Sen. Marco Rubio is taking heat on social media for criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, one week after the Florida lawmaker became one of the first Americans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rubio, 49, was inoculated with the vaccine last week before mocking the nation’s leading infectious disease expert’s messaging during the novel coronavirus pandemic on Sunday.
The senator claimed in a tweet that Fauci, 80, has “lied” about masks and has “been distorting” the level of vaccinations needed for the U.S. to safely reopen its economy.
Fauci, named one of PEOPLE’s 2020 People of the Year, had initially advised earlier this year — along with other federal health officials — that Americans didn’t need to wear face masks, in part over worry that healthcare workers may see equipment shortages. That guideline was eventually changed after further research showed that masks help reduce the spray of respiratory droplets when worn, preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Medical experts, celebrities, and other social media users were quick to push back against Rubio’s recent comments.
“Fauci didn’t know enough in March. Then scientific studies revealed more facts and he was changed by new information like I wish you would be,” comedian Sarah Silverman responded.
“This you getting the vaccine?” journalist Jemele Hill tweeted at the senator, echoing other users’ feeling that Rubio was being hypocritical in deriding the doctor.
“This expanding anti-science agenda in the US Senate + eagerness to make reckless statements and discredit scientists [troubles me],” Prof. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tweeted.
The epidemiologist said some Republican lawmakers’ anti-science approach to the pandemic has been “both bizarre and self-defeating.”
The senator had also spoken out against economic shutdowns throughout 2020, which federal health officials like Fauci have said were necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus.
At least 333,242 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 while more than 19.1 million have contracted the novel coronavirus as of Monday, according to a New York Times tracker.
Rubio shared a photo of himself on Dec. 19 receiving a vaccine, saying he was “so confident that the #Covid19 vaccine is safe & effective that I decided to take it myself.”
His decision to take the vaccine — along with other Republican lawmakers like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who have pushed back against pandemic safety measures — had been roundly criticized.
Queer Eye host Karamo Brown tweeted then the fact Rubio and Graham were “getting the vaccine before front line workers, health care providers, teachers, etc. just pisses me off!”
Other lawmakers — like Rep. Ilhan Omar and Sen. Rand Paul (who already tested positive in March) — have recently deferred on taking the vaccine in a goodwill gesture to frontline workers and the elderly, who are at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
“We are not more important then [sic] frontline workers, teachers etc. who are making sacrifices everyday,” Omar tweeted last week, explaining why she wouldn’t opt to take the vaccine right away. “People who need it most, should get it. Full stop.”
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