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Conservatives Rage After Vaccine Expert Predicts 'Barbenheimer' May Spark COVID Surge

Vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez was met with backlash from COVID-deniers after he tweeted out a warning about a potential surge due to crowded movie theaters following the massive box office for 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' over the weekend.

CNBC screenshot of Dr. Peter Hotez
CNBC Television/YouTube

Vaccine researcher Dr. Peter Hotez has raised concerns over the potential COVID-19 impact of two summer blockbusters, Barbie and Oppenheimer. In a viral tweet, Hotez warned about a possible surge in COVID-19 cases following the success of these movies, which has drawn criticism from some who consider his prediction to be overly pessimistic.

The tweet by Hotez, a pediatrician and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, urged people to continue getting vaccinated and to consider using high-quality masks such as pink N-95 or KN-95 masks for added protection.

He expressed worry that there might be a post-box-office surge in COVID-19 cases due to the large number of people gathering to watch the films, which have taken social media by storm as the unlikely double feature "Barbenheimer."

Hotez wrote:

"Not to be a Debbie Downer…but anyone worried about a post-BarbieBoxOffice Covid bump? Or post-Oppie? We’ll probably never know since no one seems to be keeping track of such things anymore."
"Keep up with your boosters and find a pink N-95 or KN-95 if you can."

You can see his tweet below.

While Hotez's tweet raised valid health concerns, conservative critics disagreed with the severity of his prediction.

Texas Republican State Representative Jeff Leach accused Hotez of living "in such a warped state of fear."

Conservative writer Sonny Bunch said he was "not worried... because it’s not 2020."

Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney went so far as to accuse Hotez of being part of a group with "no limiting principle to their fear-peddling anti-social dogma."

Others also piled on.

But Hotez had his defenders, too, and it was clear he wasn't speaking to himself given the presence of those who expressed similar concerns.

Hotez's public profile as a vaccine expert countering COVID-19-related misinformation has made him a target in conservative circles.

Previously, right-wing podcast host Joe Rogan invited Hotez to debate longshot presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is known for and has drawn significant criticism for his anti-vaccine stance.

The debate centered on the efficacy and safety of vaccines, with Rogan offering to donate $100,000 to a charity of Hotez's choice if he accepted the invitation.

Hotez declined, saying both Kennedy Jr. and Rogan are "putting out health misinformation that's killing people."