Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Rabine said during a recent interview with WCIA-TV’s Capitol Connection that getting the COVID-19 vaccine should be a matter of personal freedom.
Rabine, a business owner from Bull Valley who’s seeking the 2022 GOP nomination for Illinois governor, made clear his opposition to COVID-19 vaccine requirements, either by employers or schools, as Illinois and the country see a rise in COVID-19 cases because of the delta variant.
“I don’t think businesses should be allowed to do that, I don’t think education systems should be allowed to do that, I feel that’s against the rights of a person,” Rabine told WCIA’s Mark Maxwell on Sunday.
Rabine said he is not against vaccines and has “taken many vaccines” himself. But, Rabine said, vaccine requirements, which some universities have announced for their students and staff, are “not in the best interest of health.”
In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that vaccine mandates are legal when in the best interest of public health. The nation’s high court also ruled in 1922 in Zucht v. King that vaccine mandates for schools are also legal.
Rabine’s spokesman Travis Akin said in a phone interview later that Rabine wants individuals to be able to make their own choices, noting people still wear a mask in public now even though there is no requirement. He said Rabine wants the government, schools, and private businesses to be less restrictive toward people on the issue.
“Where Gary lands is that just because you have the right to do it doesn’t mean you should,” Akin said. “People should be allowed to make their own choices.”
Rabine’s comments come as the delta variant makes up more than 80% of all COVID-19 cases in the country, fueling rises in deaths and hospitalizations from the more severe COVID-19 variant.
The variant’s rapid spread comes as the rate of new vaccinations have slowed to a crawl. In Illinois, the percentage of people older than age 16 who have been vaccinated has barely risen by one percentage point since July 14, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, Rabine said that he advises people “if they feel their health and that of their family and their community requires vaccination, it’s a free country, go get it.” He said that if people “feel that’s not in their safety, that it’s not good for their health, it’s a free county they should not have to take it.”
Rabine was asked about the high percentage of deaths that have occurred nationwide recently among people who were unvaccinated and whether their deaths were preventable had they been inoculated.
“I can’t tell you if they are. All I can tell you is the stuff, the data I’m getting, shows that there’s been anywhere from 5,900 deaths attributed to this to 8,000, right? What the real number is, I don’t know,” Rabine said.
When asked whether he was suggesting that the vaccine was killing people, Rabine said, “I’m suggesting that after taking the vaccine, within a short period of time, people died for no other reason that they can say.”
There have been more than 6,000 reports of death of people who received the vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the agency says the “FDA requires health care providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to [the] Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”
All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. have received emergency use approval from the FDA. The vaccines still are working toward full FDA approval, but the emergency use authorization allows the vaccine to be distributed to the public faster.
“Gary’s position is the more information the better,” Akin later told the Northwest Herald. “What I kind of walk back is we’re not saying they definitely died, we’re just saying they could have and we should look into it.”
The FDA did review and pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after adverse reactions were reported before determining it was safe to resume the company’s shots.
“Gary isn’t advocating people shouldn’t be vaccinated,” Akin said. “Any of the arguments he has where it sounds like he’s in the anti-vaccine camp should be taken into context of reasons why we shouldn’t have vaccine mandates.”
According to a poll by The Associated Press, distrust of the vaccine is behind the slow rate of vaccinations. The poll found 80% of those who have not been vaccinated will not or most likely will not get the vaccine, while 64% of those who are not vaccinated are not confident in the vaccine’s abilities.
Rabine also criticized Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s handling of the pandemic. He said the governor should have considered more sides before making decisions that shut down large portions of the economy.
Pritzker has begun his bid for a second term by highlighting his leadership during the pandemic, arguing he made the best decisions to keep people alive.
“I may not have gotten every decision right, but at every step along the way I followed the science and focused on protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said in a video announcing his reelection campaign.
Rabine faces a June 28 primary next year ahead of the Nov. 8, 2022 election. State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, also are seeking the Republican nomination. More candidates could join the race in the coming months.