FACT CHECK: Did A Member of Biden’s COVID-19 Task Force Suggest Withholding Social Benefits From Those Who Refuse To Be Vaccinated?

Jonathan Fonti | Fact Check Reporter

A viral Instagram post claims a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force recommended withholding food stamps and rent assistance from people who refuse coronavirus vaccines.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that a member of the COVID-19 task force made such a recommendation. The post misrepresents recommendations that a working group, which includes a member of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, put forth in a July report.

Fact Check:

The image appears to show the headline of an article published on political commentator Alex Jones’ website InfoWars. The headline reads, “Joe Biden’s Covid-19 Taskforce Member Recommends Withholding Food Stamps, Rent Assistance From Those Who Refuse Vaccines.”

The article claims Dr. Luciana Borio, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, proposed that welfare benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and housing assistance should be withheld from anyone who refuses a coronavirus vaccination. There is, however, no evidence that Borio or any other member of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, has suggested such a thing.

Borio, along with other medical experts, worked on a report published in July titled, “The Public’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccination: Planning Recommendations Informed by Design Thinking and the Social, Behavioral, and Communication Sciences.” Check Your Fact reviewed the report in its entirety and found no mention of withholding of social services from people that refuse COVID-19 vaccinations. Rather, the report mentions exploring the idea of combining social welfare programs and vaccination programs to make a COVID-19 vaccination more accessible to already at-risk populations.

“Bundling services (eg, food security, rent assistance, free clinic services) that are already being provided to particularly vulnerable populations in the context of COVID (eg, older adults, low-income adults, Black and minority communities) could be a way to build trust and streamline vaccine provision,” the report states. (RELATED: Did Anthony Fauci Resign From The White House Coronavirus Task Force On July 13?)

Monica Schoch-Spana and Emily Brunson, the lead authors of the report, confirmed to Check Your Fact in an email that the headline shown in the Instagram post misrepresents the study, saying: “We support voluntary vaccination during the pandemic, once safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available. We argue that SARS-CoV-2 vaccines should NOT be mandated.”

“We recommend that one option to make vaccination more accessible, particularly to poor groups, is to provide vaccination at places where these individuals already go such as WIC clinics and food banks,” the authors explained in the emailed statement. “We support the provision of vaccinations alongside other services and goods that can help reduce the myriad burdens that the pandemic has placed upon individuals such as lost jobs, interrupted income, food insecurity, evictions, and foreclosures. We do NOT advocate that such social supports ever be withheld in connection with an individual’s vaccination status.”

Jonathan Fonti

Fact Check Reporter
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