Becerra’s COVID Recommendation Not Supported by Agency Records

HHS Scientific Integrity Policy Might Have Been Discarded

August 8, 2023

(Washington, DC) – It took government watchdog Functional Government Initiative (FGI) eight months and a lawsuit for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to confirm that there was no scientific or academic basis supporting Secretary Xavier Becerra’s prescription for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots every two months. HHS ignored FGI’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for months until taken to court, and now says there are no documents or communications explaining the origin of the Secretary’s public health pronouncement.

On November 28, 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted, “One shot, once a year—that’s all most people will need to stay protected from COVID year-long. Make a plan to get your shot at” The next day, HHS Secretary Becerra tweeted, “An updated COVID vaccine can help protect you from the worst outcomes of COVID. If it’s been over 2 months since your last dose, make a plan to get one now.” Becerra repeated his two-month recommendation the following day in another tweet.

In an effort to understand why Secretary Becerra – a lawyer by training, not a physician – was calling for six times more booster shots than was Vice President Harris, FGI requested any documents or communications that would lay out the scientific basis for his recommendation and the discrepancy of messages from two of our government’s top-ranking officials. After taking the agency to court, HHS sent FGI its “final response” that it had no documents “relevant to your request.”

Considering the many concerns that surrounded and still surround COVID vaccine efficacy and safety, such confusion and unsubstantiated public health pronouncements raise serious questions about the administration’s approach to pandemic policy. The lack of supporting records for the Secretary’s controversial recommendation also raises more questions on whether federal officials are committed to grounding major public health recommendations in hard science and empirical evidence – even if they run counter to the Biden administration’s policy agenda.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The lack of a single record supporting Secretary Becerra’s bold public health recommendation for six COVID boosters a year is a startling development. It is tremendously irresponsible for the government’s chief health official to fire off tweets recommending frequent injections of a new vaccine booster apparently based on no academic or scientific support. How can the public be assured that the agency is ‘following the science’ on other important public health matters when it demonstrates such clear disregard for basic scientific integrity standards on an issue as important as COVID vaccine shots? Pandemics and vaccines are matters of life and death. Americans should be able to trust their leaders are not playing politics with their health.”