As Idaho hospitals deal with having so many coronavirus patients that they now have the option of rationing health care, the newest member of the state's largest public health board, a doctor who has called COVID-19 vaccines "fake" and "needle rape," is settling in.
Ryan Cole, a pathologist in Boise, has replaced Dr. Ted Epperly on the Central District Board of Health. Epperly served on the board for 15 years, but was ousted because he supports taking public health measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Cole, who was backed by the Ada County Republican Party, was chosen by the Republican county commissioners, who said they liked his "outsider" perspective and how he "questioned" medical guidance, The Washington Post reports. The sole Democratic commissioner objected to Cole's appointment.
Cole has spent much of the pandemic on the right-wing media circuit downplaying the virus and touting unproven treatments for it, like the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin. During an event this summer in San Antonio, he called the coronavirus vaccine "fake" and "needle rape," later telling KTVB it was a "tongue-in-cheek" comment.
Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States, with just 40 percent of residents fully vaccinated, and the state is seeing a surge in new infections and hospitalizations. The Idaho Medical Association released a statement last week saying by choosing Cole, the commissioners "favored politics over public health" and Cole's claims about the coronavirus and vaccine "do not align with the Idaho standards of care." Epperly told the Post that watching "my state implode over political decisions that have adverse consequences on health is horrifying to me. ... That's the tragedy that I'm watching unfold."