that Americans are not getting information about their alternatives for treatment,” she claimed without providing any evidence. The National Institutes of Health has a page detailing coronavirus treatments.

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