TOPEKA (Kan.) -- Roger Marshall isn't letting people forget he's a physician. He wrote "Doc" on the letterhead for his U.S. Senate office news releases. Experts and doctors say that the Kansas Republican sounds more like a politician when he speaks about COVID-19 vaccines.
He has made statements about vaccinations and immunity that are contrary to both official U.S. medical consensus. He has made statements about vaccines and immunity that defy both medical consensus and official U.S. guidance. He has admitted to trying an unproven treatment to ward off the coronavirus.
Marshall's positions push the first-term senator, obstetrician, closer to the medical fringe. He is not alone. There are many other GOP doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who have given sketchy advice on the pandemic.
Critics claim that the statements of lawmakers are dangerous and unethical. They also believe that Marshall's medical education gives him a sense of competence that is valuable to constituents.
Arthur Caplan, the founder of New York University’s medical ethics division and director for a vaccine ethics program, said that "He has an immense role to play here because He's a physician and a senator." "He has a tremendous responsibility to make sure it's done right."
Marshall claims he is fully vaccinated. He also stated that he has urged his parents to get booster shots. In April, he and other GOP doctors appeared on a public service announcement to encourage people to get vaccinated.
However, that was before Biden’s vaccine mandates pumped up the party’s conservative base and activists predicted that grassroots opposition might help drive Republicans to power in Congress 2022. It was also before schools were reopened in the fall, and parents protested mask mandates at school board meetings.
Gregg Keller, a St. Louis-area GOP strategist, said that off-year elections are all aimed at turning out your base. He's worked with conservative groups and U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R.Mo. "Republicans are fired-up."
A recent poll showshalf of Americans favor the requirement that large-scale workers be vaccinated and tested every week. Biden is also requiring military personnel, government contractors, and health care workers to be vaccinated.
Marshall and other Republicans should be aware that the polling showed that people are divided based on their political party. According to The Associated Press survey and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 6 out 10 Republicans opposed the mandate for workers.
In winning his Senate seat last season, Marshall presented himself as a Trump supporter and stalwart. Two-term Congressman from western Kansas ran in opposition to a Democrat, a retired Kansas City-area Anesthesiologist who adhered to COVID-19 public health orthodoxy.
Marshall was often unmasked at campaign events. He claimed that he used the antimalarial drug, hydroxychoroquine, weekly. This was in spite of warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration against using it to prevent COVID-19.
Marshall unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation to ban mandates for vaccines and prohibit dishonorable discharges of military personnel who refuse to get vaccinated. He claims that mandating workers for vaccines will make them quit or fire their jobs, increase supply chain problems, and cause inflation.
He joined other lawmakers to push unsupported theories regarding COVID-19 immunity late last month. Along with 14 other GOP dentists, doctors, and pharmacists, he wrote a letter to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging them to take natural immunity into account when setting vaccine policies.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, an opthalmologist, signed the document. Texas Rep. Ronny Johnson, who was Trump's medical advisor and doctor, also signed. The majority of the signers are from districts or states that Trump won by large margins last year.
Although experts agree that natural immunity develops following an infection, the medical consensus is that it is not a constant and will decrease over time. The CDC urges everyone who has been infected to get vaccinated. The August CDC report found that the vaccine does increase protection for those who have recovered from the virus. In September, studies showed that people who were not vaccinated were 11 times more likely than those who had been.
According to the August CDC report, a study was done in Kentucky and concluded that "full vaccination is associated wit reduced risk of reinfection among persons who have been previously infected" and that being unvaccinated is associated wit higher chances of being reinfected.
Marshall disagrees with the recommendation that COVID-19-infected people should be vaccinated. He stated that his adult children had COVID-19, and that he doesn't believe they should be vaccinated.
He said that this issue needs more research: "We could have 20 scientists here and have a 2-hour discussion about it."
The GOP consultant Keller said that he sees a political incentive to Marshall and other legislators to concentrate on natural immunity. Keller stated that this challenges the Biden administration's policies on vaccines.
Keller stated that "smart Republicans understand that there's some trust in the wider electorate regarding the vaccine."
Marshall claims that he was a practicing obstetrician as well as a director of the local health department. He followed the CDC's guidelines on issues like flu shots not causing harm to pregnant women. He says he lost trust in CDC due to mixed messages about masks early in the pandemic: "It wasn't a good time for the CDC. It was difficult for us all.
Dr. Leana Wein, an emergency physician who was also a former Baltimore health commissioner, stated that vaccine mandates must be "clearly worked" to contain COVID-19.
Wen stated that vaccination is what we have, as the cost of natural immunity is too high. She also said she fears people choosing to infect their children with something similar to the chicken pox parties some parents had. "We would never want a policy that could allow people to choose to become infected.
Sabrina Pass, a Kansas resident who lives in a small community northwest of Fort Riley, stated that she supports Marshall's positions. She also said that a candidate's willingness and ability to fight vaccine mandates would be important to her. She is 37 years old, a U.S. Department of Defense employee, and the mother of two teenage girls. She is also a registered Republican. Protests against school mask mandates are what she considers "awesome".
Dr. Beth Oller is a Rooks County family physician who lives in northwest Kansas. She said that Marshall's medical education is the reason why patients don't trust her enough to get vaccinated. She said that Marshall is well-informed about immunity and that he needs to be vaccinated.
Oller stated, "He should be ashamed of himself."