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Did Joe Rogan Prolong the Pandemic?

At the end of April, Spotify podcast host Joe Rogan suggested to his 122,000+ monthly listeners that young healthy people should skip the COVID-19 vaccine. He said, “People say, do you think it’s safe to get vaccinated? I’ve said, yeah, I think for the most part it’s safe to get vaccinated. I do. I do. But if you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go no. Are you healthy? Are you a healthy person?”

Rogan’s comments come as recent reports show that the number of younger people becoming infected with COVID-19 is rising. According to CDC, as of April 21, “266 deaths of people between the ages of 0 and 17 have involved COVID-19 and more than 3.7 million children have been diagnosed with the illness.” Late last week, an ABC news report revealed data from CDC that show the COVID-19 burden is shifting to younger Americans with the older generation vaccinated. For the first time, patients between the ages of 18 and 64 now account for the largest cohort of the 37,000 total patients currently hospitalized with the virus. According to researchers, Rogan’s audience is 71% male and evenly split between high school and post-secondary graduates. The average age of his listeners was 24.

Rogan’s comments even drew criticism from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who responded that folks who choose not to get the vaccine “are propagating the outbreak,” given they are “inadvertently and innocently” getting infected, and then spreading the virus to others who might be at severe risk from COVID-19 symptoms.

Acknowledging the controversy, Rogan went on the following week’s episode and addressed that he is not an “anti-vaxxer”. He also stated that he should not be listened to as a source of scientific information: “I’m not a doctor…  I’m a cage-fighting commentator who’s a dirty stand-up comedian.” He continued, “I’m not a respected source of information, even for me.”

The Joe Rogan Experience is one of Spotify’s most popular podcasts and is downloaded millions of times each week. With his 7.2M followers on Twitter and 12.5M on Instagram, Joe Rogan clearly has the ability to influence millions of young, mostly male, people with his views. Even though he walked back his comments, it will be difficult to quantify how many people will now choose not to get vaccinated. Once doubt has been instilled within the minds of this important demographic, it will be very difficult to persuade people otherwise and further complicate the task of building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination program.

Getting adolescents and young adults vaccinated is crucial if we are to reach herd immunity. Using data to craft and deploy pinpoint messaging that resonates with this key demographic is essential if we are to persuade as many of them as possible to get the vaccine.

Want the latest insights on COVID-19? To find out how AM TRACE can help you with vaccine messaging strategies, vaccine management and distribution, testing coordination, and contract tracing, contact Dr. Chris Orlea, Chief Experience Officer at c.orlea@am-trace.co  

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