Last year, President Joe Biden made a special plea to residents in hurricane-prone states to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in advance of possible evacuations or shelter stays. Now, as Hurricane Ian approached Florida, social media posts recycled an old clip of his comments to misleadingly claim he thinks the vaccines will protect against the storm.
Last August, President Joe Biden encouraged Americans often affected by hurricanes to get their COVID-19 vaccinations to be better protected against the coronavirus if they had to be evacuated or stay in a shelter.
But as Hurricane Ian barreled toward Florida, social media posts were sharing an out-of-context clip of Biden’s 2021 remarks to incorrectly suggest he is proposing vaccination as a form of hurricane protection.
“The COVID vaccine will help with Hurricane Ian… according to Joe Biden,” reads a caption from a Sept. 27 Facebook post sharing the old clip. “Do you think he’s crazy? Let us know in the comments!”
Similar posts circulated last year with the same two-sentence clip of the president’s Aug. 10, 2021, remarks before a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing.
“Let me be clear: If you’re in a state where hurricanes often strike — like Florida or the Gulf Coast or into Texas — a vital part of preparing for hurricane season is to get vaccinated now,” the president said. “Everything is more complicated if you’re not vaccinated and a hurricane or a natural disaster hits.”
But as fact-checkers then explained, the selected clip omits context that makes Biden’s message clear.
“If you wind up having to evacuate, if you wind up having to stay in a shelter, you don’t want to add COVID-19 to the list of dangers that you’re going to be confronting,” Biden said in the following sentence.
Elsewhere during his remarks, the president noted that he was trying to avoid the compounded problem of dealing with COVID-19 during a natural disaster — not that vaccination was somehow going to prevent or protect against the storm.
“We can’t prevent hurricanes making landfall, but we can prevent people from getting seriously sick and dying from COVID-19,” he said. “Get vaccinated and make a plan.”
At the time, the U.S. was experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the highly transmissible delta variant, including in the hurricane-prone states Biden mentioned. The day before his remarks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a mitigation plan to deal with the rise in cases and hospitalizations in the state, which included asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures.
Although the new posts mock Biden by implying his comments were foolish, the president’s earlier advice is sound — and is still relevant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, states on its website that COVID-19 vaccination should be part of preparing for hurricane season.
“Staying up to date on vaccines makes it less likely that you will be sick with COVID-19 while sheltering or evacuating from a hurricane, and less likely to need medical services while hospitals are under strain from the natural disaster,” it explains.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
“Hurricane IAN Advisory Archive.” NOAA. Accessed 28 Sep 2022.
“Just in Time Preparedness for Hurricane Ian.” Press release. FEMA. 27 Sep 2022.
“Remarks by President Biden Before a Briefing from the FEMA Administrator, Homeland Security, and COVID-19 Response Teams.” Transcript. White House. 10 Aug 2021.
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“Preparing for a Hurricane or Tropical Storm.” National Center for Environmental Health. CDC. Last reviewed 8 Aug 2022.