ATLANTA — In a podcast episode of the Erick Erickson Show uploaded this week, Gov. Brian Kemp stated his belief that people need to be educated on the COVID-19 vaccine instead of being mandated or bullied into taking it.
“That is basically how the AIDS vaccine worked. People wouldn’t take it early on because it was mandated, they started educating people and now it is doing a lot of good out there," Kemp told Erickson. "Same scenario, different year that we are dealing with right now.”
It was not the first time the governor made reference to an AIDS vaccine, which does not exist.
Is there an AIDS vaccine, and was it ever mandated?
- HIV.gov, via the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
- Gov. Brian Kemp's public statements
- The Governor's Office
- National Conference of State Legislatures
According to HIV.gov - a website maintained by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services - there currently is no vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
On the basic matter of there being an AIDS vaccine, which the governor has referenced at least two other times publicly, Kemp's statements are false.
However, there is additional context.
The governor's office said he meant to reference the HPV vaccine, which protects against human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection which can cause cervical cancer .
In a small number of states, it is mandated for public school attendance.
WHAT WE FOUND
The governor has made references to an AIDS vaccine on at least two other occasions.
On Sept. 4, 2020, Kemp held a press conference ahead of Labor Day weekend to discuss the spread of COVID-19, and he mentioned why he didn't believe a statewide mask mandate would work.
He referenced discussing mandates with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“Dr. Toomey and I have talked about this," Kemp said. "She has said when you look back at trying to mandate somebody taking the AIDS vaccine, it doesn’t work.”
Kemp's office confirmed Dr. Toomey had referenced the HPV vaccine, not an AIDS vaccine.
WFXG in Augusta quoted Kemp during a visit in July to south Georgia as he again discussed mask mandates and said there won't be a statewide mandate.
WFXG quoted Kemp stating, "Well we are not going to have a statewide mask mandate. Dr. Toomey and I believe that they do not work. They did not work with the AIDs vaccine and they're not going to work with the corona vaccine."
11Alive contacted Gov. Kemp's office Friday for clarification on whether he meant to reference an AIDS vaccine.
A spokeswoman for his office wrote, "The Governor was referring to people’s initial reaction when the HPV vaccine was made available. There was skepticism when it was first rolled out, but with more education about the benefits of the vaccine and as more people talked to their doctor, vaccination rates increased. His point, that we need to continue to educate about the benefits of the vaccine and that the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine should be a decision between people and a trusted medical provider, is what’s important."
As for an HPV vaccine mandate, three states - Virginia, Rhode Island, and Hawaii - as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico require HPV vaccination for public school attendance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
When the vaccine first became available in 2006, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended it for boys aged 11-12. Whether to require it became a subject of debate in states and school districts.
The National Conference of State Legislatures explains:
"Some stakeholders who support access to the vaccine do not support a school mandate, citing concerns about the drug's cost, safety and parents' rights to refuse. Others may have moral objections related to a vaccination mandate for a sexually transmitted infection. Financing is another concern. If states make HPV vaccination mandatory, they must also address funding issues, including Medicaid and CHIP coverage, youth who are uninsured and whether to require coverage by insurance plans."
According to a 2019 CDC teen immunization survey, the three states that require the vaccine in schools rank first (Rhode Island), fifth (Hawaii) and 24th (Virginia) in HPV vaccination rate. Washington D.C.'s rate of 75.5% would place it third, and data was not available for Puerto Rico.