Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel issues apology for false COVID claim in MSNBC interview: ‘I misspoke’

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel issued an apology after claiming that unvaxxed children are at risk of contracting a “serious condition” from the omicron variant of the coronavirus during an MSNBC interview Wednesday.

“With the omicron variant, kids are either going to get the vaccine or they’re likely to get a serious condition of omicron,” Emanuel said on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “Having omicron with the vaccine is almost invariably going to be better and safer for children. I am confused about parents’ attitudes. Five and above seems like a no-brainer. Two to five, I understand some hesitancy. Two and under with the small dose, I think probably a very good idea.”

Critics, some of whom included media pundits and lawmakers, hit Emanuel for the comment. calling it “dangerous misinformation.” a “lie,” and “garbage.”

The former Biden transition COVID task force member tweeted Saturday that he “misspoke” on the matter but encouraged parents to still vaccinate their kids.

“I misspoke on live TV. Unvaxxed kids aren’t likely to get a “serious condition” of Omicron, but they’re more likely to contract a case of Omicron,” he wrote. “To be clear: parents should protect their kids against COVID-19 and get them vaccinated.”

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MSNBC also tweeted out an editor’s note stating that their post which quoted Emanuel had been removed after it was “discovered to include a misstatement.”

Reuters deployed a fact check to confirm the doctor had spread misinformation in his remarks that “kids are either going to get the vaccine, or they’re likely to get a serious condition of omicron.” 

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel speaks onstage at the Klick Health Ideas Exchange on June 15, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Klick Health)

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel speaks onstage at the Klick Health Ideas Exchange on June 15, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Klick Health)

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A spokesperson clarified in an email to Reuters that Emanuel meant to say “case of omicron” instead of “serious condition.” The representative said the overall point the doctor attempted to make is that “children are better off getting the COVID vaccine than getting COVID having not been vaccinated.”

According to a January report from Reuters, omicron has caused less severe disease in very young children than delta, and those infected had a 68% lower risk of needing intensive care.

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Meanwhile, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced at a press conference in early January that there had been no detection of severe omicron cases in young children at that time.

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