Shirkey spreads anti-vaccine misinformation, doctor says it’s ‘endangering Michiganders who trust him’

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey | Nick Manes

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is once again promoting misleading information about COVID-19, as the state’s top GOP official has done numerous times during the course of Michigan’s outbreak.

    On Tuesday, Shirkey wrote a tweet implying that individuals who were previously infected with COVID-19 are naturally immune, and therefore should not be “discriminat[ed]” against or coerced into getting vaccinated.

    His remarks are just the latest of many in the same vein over the past year. In addition to resisting a mask mandate for the state Senate from the start, opposing a statewide mandate and vigorously fighting against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, Shirkey has also made comments promoting the idea of “herd immunity” as a replacement for public health protocols before vaccines were approved.

    However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone — including those who have recovered from COVID-19 — receive a vaccination against the virus. Research is still being conducted on the duration of immunity after being vaccinated, and even less is known about immunity after contracting and recovering from COVID-19.

    Shirkey said he was infected with COVID-19 in December. He has not received a vaccine.

    “Our COVID-19 immunity should be the sum of those who choose to get shots PLUS those who have been infected and developed natural immunity,” Shirkey writes in the tweet. “There should be no discrimination or coercion of those with natural immunity. And no shaming either way.”

    Public health experts call out Shirkey’s comments on herd immunity 

    Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Health Care and an emergency physician in West Michigan, said Shirkey’s comments endanger public health.

    “As a doctor, it’s maddening to see Senate Majority Leader Shirkey spread even more misinformation online about COVID-19 vaccines and infections,” Davidson said.

    “To be clear, people who have been infected with COVID-19 should still be vaccinated, because immunity from infections varies, and we don’t know how long it lasts. Doctors are spending hours every week sharing this information with our patients to help keep them and those around them safer, while Shirkey uses his platform to undercut our work, further endangering Michiganders who trust him.”

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).