Popular podcast host Joe Rogan has declared that young people don’t need to get COVID-19 vaccines, and public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have stepped out to publicly contradict it since the comments began going viral on April 27.
Rogan made the comments on the April 23 edition of his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Axios quoted Rogan as telling his sizable audience, “If you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about [getting vaccinated].”
That met with almost immediate pushback from White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, who said in a CNN interview, “I guess my first question would be, did Joe Rogan become a medical doctor while we weren’t looking?” She added, regarding the vaccine, “I’m not sure that taking scientific and medical advice from Joe Rogan is perhaps the most productive way for people to get their information.”
Fauci took to another news outlet, NBC’s Today, the same morning to contradict Rogan’s counsel. “That’s incorrect,” he said in response to the podcaster. “You’re talking about yourself in a vacuum. You’re worried about yourself getting infected and the likelihood that you’re not going to get any symptoms. But you can get infected and will get infected if you put yourself at risk.”
CNET noted that Rogan did preface the disputed advice to young people by saying, “I think you should get vaccinated if you’re vulnerable. I think you should get vaccinated if you feel like—my parents are vaccinated. I’ve encouraged a lot of people to get—and people say, ‘Do you think it’s safe to get vaccinated?’ I’ve said, ‘Yeah, I think for the most part it’s safe to get vaccinated. I do. I do.'”
But that article also flatly assessed, regarding his assertion that young, healthy people can do without the vaccine, “Rogan is wrong.”
“The reality is, COVID-19 affects everyone and doesn’t discriminate with age,” the article continued. “Children and teens typically experience milder symptoms, as do young adults. However, many young, healthy people have reported not only extreme symptoms but long-lasting impacts on health as they recover from the virus. Even in mixed martial arts, the sport for which Rogan famously provides commentary, multiple young competitors have been laid out for months during difficult recoveries for COVID-19.”
That article also observed that public health officials are aiming for 70% of the U.S. population to be vaccinated to create herd immunity. More than 20% percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. involve young adults aged 18-29. Furthermore, as an Axios article from February points out, adults aged 20-49 were responsible for the vast majority of virus transmission in 2020, with 34.7% of transmissions attributed to those 20-34, and 41.4% for those 35-49—meaning more than 75% of COVID-19 spread is attributable to less than 40% of the population.
As of late April, about 50% of the adult population in the U.S. has received at least one vaccine, and about 30% are fully vaccinated.
Three doctors also went in on Rogan in an NBC News opinion piece published April 29.
Dr. Anand Swaminathan, core faculty member of the St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center Emergency Department; Dr. Esther Choo, professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University; and Dr. Megan Ranney, associate professor of emergency medicine and public health at Brown University, collaborated to assert, “It has been a year of terrible takes on COVID-19. Despite the presumed universal goal of getting through this pandemic sooner rather than later, a surprising number of Americans have lent their voices and platforms to conspiratorial thinking, rumors, and medical myths.”
They blamed Joe Rogan for contributing to the vaccine and other COVID misinformation, adding, “Rogan goes off the rails and into a sad abyss of generalizing from anecdotal personal experiences into the abandonment of pandemic-mitigation principles,” including relaying that his kids had COVID-19 and were “never in agony.”
“Why bother calling out Rogan’s lousy take?” the doctors asked. “His platform is enormous. Many people spend more time listening to Rogan than they do to health professionals. While scientists and doctors are generally more trusted, competing messages like Rogan’s can be confusing and affect people’s behaviors with regard to their health”
“We don’t expect everyone to be an expert,” they added. “Still, those with influential platforms have a responsibility to be a little more careful and realize the ripple effects of misguidance and a casual piece of misinformation.”