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Sen. Johnson to host event for people claiming severe side effects of COVID-19 vaccine

MADISON (WKOW) -- Senator Ron Johnson again has rankled the public health community. He's planning to host a press conference Monday in Milwaukee where he'll give a platform to six women who say they've suffered severe side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

One of the people expected to share their story is Sheryl Ruettgers, whose husband, Ken, was a longtime offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers.

According to Johnson's office, Ruettgers suffered "severe neurological reactions" after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, including muscle pain, numbness, and weakness.

Public health officials have maintained serious side effects to the vaccine are extremely rare. At the same time, they point to the plunge in new COVID-19 cases as proof of the vaccine's extreme effectiveness.

Johnson's event prompted Governor Tony Evers to call the senator "reckless and irresponsible" Friday.

Johnson previously frustrated public health officials by questioning the push for widespread vaccination and suggesting masks do not help prevent the virus from spreading.

Johnson responded to Evers' criticism by saying he's glad millions of Americans have been vaccinated but that he wants people who say they've been harmed by the vaccine to be heard too.

Andrew Hitt, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said he believed Johnson was acting in good faith.

"[Johnson is] very passionate about making sure Wisconsinites have not only information but are really in a position to do what's best for their family," Hitt said. "And so he's continuing that effort, I presume, with this press conference."

The chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Ben Wikler, called Johnson a "menace to public health" when asked about Monday's event.

"What Ron Johnson is doing puts the public at risk by spreading misinformation about a vaccine that has been extensively tested and has now benefited tens, hundreds, and millions of people around the U.S. and the world," Wikler said.

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