Rep. Matt Gaetz told OAN that getting COVID-19 provides the best protection against catching it.
Data shows that unvaccinated people are more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people.
Critics slammed Gaetz's comments, with one doctor saying: "His words are killing people."
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has been criticized after he cast doubt on the need for COVID-19 vaccines, saying that contracting the virus gives the best protection against it.
"The best vaccine we've found is mother nature's vaccine. It's contracting the virus," Gaetz told the far-right One America News Network. "That is what has provided the greatest protection, the most durable protection, over the longest period of time."
The interview was first aired in November, but was reshared on Twitter by the journalist Aaron Rupar on Saturday.
Medical professionals have since slammed Gaetz's comments.
"His words are killing people," Dr. Rob Davidson, the executive chairman of the Committee to Protect Health Care, tweeted Saturday.
Holden Thorp, a professor of chemistry and medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, tweeted: "Matt Gaetz is not an immunologist. #misinformation."
And Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, tweeted: "'Mother Nature' — incredibly dangerous and reckless advice."
The CNN White House correspondent Phil Mattingly also called Gaetz's claim "dangerous."
"Since the vaccines became widely available, the rate of dying from COVID is 50% higher in red states, than in blue states," he told the network "For the Record" show on Sunday, referring to a NPR study published Sunday.
"Even on the most base cynical level you would think that these Republican politicians would want to keep their constituents, their voters, alive."
While Gaetz was criticized for discouraging vaccine uptake, in general, antibodies generated by the body after contracting any COVID-19 for the first time provide a strong defense against catching it a second time.
However, vaccinations greatly reduce the risk of catching or falling severely ill from viruses like COVID-19 in the first place.
There is also no indication that natural immunity outperforms immunity from vaccines in the case of COVID-19 to date, contrary to Gaetz's comments.
Data published in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that unvaccinated people are 11 times more at risk of death from the Delta coronavirus variant than those who are vaccinated.
It is not yet known how the current COVID-19 vaccines work against the Omicron variant of the virus, which is currently spreading across the world. However, vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, and the CDC has urged people to get vaccinated or get their booster shots in the wake of Omicron's spread.
When reached for comment, a representative for Gaetz emailed a tweet from the congressman, which cited Insider's email, that said: "Natural infection immunity remains the strongest immunity from COVID on Earth. Natural immunity deniers are either Big Pharma, corrupted by Big Pharma, or funded by the advertisements of Big Pharma."
As of last Friday, COVID-19 has killed more than 784,000 people in the US, according to the CDC. As of the same day, 59.9% of the US has been fully vaccinated.
Gaetz, who has not disclosed publicly whether he is vaccinated, has previously expressed support for vaccines in some cases.
"There are people like my own parents, who, for them, they're a little older, they've got other complicated medical conditions and it was the smart decision for them and for people in that circumstance where it makes sense," he said during an August episode of his podcast, "Firebrand with Matt Gaetz."
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