Joe Rogan is many things: a comedian, a wildly popular podcast host, an announcer of UFC fights and the voice and inspiration for a character in a UFC-themed video game. One thing Rogan is not is an infectious disease expert — or expert in any field of medicine for that matter.
But that didn’t stop him from spreading absolutely baseless theories about the Covid-19 vaccine on a recent episode of his podcast.
Was Rogan discussing the issue with an actual medical doctor who could correct Rogan’s fact-free comments? Nope; he was discussing the topic with a fellow comedian.
The 53-year-old Rogan irresponsibly told his legion of listeners on Friday's episode of his show, “If you're like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I'll go, no.”
As if offering a learned medical opinion, he then added, “Are you a healthy person? ... If you're a healthy person, and you're exercising all the time, and you're young, and you’re eating well, like, I don't think you need to worry about this.”
Was Rogan discussing the issue with an actual medical doctor who could correct Rogan’s fact-free comments? Nope; he was discussing the topic with a fellow comedian, who responded, “Yeah, I tend to agree with you.” Oh great, a second opinion on a life-or-death medical issue from a comedian.
To be fair, Rogan did say, “I think you should get vaccinated if you're vulnerable,” during this exchange, adding, “I think for the most part it's safe to get vaccinated. I do.” But that shred of reason was obliterated when “Dr. Rogan” served up his dangerous misinformation.
Young people — as the reports and data tell us — can in fact contract Covid-19, become ill and even die from the virus, even when they don’t have pre-existing conditions. Just ask the parents of Cody Lyster, whose father told Insider that his son “was a perfectly healthy, 21-year-old college athlete who did all the things he should to stay healthy.” When Lyster contracted Covid-19 last year, he quickly developed a cough and high fever and had to be hospitalized. He died nine days later in the hospital, without his parents at his side due to Covid-19 restrictions.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does note that older Americans have a greater chance of dying than people in their 20s, last summer more than 20 percent of Covid-19 cases were people under 30 years old. One study of over 3,000 younger people, ages 18 to 34, who were hospitalized with Covid-19 last year found that 21 percent ended up in intensive care and nearly 3 percent died. In the fall, CDC counts showed that at least 2,100 people ages 15 to 34 had died from Covid-19, ABC News reported at the time.
The spike in Covid-19 cases we’re currently seeing in the Midwest is being driven by younger people, the very type of people who listen to Rogan’s podcast. And of course, young Black and Hispanic listeners are more at risk than their white counterparts given our society’s long-standing racial health inequities.
Beyond whether a younger person will have complications or not from the virus, they can still transmit Covid-19 to others who are more likely to suffer serious consequences or die from it. In fact, in the fall a CDC report found that rises in cases our nation experienced over the summer were likely driven by younger people who then spread the virus to older Americans who were more at risk, as the agency made a plea to people in their 20s to be more responsible.
This is not the first time Rogan has spewed dangerous comments when it comes to the pandemic. In June, when we only had masks and social distancing to protect us from the virus, Rogan stated on his show that wearing masks was for “b-----.” Thankfully, on the show that day was comedian Bill Burr, who wasn’t having any of it. Burr pushed back immediately and told Rogan, “I’m not gonna sit here with no medical degree, listening to you with no medical degree, with an American flag behind you smoking a cigar, acting like we know what’s up, better than the CDC.”
The truth is, you shouldn’t listen to Rogan, me or even to the president when it comes to medical advice. Listen to the doctors. In the case of President Joe Biden, thankfully, the information he shares regarding Covid-19 is based on the science, as opposed to the last guy in the White House, who — like Rogan — freely shared his personal feelings about the deadly pandemic.
The truth is, you shouldn’t listen to Rogan, me or even to the president when it comes to medical advice. Listen to the doctors.
If you have questions about the vaccines and are debating whether to get vaccinated, please talk to your doctor or a health care professional. Ask them all your questions. I did that very thing, and after my conversation with my doctor — who addressed all my concerns — I am now fully vaccinated and very glad I am.
This doesn’t mean Rogan shouldn’t ask questions about the vaccine on air — that might even be educational for his audience. But at least invite an infectious disease expert on the show who can answer those questions so the audience can hear correct information.
With a massive podcast following, his UFC fame and over 12 million Instagram followers, Rogan is no mid-level comedian. He owes it to his fans to give them the truth, and nothing but the truth, about the vaccine — not share misinformed hunches that could result in people literally dying.