Philly City Council becomes hotbed of anti-vaccination, masking misinformation

A small group of anti-vaccination protesters gather outside of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on September 01, 2021 in New York City.
A small group of anti-vaccination protesters gather outside of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on September 01, 2021 in New York City. Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council’s public comment period is one of its most popular features – anyone can say anything about a bill that’s on final passage so long as they follow one rule: public comments must concern legislation.

But people can get around that rule by mentioning a bill then spending the rest of their three minutes on any topic.

That’s how Lynn Landis started showing up every week dispensing false information about the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines that have been debunked.

“I support resolution 210913 but today I’m here to talk about vaccines,” Landis said.

“Enormous damage of untold proportion has already been done by these experimental vaccines. … Adults and children alike are still using toxic hand sanitizer and unhealthy masks.”

She’s been saying things like this for months and, this week, a second person joined in the bait and switch –  mentioning a bill, then denouncing COVID-19 vaccines.

He got hoots of approval from spectators in the council chamber, an unusual turn of events for a city council that once worked hard to overcome vaccine skepticism.

City council championed mass clinics for COVID-19 vaccines. They even still require masks and social distancing at meetings.

But, because of this loophole, they’ve become the unlikely venue for people to spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and related matters.

And no one on council ever tries to correct the information.

Council President Darrell Clarke says they have a right to express their beliefs and he doesn’t want to interfere with or debate them.

Dan Romer, research director at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which fights to debunk vaccine misinformation, says to have misinformation now spreading in a forum that’s broadcast online and on cable is unfortunate.

“The fact that there are still people promoting these kinds of beliefs is unfortunate and doing it in a public venue like city council means a lot of people are going to hear it,” he said.

An estimated 5,000 people watch online and more tune in on cable. And council’s only response after each diatribe is always: “Thank you for your testimony.”

Romer says the number of people who do believe the misinformation has declined, which has been helpful because as people stop believing they more are likely to get vaccinated.

“One is much better off being vaccinated than not, no matter what,” Romer said.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images