A clip from thepodcast — with the shock jock suggesting young, healthy people don’t need a vaccine — went viral on Tuesday. His comments quickly drew criticism, including a response from the White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Here’s what the popular, controversy-loving podcaster said:
“I think you should get vaccinated if you’re vulnerable,” he said. “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 if you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go no,” he continued. “Are you healthy? Are you a healthy person? Like, look, don’t do anything stupid, but you should take care of yourself. You should — if you’re a healthy person, and you’re exercising all the time, and you’re young, and you’re eating well, like, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”
Rogan is wrong. The reality is, COVID affects everyone and doesn’t discriminate with age. 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.
Asked Wednesday on the Today show about Rogan’s remarks, Fauci was adamant that young people should get vaccinated.
“You can get infected, and will get infected, if you put yourself at risk,” Fauci said. “And even if you don’t have any symptoms, you’re propagating the outbreak because it is likely that you — even if you have no symptoms — may inadvertently and innocently then infect someone else, who might infect someone who really could have a problem with a severe outcome.”
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield also had something to say on the matter. Speaking on the CNN show New Day Wednesday, she responded to a question about Rogan’s comments with a question of her own. “Did Joe Rogan become a medical doctor while we weren’t looking? 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.”
US public health officials believe the US needs 70% of its population to be vaccinated against COVID to create herd immunity. Young children make up the smallest percentage of Americans testing positive for the disease. But adults in the 18 to 29 range, which Rogan referred to, make up a significant amount of the COVID-19 cases the US — over 20% to be precise. Current advice from the World Health Organization states that COVID vaccines are safe and recommended for those 18 and over.
Rogan’s clip did the rounds on social media Tuesday, but the comments were actually made during an April 24 podcast recorded with libertarian comedian and political commentator Dave Smith.
Spotify, which hosted the podcast, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but in the past it has taken down content for spreading COVID-19 misinformation, most notably removing podcaster Pete Evans from the service.
Rogan’s comments are part of a long-standing cynicism toward scientifically established health advice regarding COVID-19. Rogan has questioned the use of masks and promoted the use ofas a COVID remedy on his show. He’s also regularly brought on guests to discuss the use of Vitamin D in helping ease COVID-19 symptoms. And he’s come under fire for lending his massive platform to people like extremist Alex Jones.
Most famously, comedian Bill Burr, jokingly shut down a discussion of masks when Rogan brought it up.
Many on Twitter criticized Rogan for promoting what is essentially an anti-vaccination message for many of his listeners, who skew young and male.
Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog that monitors and scrutinizes right-wing media outlets, also called out Rogan for promoting misinformation.
Rogan is one of the most influential podcast hosts in the world. His show is broadcast exclusively on Spotify and is the most popular podcast on the platform. He has frequently used his podcast to spread conspiracy theories, espouse dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, and attack trans people.