Arizona GOP official makes unverified claims that COVID vaccine turns people into ‘potted plants’

COVID vaccine
A patient receives an injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
  • A GOP official peddled unverified claims that COVID jabs were turning people into “potted plants.”
  • Jim O’Connor is an elected Republican official in charge of power and water companies in Arizona.
  • He was attempting to convince company leaders to not impose COVID jab requirements on their workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An elected GOP official in Arizona is peddling a false claim that the COVID vaccine not only causes death but turns those who receive the jab into “potted plants.”

Jim O’Connor – a state corporation commissioner who was elected in November to oversee companies in charge of utilities like electricity and water – claimed in an interview with local news outlet the Arizona Republic on Saturday that the government was hiding numbers of vaccine-related deaths and serious side effects.

“I’m also aware through other information that many people who have taken the shot, many thousands of people here in the US, are deceased. And the deceased part is the good news. And please don’t take that out of context,” O’Connor told Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic.

“But the alternative to being deceased after the shot, there are something like 40,000 plus recorded cases of people that are now potted plants. They are human vegetables. They’ve lost their ability to function,” he said.

There is no clinical evidence to support O’Connor’s claims, and it is unclear where O’Connor obtained the case numbers he cited of people going into a vegetative state after receiving the COVID vaccine. O’Connor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

O’Connor did not cite any database or official source to support his claims. But when the Arizona Republic pressed the official on where he was getting this information from, he referenced Ryan Cole – an Idaho-based physician who made false COVID claims in March this year.

The Republic wrote as well that several commission records indicated that O’Connor was attempting to discourage company leaders in the Arizona trade and utility industry from having their workers vaccinated. O’Connor told the Republic that he was concerned about potential job losses if utility companies in the state made it a requirement for their workers to be vaccinated.

“If people are willing to individually choose to get the shot, God bless them,” he said, adding that he did not want people to lose their jobs if they chose not to be vaccinated.

ABC News reported that O’Connor reached out in March to the leaders of several companies, in a bid to sway them from requiring that their employees take the COVID vaccine. These companies included the Arizona Public Service, the Salt River Project, Southwest Gas Corporation, and Tucson Electric Power.

ABC spoke to Mike Hummel, CEO of the Salt River Project, who confirmed that O’Connor contacted him about the COVID jab.

“We continue to see vaccines as a way out of this,” Hummel told ABC News. “What we’ve done is try to make information available to employees.”

Misinformation about the side effects of COVID vaccines has been rife – particularly among vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine groups. Insider reported last week that some groups were circulating “death lists” and broadcasting screenshots of reports of disturbing side effects, pulling statistics from an unvetted vaccine database to warn others about unverified “side effects” from taking the COVID shot.

However, the vaccine database in question, known as the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), does not require a medical professional to verify symptoms before reports are logged – meaning that reports of deaths and adverse side effects are unverified, and may even be falsified.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reassured the public that the COVID jabs are safe and effective – and that adverse effects, including anaphylaxis and thrombosis, are rare.

According to the NPR’s vaccine tracker, more than 257 million COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the US. This brings the tally of Americans who have been fully vaccinated to over 112 million people, or 33.9% of the total population.