The video is over a year old and has been clipped out of context to make it seem like Biden is asking people to get vaccinated ahead of Hurricane Ian.
A 21-second clip of U.S. President Joe Biden seemingly telling people to take the COVID vaccine to be prepared for hurricanes is doing the rounds as many suffer from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian that hit Florida on September 28. Several people shared the clip on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the context that this was President Biden's advice to people ahead of the hurricane's imminent landfall in Florida. The captions on several posts also poked fun at the president and his seemingly “illogical” policies.
We found that while Biden had actually made those comments, they were not made in reference to Hurricane Ian. Biden had made those comments at a press conference held over a year ago in August 2021. Further, crucial bits of the video which lent more context to Biden's remarks have been edited out in the viral clip, making it possible to use the clip to target the president.
We had noted that the backdrop of the video seemed like that from one of the president's press briefings. Keeping this in mind, we ran a Google search with related keywords and came across an article from August 2021 by U.S-based news organization Axios, which reported on Biden's comments. According to the report dated August 11, the White House had urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to prepare for hurricane season in case they had to evacuate. The Axios report also mentioned that the statement was made in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida at the time. Further, Axios also reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which deals with natural disasters, among other things, had included COVID-19 in its planning document.
Next, another keyword search led us to the original press briefing by President Biden. The briefing was published on The White House's official YouTube handle on August 11, 2021. According to the title of the video, it showed President Biden's remarks ahead of a briefing from the FEMA Administrator, Homeland Security, and COVID-19 Response Teams. In the video which is over 3-minute long, recorded against the same backdrop as the viral clip, Biden speaks about how the hurricane season was approaching even as the Delta variant spread rapidly among the unvaccinated across the U.S. "We need to be ready to manage our natural disasters caused by hurricanes hitting the Southeast and the environment and with a broad community spread of COVID-19," Biden said in the video, before going on to give details of the rising COVID-19 crisis. "With the Delta variant, we’re seeing a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Cases and hospitalizations are rising faster in states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, which are the states that — from a hurricane-prone — they’re the states that are most at risk," Biden said, adding that people should not wait until it is too late to be protected from COVID-19 if a natural disaster strikes.
Right after this, at the 1:38 timestamp in the White House briefing video, we found the same remarks made by Biden that were shared in the viral clip. However, since the clip is only 21-second long, it also leaves out Biden's crucial remarks after the 2-line bit captured: "If you wind up having to evacuate, if you wind up having to stay in a shelter, you don't want to add COVID-19 to the list of dangers that you're going to be confronting." Further, after speaking about the need for vaccination, Biden also details measures directly related to hurricane-preparedness, such as knowing evacuation zones, having a plan, keeping emergency supplies and a go-bag ready, and checking in with older people.
We also found a White House readout of Biden's meeting on hurricane-preparedness amid the pandemic from August 10, 2021, which said that he had been briefed on data that shows that the most important preparatory step for people in peak hurricane season is vaccination, which will ensure protection from COVID-19 in case of a need for evacuation.
Therefore, it is clear that the viral video is not only old but has also been clipped out of the longer video, leaving out crucial parts of Biden's remarks, which made it clear that he was talking about hurricane-preparedness amid a rising threat of COVID-19. Passages, where he spoke about rising cases in several hurricane-prone states and avoiding COVID in community shelters by being vaccinated, have been left out completely. We also found a readout of the same briefing, published by The White House, that corroborated all the comments by Biden in the original video.
According to an article by Reuters from August 6, 2021, daily COVID-19 cases had reached a six-month high at the time, amid the spread of the Delta variant. The report, from days before Biden's briefing, said that Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi were the seven states that accounted for half of the country's new cases and hospitalizations in the previous week. It may be noted here that Biden was talking specifically about five of these very states, with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.
Further, Biden is not the only authority in the U.S. to urge being vaccinated in the face of hurricanes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), staying up-to-date on COVID vaccines is one step in hurricane-preparedness. "Staying up to date on vaccines makes it less likely that you will be sick with COVID-19 while sheltering or evacuating from a hurricane and less likely to need medical services while hospitals are under strain from the natural disaster," the CDC's page on 'Hurricanes and COVID-19' states.
We also checked a White House release on President Biden's remarks ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Ian and found no mention of any advice to people to get vaccinated prior to it. Instead, Biden spoke about having approved Florida's request for emergency assistance, the actions taken by FEMA to protect and help citizens, and advised people to obey the instructions of local officials. The COVID-19 situation in Florida has also changed since Biden's briefing in August 2021: according to The New York Times' tracker, cases have been falling since July 15, with September 28, 2022 seeing 1,975 new cases. This number, compared to some 21,683 cases registered on August 2, 2021, sheds more light on why Biden felt the need to speak about COVID vaccination last year.
According to The Associated Press, Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, is one of the most powerful cyclones to have hit the U.S. It left homes on the coasts of Florida flooded, a barrier island without road access, and a historic waterfront pier destroyed before it headed to South Carolina. Meanwhile, four people were killed, and nearly 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues have been conducted.
An old video of U.S. President Joe Biden from August 2021 talking about hurricane preparedness in states seeing a rise in COVID cases and advising vaccination is being shared in the context of Hurricane Ian. The video has been edited to remove the context of rising COVID-19 cases to poke fun at Biden. The president's remarks have no connection to Hurricane Ian. We have therefore marked this claim misleading.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.