‘I’m a skeptic’ — Why Rep. Ken Weyler Doubted Health Commissioner
It is a general distrust of the U.S. CDC and the state Department of Health and Human Services that led a Seacoast legislator to question comments from Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine during a fiscal committee hearing.
Shibinette testified to the committee on Friday about accepting federal funds under the American Rescue Plan that would go towards creating positions that would expand the state's COVID-19 vaccine response.
In a video clip posted on Twitter by WMUR's Adam Sexton, the commissioner told the committee that 90% of those who are hospitalized with serious illness have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
"That is in doubt," GOP committee chair Rep. Ken Weyler from Kingston told the commissioner, who said he has heard from people working in emergency rooms that 90% of those admitted have had the shot.
"That is incorrect and that is misinformation," Shibinette said.
The commissioner raised her voice as she and Weyler spoke over each other.
"And that is the problem that we are having increasing our vaccination rate is spreading misinformation about the COVID rate," Shibinette said, adding that she heard similar numbers during her visit to Kentucky with Gov. Chris Sununu and members of his administration.
Weyler said he has heard in the "mainstream media" that many people vaccinated within the past six months are being hospitalized.
Shibinette ageed that there are a small number of vaccinated individuals who have become sick from COVID-19 after taking the shot. Weyler accused her of denying that breakthrough cases exist a figure she put at 10%.
"I believe it's higher than that," Weyler said.
"Okay," Shibinette said as the clip ends.
Weyler told Seacoast Current on Saturday he stands by his comments and said he heard on talk radio a nurse comment that 90% of the people in her emergency room have had the shot.
"And then I hear this commissioner say that 90% of the people have not had the shot that come to the emergency room. I just don't think that's correct because I've heard statistics on the other side," Wyler said.
During his coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu said 20 individuals who have been fully vaccinated have died of COVID. Between 134 and 150 have been hospitalized after being fully vaccinated.
"I'm a skeptical person"
Weyler said his skepticism is why he heads up the Financial Committee and is dubious about much of the information coming from both the CDC and the state DHHS. During a budget meeting, Weyler said when asked how many employees the agency had the response was 2,300. When he pointed out 3,600 were listed the DDHS said the positions could not be filled.
"'So you keep the money coming in though don't you,'" Weyler said he told the DDHS. "There's this distrust that develops here. There's been other situations like that through the years. I've been doing this for 25 years. I get a lot of exaggerations or mistruths so I'm a skeptical person," Weyler said.
Weyler, who served as a representative from 1990 until 2008 and again from 2010 to the present, said he has heard from a constituent who said she was a healthy individual but treated for a heart attack the day after getting the COVID-19 shot. Another said they had a cough that lingered for another two months.
The CDC says on its website that "serious adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination are rare but may occur."
Some reported adverse effects include allergic reactions including anaphylaxis in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the United States. 46 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome and 195 cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome were reported by those receiving the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.
1,413 male adolescents and young adults have reported myocarditis or pericarditis. CDC researchers are still studying the connection to the COVID-19 vaccine.
There's No Problem Finding the Shot
Weyler said that that the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available for anyone who wants it and there's no need to hire additional staff using federal money.
"$27 million to hire 15 people to go out and try and get people to get shots. You think that's a good decision and a good use of money," Weyler said. "From a financial standpoint it seems to me like a waste of money.
"This shot is not wonderful to take and it doesn't protect you. I haven't had the shot, no one in my family's had the shot. None of us have gotten sick from COVID," Weyer said.
He said he's also been in large groups as part of being a representative. He was also part of a group of ten that went to Salt Lake City during which one was positive for COVID-19. No one else in his group did, he said.
Sununu Backs Shibinette
Despite the release of a letter late Thursday signed by the attorney generals of 24 states including New Hampshire threatening a lawsuit against Biden if he does not reconsider his vaccination mandate Sununu remains a strong advocate of COVID-19 vaccinations. He came down in support of Shibinette and against misinformation following the hearing.
Sununu in a statement to WMUR said the funds will help expand the availability of the COVID-19 in New Hampshire but will also make sure the state is in compliance with legislative laws and administrative rules.
The delegation has been largely silent on the mandate on their social media and official Senate websites. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was the only member to tweet a comment immediately after Biden's announcement although it was more about how the vaccine can end the pandemic.
"Granite Staters have reacted to this chaotic announcement with both anger and confusion especially since high ranking officials have called the OSHA mandate a 'workaround.' As with his unconstitutional eviction moratorium the Biden Administration has already admitted it lacks the power to impose such a mandate, but it did it anyway. Congress must step in," read the letter.
It urged the delegation to demand oversight and accountability from the Biden administration.
None of the delegation responded to the letter on their respective social media platforms.
House Speaker Sherm Packard filed legislation that would prohibit state or local enforcement of federal vaccine mandates.
"We have made it clear that government mandates are not the path to successful vaccination rates and will only cause further division in this country," Packard said.