Joni Ernst Sparks Backlash for Getting COVID Vaccine After Spreading Conspiracy

COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be doled out to politicians, but several lawmakers have come under criticism for being among the first to be immunized after previously downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Iowa GOP Senator Joni Ernst announced on Twitter that she received her first dose of the vaccine. Sharing a photo of the vaccination, she said she took it at the recommendation of the Office of the Attending Physician.

"I encourage all Iowans and Americans to do the same when their time comes. Thanks to #OperationWarpSpeed and the tireless work of Americans across the country, we are one step closer to defeating this virus," she tweeted.

She went on to encourage others to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to curb the spread of the virus.

However, some were quick to call Ernst out for getting vaccinated given that only a few months ago, the senator had spread a coronavirus conspiracy theory that doctors were falsifying COVID-19 deaths for money.

Joni Ernst
GOP Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa received the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday despite saying earlier she was "so skeptical" of the coronavirus mortality rate and suggesting health-care workers were faking the number of COVID deaths. Here she speaks during a news conference on December 15 in Washington, D.C. Pool

In September, Ernst seemed to embrace a thoroughly discredited QAnon conspiracy theory that only about six percent of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were due to the virus. President Donald Trump retweeted the debunked claim on Twitter before the social media giant removed the post for spreading misinformation about the virus.

During a question-and-answer period on her campaign trail, Ernst said she was "so skeptical" of the coronavirus mortality rate.

"They're thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19," the Republican senator said.

She went on to suggest that doctors were intentionally faking the number of deaths in order to receive more money for caring for the sick patient.

"These health-care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they're doing?" Ernst asked.

In a follow-up interview with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, she did not provide a specific source for her claims but said that it was "what I've heard."

How it started: How it’s going: pic.twitter.com/9yFXKyYNuR

— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) December 21, 2020

Other congressional lawmakers also began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Vice President Mike Pence and Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have also faced backlash for receiving the vaccine ahead of health-care workers and first responders.

The fact that Lindsey Graham & Marco Rubio got the vaccine before healthcare workers, first responders, & teachers is one of the most fucked up things I have seen today.

These assholes have done everything in their power to downplay this pandemic. pic.twitter.com/JAZ2JkUmyq

— Andrew Goss 👊USAF👊 (@Goss30Goss) December 19, 2020

Last week, health-care workers in Iowa were among the first in the nation to receive Pfizer's vaccine.

Iowa is expecting to receive 53,800 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine this week and another 19,500 doses next week, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Newsweek reached out to Ernst's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.