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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 19, 2022

Attack that calls GOP House member a socialist is wrong that a bill would create a tracking database

If Your Time is short

  • The bill would give federal money to state and local governments to improve data sharing they already do. It would not create a national vaccination database.

The time-honored campaign tactic of tarnishing a candidate as a socialist is being deployed again early in the new year — but this time one of the targets is a Republican.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, who is running in 2022 for a second term, has been branded a socialist in several Facebook ads by the conservative America First Political Committee.

The former Miami-Dade County mayor has a "sorid (sic) socialist record," one of the ads states, and "he wants a national database to track you and discriminate against you."

The ad cites Gimenez’s vote for H.R. 550, alleging the bill would "greenlight the development of a federal vaccination registry, aka database."

We found no evidence it would do that.

The House on Nov. 30 voted 294-130 to approve H.R. 550, the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act. No action has been taken in the Senate.

The bill would authorize $400 million in grants to state and local health departments to update their computer databases of immunization records — not create a database or registry. 

It would direct the federal Health and Human Services Department to "improve data sharing and other aspects of immunization information systems. These are confidential, population-based databases that maintain a record of vaccine administrations," according to a Congress.gov summary.

Multiple experts said the post’s characterization of the bill is inaccurate.

Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics and co-director of Case Western Reserve University’s Law-Medicine Center, said the aim is to improve the existing databases’ accuracy and ability to exchange information; support the administration of vaccines; and require a report that assesses immunization access in medically underserved, rural and frontier areas.

Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, agreed that the bill would not create a federal database. The vaccine data systems at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "are weak, and this legislation would help upgrade the agency's collection and sharing of data," he added.

Dr. Joseph Kannry, chair of the Public Policy Committee of the American Medical Informatics Association, said the bill "would allow doctors to assess how much of the population is at risk during any pandemic, including potential future outbreaks. It could ensure equity of distribution of vaccines and other resources."

Asked for information to back its claim, the America First Political Committee sent us a statement from Dec. 7 that repeated its claim, among others about Gimenez.

Gimenez’s House office and campaign did not reply to our requests for comment.

Thomas Miller, a senior fellow in health care policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that the bill, "in earlier times, would seem like the typical effort to facilitate better immunization-related health data — not an unusual objective, given its current limited state."

"This legislation and reactions to it illustrate our more overheated and polarized reactions to many changes in national data reporting and development during the pandemic era. Much of this could be considered a necessary updating of poorly performing health data standards and processes, assuming one allows a limited amount of good faith presumptions on the part of federal health administrators and regulators. 

"Of course, if one mostly fears the worst, any change presents a threat."

So far in 2022, the "socialist" attack line has been leveled against Democrats in races in Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota and Kentucky.

The ads were paid for by the campaigns of Republican Reps. Drew Ferguson of Georgia and Pete Stauber of Minnesota; and the campaign of GOP House candidate Kalena Bruce of Missouri; and by the Kentucky Freedom PAC against Charles Booker, a Democrat running for the seat held by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Our ruling

The Facebook ad said Gimenez "wants a national database to track you and discriminate against you."

We found no evidence to back the attack on Gimenez. We rate it False.

Our Sources

Facebook, America First ad ID: 303826958356478, Jan. 10, 2022

Email, America First Political Committee’s KW Miller, Jan. 13, 2022

PRNewswire.com, America First Political Committee news release, Dec. 7, 2021

Email, Dr. Joseph Kannry, chair of the Public Policy Committee of the American Medical Informatics Association, Jan. 14, 2022

Email, Lawrence Gostin, founding O'Neill chair in global health law; faculty director, O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, Jan. 14, 2022

Email, Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Jan. 14, 2022

Email, Jennifer King, privacy and data policy fellow, Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, Jan. 14, 2022

Congress.gov, "H.R.550 - Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2021," accessed Jan. 12, 2022

Congress.gov, H.R.550 House Energy and Commerce Committee report, Nov. 30, 2021

Govtrack.us, "H.R. 550: Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2021," accessed Jan. 14, 2022

Email, Thomas Miller, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow in health care policy, Jan. 14, 2022

Email, Jen Fox, communications director, Rep. Annie Kuster, Jan. 14, 2022

Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, "Roll Call 388 | Bill Number: H. R. 550," Nov. 30, 2021

Facebook, Kentucky Freedom PAC Charles Booker ad ID: 1677455052593929, Jan. 11, 2022

Facebook, Kalena Bruce for Congress "Socialism is here" ad, ID: 609463700125210, Jan. 10, 2022

Facebook, Pete Stauber for Congress, "The radical left agenda will destroy our way of life" ad, ID: 496677398491122, Jan. 10, 2022

Facebook, Drew Ferguson for Congress "Leading the fight" ad ID: 972755080260189, Jan. 10, 2022

Republicans Energy and Commerce Committee, "H.R. 550: No, Republicans did not vote for a ‘vaccine database.’ You’ve been lied to," Dec. 6, 2021

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