What to know about Glenn Youngkin’s newest COVID-19 adviser

Dr. Marty Makary speaks during a screening of the HBO documentary film ‘Bleed Out’ on December...
Dr. Marty Makary speaks during a screening of the HBO documentary film ‘Bleed Out’ on December 12, 2018 in New York City.(Noam Galai/Getty Images for HBO)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:22 AM EST
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As Virginia continues to weather its latest COVID-19 surge, all eyes have been on Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, who’s pledged to end statewide vaccine and mask mandates even while urging individuals to get their shots.

His latest appointment has offered another glimpse into how the incoming governor plans to craft coronavirus policy. In a news release Tuesday, Youngkin announced his medical advisory team, “a group of experts from the medical and public health community that will be providing updates on the pandemic and advice on how to address its ongoing challenges,” he stated.

Some of the appointees have been on the frontlines of Virginia’s response since the start, including Nancy Howell Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic, and Executive Chairman Alan Levine of Ballad Health, the southwestern hospital system that’s seen some of the state’s highest COVID admissions. Chairing the group, though, is Dr. Marty Makary, a surgical oncologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University who’s become an outspoken medical commentator for Fox News.

According to his professional biography and personal website, Makary is an expert in surgical innovations and health care costs — the subject of his best-selling book, “The Price We Pay.” Over the course of the pandemic, though, he’s weighed in on everything from vaccines to mask-wearing among children, taking stances that have attracted criticism from some of his health care colleagues. As Youngkin prepares to take the helm of Virginia’s COVID-19 response with Makary’s guidance, here are some of the doctor’s most attention-grabbing takes over the course of the pandemic.

Natural immunity reduces the need for vaccination

In the early days of the nation’s vaccine campaign, Makary criticized federal health agencies for their universal approach to the shots. In an editorial for The Washington Post, published last January, he argued that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should stop recommending vaccines to Americans that had already been infected by the virus.

“I believe the vaccine is safe and strongly recommend that we vaccinate all Americans, but doing so is not a requirement to achieve herd immunity,” Makary wrote. “Given that close to a third of all Americans and perhaps more have had COVID-19 infections, it’s possible that herd immunity is closer than we think.”

His column was written at a time when supply of the shots was extremely limited, and largely criticized the idea of vaccinating previously infected patients over senior citizens and other vulnerable populations (many of whom had already been prioritized for doses under the tiered rollout adopted by federal and state health agencies). Still, some of his arguments were picked up by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who invited Makary onto his show, according to the Baltimore Sun. During the episode, the doctor complained that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were downplaying the strength of natural immunity in favor of a broader vaccination campaign. Last month, he was on Fox News again discussing the same topic.


The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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