The loose rules of the Paycheck Protection Program made it possible for virtually any small business or business in America to qualify for a government-sponsored auxiliary loan. Frustrated citizens and activist groups have criticized thousands of recipients who they deemed unworthy, including wealthy lawyers, politicians and political lobbyists, public companies and companies under government investigation.
Now the federal loan program has sparked criticism of loans being given to organizations that have questioned the safety of vaccines.
Six organizations claiming scientists received more than $ 1.1 million in total misappropriated Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to data from the Small Business Administration, which manages the program. The data was released last month following a court order in response to a lawsuit by the New York Times and other news organizations.
The groups that have received the loans are Children’s Health Defense, an organization founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; the network for informed consent actions; the National Vaccine Information Center; Mercola.com Health Resources and Mercola Consulting Services, both linked to well-known vaccine skeptic Joseph Mercola; and Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, a medical practice owned by Sherri Tenpenny, a doctor and author whose books include “Saying No to Vaccines: A Guide for All Ages”.
The loans, which were granted by banks and backed by the government to stave off the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, ranged from $ 72,500 to Dr. Tenpenny up to $ 335,000 to Mercola.com.
The loans do not appear to be in violation of Small Business Administration regulations: Paycheck Protection Program loans were available to any small business or nonprofit (usually with 500 or fewer employees) that certified “the current economic uncertainty” raised this loan request in support of their continuing operations. Small Business Association representatives did not answer questions about the loans.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based advocacy group, exposed the loans, and the Washington Post first reported on it.
“There’s an anomaly here,” said Imran Ahmed, the group’s executive director. “The PPP was needed to deal with the economic shock of Covid and the anti-Vaxxers are fundamentally inhibiting our ability to defeat and get over Covid.”
Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccination Information Center in Sterling, Virginia, said via email that her group applied for the loan “when it was discovered that bans and social distancing restrictions directly threatened the job security of some of our employees and put others at risk Renting out our headquarters in Virginia. “The group used the loan to keep their 21 workers, she said.
Ms. Fisher denied the idea that her group is against vaccines. The organization “does not make recommendations about vaccine use and encourages everyone to read up on the risks and complications of infectious diseases and vaccines,” she said.
Answers to your vaccine questions
If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine?
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.
When can I get back to normal life after vaccination?
Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible that people spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Scientists don’t yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.
Do I still have to wear a mask after the vaccination?
Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without experiencing a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.
Will it hurt What are the side effects?
The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that people will have to plan to take a day off or go to school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system’s encounter with the vaccine and a strong response that ensures lasting immunity.
Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?
No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given point in time, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.
Del Bigtree, founder of the Informed Consent Action Network, also declined to be called anti-vaccination, saying his group opposes “the distribution of products that have not been properly tested for safety”. He did not consider the Covid-19 vaccines to be safe, he said.
The loan enabled his organization near Austin, Texas to retain 10 jobs, he said.
“We used the loan as it was designed,” said Bigtree.
According to Dani Lever, a Facebook spokeswoman, several groups have been fined by Facebook for making misleading claims.
One of Dr. Tenpenny-operated site was removed in December for violating the site’s misinformation policy, Ms. Lever said. The National Vaccine Information Center and Child Health Defense are excluded from advertising on Facebook. Both groups’ pages, as well as the Facebook page for the Informed Consent Action Network, have been removed from Facebook’s algorithmic recommendation system, reducing their visibility on the website.
The Paycheck Protection Program distributed $ 523 billion to more than five million small businesses from April through August to help them endure the stalemate and other economic shocks caused by the pandemic. As long as the recipients use most of the money to pay the workers and adhere to other rules, the loans can be fully extended and repaid by the US government.
Congress recently allocated $ 284 billion to restart the program, and hard-hit organizations – those whose sales have fallen at least 25 percent since the pandemic started – are eligible for a second loan. Ms. Fisher said her group has no intention of applying for another loan.
Mr Bigtree said he had no plans to reapply either. “Our donor base has grown much stronger as a result,” he said, referring to the pandemic.
The four other organizations that received paycheck protection grants did not answer questions about their loans.
Two of the groups got loans very early in the program when funding was limited and vulnerable small businesses struggled to break through queues that often gave priority to wealthy and well-connected applicants.
Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center received a loan from KeyBank on April 11, and the National Vaccine Information Center received a loan four days later from the Northwest Federal Credit Union. None of the lenders responded to a request for comment.
Ahmed’s group recently released a report on an online meeting in October organized by the National Vaccination Information Center to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate report, speakers including Kennedy and Dr. Tenpenny, the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to increase the number of vaccine skeptics.
Such efforts come because the United States government is working to convince doubters that vaccines against the coronavirus are safe and effective. Some frontline workers in hospitals and nursing homes have declined to be vaccinated.
Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program as part of the CARES Act in late March. The program rules were hastily drafted and frequently revised, and the relief efforts received heavy criticism from lawmakers and others for distributing money unevenly and unfairly in ways that did not target the most needy beneficiaries.
In May, JPMorgan Chase granted loans to three of its vaccine critics – Children’s Health Defense, the Informed Consent Action Network, and Mercola.com. A bank spokeswoman declined to comment on the loans. Another lender, PNC, declined to comment on its loan to Mercola Consulting Services in late April.