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Everything old is new again: Abusing religious exemptions to avoid COVID-19 vaccines

As I’ve said many times, in the age of COVID-19 everything old is new again, with antivaxxers resurrecting every old trope and tactic they’ve used for decades and repurposed them for the pandemic. Now it’s the false claim of religious exemptions to COVID-19 mandates.

In the age of COVID-19, everything antivaccine that is old is new again. I know I say this a lot, but it’s true. I admit that one reason why I keep repeating this is because I remain a bit miffed at how, prepandemic, so many of my fellow doctors sanctimoniously dismissed what I say about antivaxxers as ridiculous over the years or, more recently, dismissed combatting antivaccine disinformation and quackery and as “dunking on a 7′ hoop.” Before safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time, that disinformation largely took the form of old antivaccine tropes of minimizing the severity of COVID-19 and touting natural immunity, with the added repurposed trope claiming that masks are useless and harmful (like vaccines!) and therefore shouldn’t be required. Since the vaccines arrived, we’ve seen the recycled lies that COVID-19 vaccines don’t work, shed and endanger those around the vaccinated, cause female infertility, harm, and even kill (large numbers of people, yet). With the approval of Comirnaty, the COVID-19 vaccine made by BioNTech and Pfizer signaling more widespread vaccine mandates from businesses and governments, predictably (in the US) antivaxxers are now invoking religion to claim religious exemptions, with some antivaxxers like Megan Redshaw of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s antivaccine propaganda organization Children’s Health Defense churning out articles like How to Get a COVID Vaccine Religious Exemption.

When I first came across Redshaw’s article, a link to which I received in an email blast, my first thought was: How on earth did I get on this email list? While it’s true that I do subscribe to a number of antivax email lists in order to see what antivaxxers are up to and provide me with blog fodder, I didn’t recall ever having signed up for Redshaw’s Substack, although I have deconstructed articles that she’s published on RFK Jr.’s website. My second thought was: How long has claiming dubious religious exemptions to vaccine mandates been a strategy of the antivaccine movement? So I did some searching in my blogs to try to identify the first article I ever wrote about the abuse of religious exemptions by antivaxxers. It turns out that it was in 2006, when I noted how pertussis was returning in states with expansive vaccine exemption rules. I was actually surprised that it wasn’t longer ago, but such is life. In 2007, I wrote my first post specifically about how antivaxxers were lying about their religion to try to avoid vaccinating their children. Basically, this is a feature, not a bug, of antivaccine activists, who, in addition to spreading disinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories about vaccines that encourage vaccine hesitancy, also tell the vaccine hesitant how to claim exemptions, whether they merit them or not.

Since then, I’ve periodically noted how much antivaxxers love to play the religion card against vaccines, claiming that vaccines are against their religion and urging people to claim religious exemptions from school vaccine mandates. Indeed, they even like to compare themselves to Jews during the Holocaust, which is not a new thing. (They’ve even tried to invoke Anne Frank.) Worse, because religion is so privileged in our society, politicians, even liberal politicians like former California Governor Jerry Brown, have pandered to the religious and bent over backwards to exempt religious exemptions from laws meant to tighten up school vaccine requirements. One particular favorite tactic among antivaxxers to claim religious exemptions has been to point to vaccines that use cell lines derived from aborted fetuses back in the 1960s to falsely claim that vaccination supports abortion, which is against their religion. (Oh, and DNA from aborted fetuses in vaccines causes autism.) Never mind that that most anti-abortion of religions, the Catholic Church, has said that the good of using of such vaccines far outweighs the distant evil of the abortion used to derive the cell line used in manufacturing them.

Which leads me back to Redshaw’s Substack article:

Now that Pfizer’s “Comirnaty” COVID vaccine has received full approval, you should prepare yourself for a barrage of vaccine mandates. With the love our current administration and U.S. health officials have for stomping on our rights, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually be in the position of having to obtain a medical or religious vaccine exemption to get out of this monstrosity of a mass experiment. 

Even though religious exemptions are available, many people don’t realize it and have no idea how to go about getting one. This article is designed to help you do just that. 

(Note, this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Although I can’t guarantee that your religious exemption will be accepted, if it isn’t … it won’t be because you didn’t craft a superb religious argument. It will be because your school or employer wants you to take them to court. In addition, I’m a Christian, so I’m going to use Christianity as the example, but you can apply this post to your own religion.)

I do like the disclaimer, which reads very much like the Quack Miranda warning that quacks include after their articles hawking, for instance, unproven supplements. Interestingly (and making my last post good timing), Redshaw plays the the “Pfizer vaccine isn’t the same thing as the FDA-approved Comirnaty vaccine” gambit:

Although the FDA fully approved Pfizer’s “Comirnaty” vaccine for people over age 16 Aug. 23, buried in the fine print of the approval are two critical facts that affect whether the vaccine can be mandated and whether Pfizer can be held responsible for harm caused by its product. 

First, the FDA said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine under the EUA should remain unlicensed but can be used “interchangeably” (page 2, footnote 8) with the newly licensed Comirnaty product.

Second, the FDA said the licensed Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine and the existing EUA Pfizer vaccine are “legally distinct,” but their differences do not “impact safety or effectiveness.”

Nope. Just no. I discussed this latest antivax gambit, which arose with astonishing speed after the FDA approval of Comirnaty on Monday. The long version is in the link I just provided. The short version is that this claim is utter BS. Not that that stops Redshaw from invoking the Nuremberg Code:

However, there is a huge difference between products approved under EUA and those the FDA has fully licensed. EUA products are experimental under U.S. law. Both the Nuremberg Code and federal regulations provide that no one can force a human being to participate in this experiment. 

Again, this is nonsense. As I’ve pointed out many times (most recently last month), when antivaxxers invoke the Nuremberg Code, the code included in the judgment against Nazi doctors who were tried at Nuremberg for having carried out horrific medical experiments on Jews and other prisoners, what they are doing is basically pulling a Godwin and comparing proponents of vaccine mandates to Nazis by consciously ignoring all the ethical statements about human subjects research that have since supplanted the Nuremberg Code, such as the Belmont Report and the Helsinki Declaration (which is regularly updated) in order to point to a 75 year old judgment against Nazis. Don’t get me wrong. The Nuremberg Code is important historically, and the newer statements include many elements first laid down at Nuremberg. However, there’s a reason you never see antivaxxers point to the principle of voluntariness of human research subjects discussed in the Declaration of Helsinki. Invoking that declaration doesn’t let them compare their enemies to Nazis.

Next up:

Under 21 U.S. Code Sec.360bbb-3(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III), “authorization for medical products for use in emergencies,” it is unlawful to deny someone a job or an education because they refuse to be an experimental subject. In other words, COVID vaccines authorized for emergency use must be voluntary. 

U.S. laws, however, permit employers and schools to require students and workers to take licensed vaccines.

I looked up 21 U.S. Code Sec.360bbb-3(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III), which states:

(1)Unapproved product

(A)Required conditions

With respect to the emergency use of an unapproved product, the Secretary, to the extent practicable given the applicable circumstances described in subsection (b)(1), shall, for a person who carries out any activity for which the authorization is issued, establish such conditions on an authorization under this section as the Secretary finds necessary or appropriate to protect the public health, including the following:

(i) Appropriate conditions designed to ensure that health care professionals administering the product are informed—

(I) that the Secretary has authorized the emergency use of the product;

(II) of the significant known and potential benefits and risks of the emergency use of the product, and of the extent to which such benefits and risks are unknown; and

(III) of the alternatives to the product that are available, and of their benefits and risks.

Maybe my legal eagle readers can correct me if I’m wrong, but this passage doesn’t appear to say what Redshaw says it does, nor is it nearly as clear as she claims. It also appears to be plain wrong, at least in terms of the federal government and federal law. In any event, let’s just say that it is not at all clear that vaccine mandates for vaccines issued under an EUA are illegal; in fact, they are probably legal, Redshaw’s ridiculous repeating of antivaccine talking points that try to paint the FDA approval of Comirnaty as not allowing the Pfizer vaccine left under the EUA be required by any sort of mandate.

Then come the same things that antivaxxers used to say about religious exemptions, going back to long before the pandemic. First, Redshaw tells people not to use antivaccine talking points fear mongering about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines because this is a religious exemption and needs a philosophical and religious argument:

Do not start your statement by telling a story. It’s not going to help you. Likewise, your religious objections to the COVID vaccine has nothing to do with safety studies, vaccine injuries, what’s moral or ethical, or your beliefs in bodily autonomy. If you go down this road, you should be prepared to roll up your sleeve or find a new school or job. These arguments are philosophical arguments that would be used to obtain a philosophical exemption. 

If crafting a statement (and depending on what’s required of you), either go right into your religious objections based on your “closely held religious beliefs” or drop a little authority at the top to remind the good people reading your letter that you have the right to a religious exemption, and it’s in their best interests not to mess with that.

This is, of course, clever, given that the arguments about vaccine safety that antivaxxers like to invoke are basically all misleading, filled with pseudoscience, and invoke conspiracy theories. It’s far easier just to say, in essence, “I don’t wanna because religion.” I know, I know, that’s not exactly what Redshaw is claiming. She’s saying, in essence, to say, “I don’t wanna because God says no.”

She even adds some flourishes to that basic argument:

The mainstream media loves to try and convince people they don’t have the right to a religious exemption because no prominent pastor or religious leader they’ve deemed a spokesperson for God has had the ballzingas to publicly oppose vaccinations (and if he did, he would be censored). 

Don’t waste your time arguing in your letter why the Pope, the Vatican, prosperity gospel pastor, or that one guy who wrote a pro-vax argument for Focus on the Family or The Gospel Coalition were wrong. It’s irrelevant because it doesn’t matter what they think. They’re not God, they didn’t write the Bible, and you have your own closely held religious beliefs. 

I would include the following in my letter: “I am a Christian and I have a closely held religious belief that prevents me from getting a COVID vaccine. The authority I adhere to is the Bible and that authority is derived from God.”

Sure, the Pope isn’t God, but neither are antivaxxers (or anyone else, for that matter). However, if you are Catholic, the Pope is certainly a much higher religious authority than you are, given that the Church teaches that the Pope is basically God’s representative on earth and Peter’s successor.

Be that as it may, Redshaw can’t help but suggest some Bible quotes for antivaxxers to use. She’s particularly fond of 1 Corinthians 16:19-20:

1 Corinthians 16:19-20 is by far, the most important verse that needs to be referenced in your religious exemption. Why? Because not all vaccines contain aborted baby ingredients and this verse covers it all.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Vaccines contain neurotoxins, hazardous substances, adenovirus (J&J), animal ingredients, foreign DNA, aborted fetal cells, DNA, and protein (J & J), carcinogens, and chemical wastes that are harmful to the body and are produced using practices that “violate my closely held religious beliefs” (and/or the tenants of my religion).

Yes, that last paragraph is what I like to refer to as the “toxins” gambit. It’s something I’ve written about going back to the days when Jenny McCarthy was using it. In brief, it’s a deceptive gambit in which antivaxxers point to all sort of scary sounding chemicals in vaccines that are indeed toxic, but not at the tiny amounts used in vaccines. Failing that, they try to evoke disgust by tying vaccines to “foreign DNA” (never mind that we ingest foreign DNA every day in the plants and meat that we consume), “aborted fetal cells,” and whatever else the scientifically ignorant might find scary to hear about.

So basically, Redshaw is advocating combining the “toxins” or “disgust” gambit to religious motivations to refuse vaccination. This is, of course, an old antivax technique. She’s just repurposing it for COVID-19. Of course, claiming religious exemptions to vaccine mandates is Redshaw’s shtick. She’s been doing it for years, dating back to well before the pandemic. She’s even been in the news for it dating back to at least 2015:

Every fall, Megan Redshaw performs an unusual back to school ritual for her family. She fills out special paperwork, sits through doctors’ visits and listens during informational sessions for each of her four school-aged children, all so they can attend school without their required vaccinations.

Redshaw is one thousands of parents across Illinois claiming religious objections to vaccines. From Chicago to Peoria to downstate Quincy where she lives, there are now nearly 20,000 children whose parents say their faith prohibits them from vaccinating their children — almost two times the number that sought religious exemptions a decade ago.

That’s despite a 2015 law designed in part to tamp down on non-medical exemptions. Signed by then-Governor Bruce Rauner, it added the requirement that families seeking religious exemptions fill out a form explaining their objections to vaccines. That form must also be signed by a doctor, stating he or she told them the risks of not immunizing their children.

That hasn’t stopped thousands of Illinoisans from refusing to vaccinate their children on religious grounds.

People like Megan Redshaw are the reason why laws like SB 277, the California law that eliminated religious and personal belief (i.e., nonmedical) exemptions to school vaccine mandates were passed. Unfortunately, few states have tightened up their vaccine requirements to that extent, leaving religious exemptions possible for most Americans.

There was a time when I had a bit of sympathy for so-called “personal belief” and religious nonmedical exemptions. That was a time before the pandemic, indeed before the resurgence of measles that followed the Disneyland measles outbreak nearly seven years ago. Such exemptions were tolerable only as long as diseases were under control and they didn’t impact vaccination rates sufficiently to undermine herd/community immunity. In the middle of a global pandemic in which a new disease has infected hundreds of millions and killed millions worldwide (over 600,000 in the US alone), catering to such religious beliefs and “personal beliefs” is a luxury that we no longer have, particularly given how people like Megan Redshaw are doing their best to weaponize these loopholes against vaccine campaigns.

By Orac

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88 replies on “Everything old is new again: Abusing religious exemptions to avoid COVID-19 vaccines”

Here’s a “good” try by Jewish parents (it failed though – the Judge got wise): NM v. Hebrew Academy Long Beach Beach et al, (2016).
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (leading Israeli Ashkenazi rabbi) was cited by the Anti-vax pamphlet “The Gedolim Letters” – as saying Judaism requires parents choose as they wish. Last week Rabbi Kanievsky came out requiring COVID vaccines for teachers and staunchly advocating them overall. Wonder what the American Jewish anti-vaxxers will do with that.

They will ignore it and look for someone else to say something that can be twisted to agree with their position.

A. We have an accessible, I hope, discussion of the debate around EUA and mandates here.

I will note that there are serious scholars who are not antivaccine who thought it was a barrier, too. It’s actually an area of legal uncertainty. I think the argument for mandates is stronger but this isn’t just an antivaccine talking point.

Which is why licensure was so important. And yes, their attempt to argue licensure away doesn’t work, as you pointed out.

B. Note that although the Pope is a religious authority, for the purpose of law, it’s the personal belief that counts. A Catholic can use a religious exemption.

The reasoning is that the court or state is not there to police the organized religion’s rules, just to assess sincerity. The goal is to prevent putting believers in a bind between their religious rules and the law (and yes, I know the issues with that).

A Catholic can use a religious exemption.
Would not hurt to report such a persosn to the curia either.

BTW Religious tenants?

BTW Religious tenants?

Yeah, cloistered monks pay rent these days. It’s not so much a vow of poverty as a promise of poverty like the rest of us…

Dorit- Just wanted to say thanks for your participation in this and many other forums; a valuable voice of reason. Best.

What possible argument could favor mandates?

Covid itself has a much smaller impact than originally thought, and it’s significantly more treatable now.

The vaccines do not prevent transmission.

The damage to the overall system (healthcare, etc.) by mandate vaccines, causing subsequent firings, etc. will be far greater than the vaccines could save.

The greatest threat is the president the mandates would create. Where is the line? The keeps getting crossed, so where will it stop. What will be too far?

Here is one. Police officers are, on the whole, not vaccinated. And they pride themselves in getting in your face.

I am calling for all known positive, but still ambulatory people, to go out and get a ticket. thrum in your thoat for the 30 seconds it takes him to get to your window. That will work up the maximum dropletization and give the cop the vaccination he tribally refused otherwise. It will boost his ego that he has “natural” immunity after that. win win.

I make this call out of my own self interest, the interest of the rest of society, and

A much smaller impact?
I think the impact is smaller because of things like lockdowns, masking and keeping distance, but still hospitals are overflowing with Covid-19 patiens (mostly unvaccinated).

Too bad we can’t respond directly to responses to our comments. Comments only go one layer deep.

“The greatest threat is the president the mandates would create.”

I’m trying to discern whether this is an auto-correct error or deep political insight.

“Comments only go one layer deep.”

Yours don’t even go that far. Please try harder.


Now trying replying to a sub comment and see how deep your comment gets.

And yes, it was an autocorrect error. Should have been precedent, not president. The President we have now is bad enough.


“I think the impact is smaller because of things like lockdowns, masking and keeping distance, but still hospitals are overflowing with Covid-19 patiens (mostly unvaccinated).”

Lockdowns had no beneficial effect. Plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Masks work in some circumstances, and then only slightly. Social distancing works, but can’t be permanent. Hospitals are NOT overflowing with covid patients, and it would make sense that those with covid in hospitals are not vaccinated or didn’t have prior immunity. There’s a sampling bias. However, if you like at the groups with the highest vaccination rates (e.g. Vermont, RI, etc.), the cases are higher amongst the unvaccinated, but the deaths are even (per capita of status) between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Example: Vermont. Same deaths / 100,000 among the vaccinated as deaths / 100,000 among the unvaccinated. It would seem reasonable to assume this is due to the vaccinated group being mich older and obese on average, but… we can’t be sure. Either way, that’s not an expected outcome.

There’s a sampling bias. However, if you like at the groups with the highest vaccination rates (e.g. Vermont, RI, etc.)

Irony duly noted.


Per Vermont.

Citations really help. I found this update on Vermont based on data as of October 6.

Vermont seems to be a popular “gotcha” target recently, mainly because they were one of the last states to get hit by the Delta wave and are just now starting to see a drop in cases.

I wish all 50 states had done as “badly” as Vermont, which has only 6200 cases per 100K and a PFR of only 0.06%.
Those compare to 13,800 and 0.22% for the U.S. as a whole and 16,400 and 0.29% for the 6 least vaccinated states. So we can see the combined effect of protective measures from 2020 before we had vaccines and better vaccination this year.

I’ll note a couple quotes from the article.

Breakthrough cases should also be analyzed as a proportion of the total vaccinated population. Over the two-week reporting period, cases occurred in 182 out of 100,000 vaccinated Vermonters. That’s compared to 889 out of 100,000 people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.
Unvaccinated people were 4.9 times more likely to get infected than fully vaccinated people, up from a ratio of 4.4 in the previous reporting period.

The state also reported 29 new hospitalizations and 14 new deaths among vaccinated people, compared to 31 new hospitalizations and 13 new deaths among unvaccinated people.

Using the same calculation as above to adjust for the size of Vermont’s overall vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, the numbers indicate that unvaccinated people were 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.3 times more likely to die from Covid-19 over the two-week period.

Those mortality rates are a shift from the previous two reporting periods, during which deaths from Covid-19 in Vermont were occurring in vaccinated people more often than unvaccinated people.

A majority of overall deaths over the past three months have occurred in the 80-plus age group, in which people are statistically more likely both to be vaccinated and to have other health conditions. Trends during the Delta wave, in Vermont and nationally, have indicated that age remains a critical factor in mortality risk despite the protections offered by vaccines.

So, Vermont was seeing a lot of deaths in the 80-plus population who were vaccinated first but are likely to get a weaker immune response from the vaccination and more likely to have other health issues.

The state also reported 29 new hospitalizations and 14 new deaths among vaccinated people, compared to 31 new hospitalizations and 13 new deaths among unvaccinated people.

Using the same calculation as above to adjust for the size of Vermont’s overall vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, the numbers indicate that unvaccinated people were 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.3 times more likely to die from Covid-19 over the two-week period.

Those mortality rates are a shift from the previous two reporting periods, during which deaths from Covid-19 in Vermont were occurring in vaccinated people more often than unvaccinated people.

A majority of overall deaths over the past three months have occurred in the 80-plus age group, in which people are statistically more likely both to be vaccinated and to have other health conditions. Trends during the Delta wave, in Vermont and nationally, have indicated that age remains a critical factor in mortality risk despite the protections offered by vaccines.

Nevertheless, getting vaccinated makes you 4-5 times less likely to get infected (which translates into making you less likely to infect someone else) and 2.3 times less likely to die from Covid-19.

Lockdowns were much more limited after the first few months and some states never did them and even resisted minimal measures like wearing masks and social distancing. California has a PFR of 0.18% with 12,300 cases per 100K compared to Florida at 0.27% and 16,900.

Those look like some real benefits to me.

For what it’s worth, she’s one of many working on teaching people to game religious exemptions. Several are making money off this. Which is, as you point out, a reason to remove them.

RI readers should really take a detailed look at the CHD website in order to ascertain what they do: nearly every day they put out mis-information that contradicts public health research. In addition, if you search about us, the members of the board of directors and legal and scientific commitees include big names in anti-vax, pseudoscience and legal antics. Recently, they have starting suing.
They are rapidly rising to the top of my anti-vax / woo worst list.

I don’t think there’s much point in arguing that the “closely held religious beliefs” are wrong. They just shouldn’t be allowed to be used as reason to endanger other people. And, adults shouldn’t be allowed to use them to endanger the children in their care.

I have two family members who are clergy and a close friend whose husband also is of another denomination. All three say there is no reason for a “religious” exemption from vaccination. One of the other docs in our group had a catholic patient want one, sent him to the local diocese, and the guy came back pissed off that the priest tried to talk him into getting the vaccine-now he was demanding a medical exemption. We only grant those to people who are severely neutropenic, are actively being treated for leukemia, etc.

The fact that the guy struck out with the religious angle and immediately went for a medical one, next, speaks volumes IMHO.

Also, what if you are atheist? What about pagan? Where do I go to get my exemption? I hope the satanic temple sues over this. They have a pretty good track record of making evangelical and other extremist denominations reconsider how much they want to insert their beliefs into law.

How about you people take the crappy vaccine and STFU??

If you’re afraid stay home.

Stop attacking other people’s religious view.

We should be thankful that Dave is saying nothing. It’s more intelligent than what he usually has to say.

Also, what if you are atheist?

Mahayana Buddhism is an example of an atheistic religion. Any vaccine objection would have to be predicated on taking of life, but I’d say the likelihood of anyone trying this is vanishingly low.

You must go outside your home sometimes, you know. Is avoiding the vaccines only religious conviction these people have ?

I don’t think there’s much point in arguing that the “closely held religious beliefs” are wrong. They just shouldn’t be allowed to be used as reason to endanger other people.

I used to find the NYSED decisions interesting to see the reasoning behind who actually managed to prevail (this list never included Patricia Finn, BTW) and how, but I think that ship has sailed.

Aside from the fact that Christianity as a whole and its major branches do not proscribe vaccination, there’s ample justification for vaccines in the Bible. For instance, parents considering leaving their families or themselves unprotected from dangerous diseases should consider the following:

1 Timothy 5:8

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Of course, antivaxers who claim religious backing would also have to stop bearing false witness about vaccines…

I would bet my life savings that the rate of vaccination among those dreaded “unbelievers” is higher than for any religious group.

Well. I know in the Netherlands there are some religious groups opposed to vaccination, because they consider it a distrust in Gods providence. For the same reason these people don’t have any insurance.

I’m not sure about that. It seems to be mostly about doing something to prevent things. These people gladly accept the help of their neighbours if their house burns down, but buying an insurance is a no go, because that is something that shows distrust in the will of God.

At last weekend’s anti-lockdown (anti-mask, anti-vaccine, etc, etc) protests in Australia, one demonstrator was photographed with a placard reading “Jesus is my Protection, NOT A (drawing of syringe)”.

Pretty much no-one photographed in the protest was wearing a mask, and social distancing was not in evidence. (about 1/3 of the way through the article).

In the U.S., the Amish (a group that originated in some part of what is now Germany) have such a believe. No homeowners insurance, not even lightning rods on their barns. But, as I understand it, they vaccinate.

We have an outreach clinic that works with the Amish. They and their children are all fully vaccinated. Same for the Mennonites. I hear it varies from community to community, though.

I like the foreign DNA argument. To me that says that there should be religious support for the HPV vaccine since it prevents recipients from having their cells forced to make the foreign DNA of papilloma virus.

I’m disappointed she didn’t mention RNA, since the COVID mRNA vaccines contain only one mRNA whereas SARS-CoV-2 is itself one and makes host cells make 10 more subgenomic mRNAs. An proteins. Lots of foreign proteins, made right there in the temple!

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Pretty sure that “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price” should negate the selfish ‘I’m all right jack’ attitude prevalent amongst anti-vaxxers.

As I’ve noted before, I wouldn’t call the bulk of the people refusing COVID vaccines “antivaxxers”. I would prefer to reserve the term for the core group of ideologues for whom being against vaccines is a key element of their identity, and one they’ve held prior to the pandemic: e.g. RFKJ and (I’d assume) Ms. Redshaw. In contrast, we have a whole host of COVID vaccine refusers now — followers of various COVID-denialist right-wing figures — who almost certainly give a rat’s patoot about vaccine issues before the whole thing became a badge of tribal identity — “virtue signalling” one’s “anti-goverment” bona fides. For the sake of convenience, I’ll just call these folks “fascists’.

So while it may be true that “antivaxxers [are] resurrecting every old trope and tactic they’ve used for decades and repurposed them for the pandemic” — e.g. CHD doing what CHD has always does with exemptions, what’s more important IMHO, is that right-wing propagandists are digging into the well-established antivaxxer playbook for the rhetorical strategies they’re taking to this new audience. E.g. we’ve already had Marjorie Taylor Greene going to the Holocaust analogies, echoed only in slightly less rabid Trump-TV talking heads and wingnut bloggers. Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, if the likes of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham haven’t yet parroted the arguments put forward by Redshaw, adjusted as necessary to hit the appropriate Christian-right buttons, then I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they do.

I realize Orac rarely bothers commenting on and debunking the anti-science screeds of Trumpian pundits like Carlson and Ingraham, as he prefers to focus more on voices that claim more credibility on the science. However, these pundits have an enormous megaphone, and are far more consequential in terms of the poor responses to the pandemic than RFKJ, CHD, and the rest of our old friends in the “Disinformation Dozen” for that matter. For example, one thing MSNBC reported recently that i hadn’t heard before is that the whole hydroxychloroquine thing went through Ingraham. That is, she was not only one of the first people to hype it on her show, but she had a private meeting with Trump where she allegedly sold him on it as the miracle cure to end the pandemic quickly, “save the economy,” yada yada yada.

It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt

Mark Twain

If you’re going to try to fool people into thinking you’re intelligent by using some quote, make sure it’s real.

Aarno, sites such as goodreads promulgate a lot of bogus quotes. This is one of them, and I have a strong sense that rooting through G—le ngrams isn’t going go anywhere.

Monkey- Scientific Dave seems to think that if your Mark Twain quote is not genuine then the actual words have no validity, whereas in fact the words are exactly apt when directed at SD.

How about this one then:
“[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.”
– Mark Twain in Eruption

… or how about this one?

“[…] some brainless idiot here – some quacking numskull – some bladder of wind that some browsing elephant, in the inscrutable providence of God, ought to step on and burst. […]”

Mark Twain

On a related – political- note…

Dr DG’s twitter includes a gentleman who recommends Orac to Chris Hayes!
For weeks, I’ve been contemplating doing this because both Hayes and his colleague, Joy Reid, frequently sound as though they could they could benefit from Orac’s extensive background battling anti-vax et al as they cover the effects of mis-information on the pandemic and express frustration about BS affecting vaccine acceptance and PH denial.

And I’m laughing and agreeing in a Schadenfreude kinda’ way as DG explains in his tweets to those who are now shocked, upset, and appalled at the dishonest tactics and arguments of the anti-COVID forces that he’s been battling this type of anti-science, anti-fact lunacy from the anti-vaxxers for decades – to the point he doesn’t have to do any research as he knows the tropes and the answers like the back of his hand.
He also, sarcastically I hope, points out that he often receive(s)(d) approbation and condemnation for his efforts from his colleagues who are now complaining of the same thing.
Have fun.

We have a lot of conspiracy theorist at National Intelligence Council/Office of the Director of National Intelligence. not that the origin of the virus makes a difference at this point.

“One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses.”

Too many people with close ties to Wuhan lab tried too hard to debunk, which would tend to make me think that it was a lab leak. I would tend to agree that it wasn’t intentional or a bio weapon as the lab was too low on the pole and shared too much with the west to be involved in weapons etc. and we will probably never know.

“One IC element assesses with moderate confidence”

Why, it’s a virtual certainty!!!

Of course, all evidence is classified, or did you just forget cite it ? Besides that it was “moderate confidence”. Same thing than saying that it is possibe.

Yep. I’ve been saying all along it’s possible. You can continue to conflate the behavior of the idiots in the press with those of us in the ground fighting this damn plague all you want. I don’t care where it came from-I want YOU to do your part as a responsible grown up and get your damn vaccine so I don’t have to I intubate you and possibly tell your weeping loved ones you died.

@ Clint, re: ” … not that the origin of the virus makes a difference at this point.”

Oh but it does!

After advancements in Chemistry killed 100,000 during World War I; nations of the world united in historic agreements to never use chemical warfare again, including the Geneva Protocol.

In 1945, the use of physics’ research led to 300,000 deaths in Nagasaki & Hiroshima & led the world to regulate the raw materials of atomic bombs and to sanction sovereign nations who attempted to violate the rules. A security treaty for a “peace of reconciliation” was signed & $178 million a year was provided by the US to Japan & the US in now considered Japan’s closest ally.

What those two events (among many others) have in common, is that eventually; somebody stood up & accepted accountability, assumed responsibility, reparations were made, agreements were signed & vows were made.

Had they not, humans would have kept escalating use of chemical & nuclear warfare until obliteration of the human race. An extinction event.

Now it’s Biology’s turn but nobody is stepping forward. It’s very obvious that the WIV (among others) was involved at some level for this pandemic & if we don’t “learn from this we are doomed to repeat it”. Origins not only make a difference but they should be top priority right now. This cannot be allowed to continue.

The U.S. has never paid Japan reparations for the atomic bombings.

What’s obvious is that you fabricate and jump to unwarranted conclusions based on ignorance and bias.

led the world to regulate the raw materials of atomic bombs and to sanction sovereign nations who attempted to violate the rules. A security treaty for a “peace of reconciliation”

(a.) Ha.

(b.) I want you to respect my personage as a search engine that really, really doesn’t get why this? and that also doesn’t get a lot of other things very well either.

What’s obvious is that you fabricate and jump to unwarranted conclusions based on ignorance and bias.

Christine is just cherry-picking from a 2018 article in Time.

Too many people with close ties to Wuhan lab tried too hard to debunk, which would tend to make me think that it was a lab leak.

Strong work. Denial of guilt can be proof of guilt: recall that none of the accused Salem witches who confessed were convicted or executed but all of the nineteen who refused to confess were executed.

So if you are innocent and accused of something, you should not defend yourself. Otherwise you are proven quilty. No this is very perverse logic.

You mean:

The IC assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and
infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November
2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December
2019. In addition, the IC was able to reach broad agreement on several other key issues. We
judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also assess with low
confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies
believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way. Finally, the IC
assesses China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of
COVID-19 emerged.


The IC—and the global scientific community—lacks clinical samples or a complete
understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases. If we
obtain information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or
occupational exposure, it may alter our evaluation of hypotheses

In other words, the intelligence agencies don’t have the data to make a good decision one way or the other.

‘We don’t know’ is NOT the same as ‘It must have been a lab leak’, which is what keeps coming up in the media.

And they won’t get that data without help from the Chinese, which is highly unlikely after a year of hostile finger-pointing.

So we’ll most likely have to wait for the lab that was created to research this after the first SARS outbreak to do what it took them 10 years to do before, i.e. trace the virus to cave where all the important parts are circulating in the local bat population.

In fact, they seem to be working on that anyway without our participation.

In the mean time and regardless of the origin, we have a global pandemic to deal with.

aarno I did apologize for not including the whole link, I attempted to correct it right after I posted but for some reason it takes time for this site to populate
and as to ‘moderate confidence’ that is it more than likely, 4 of the agencies assessed ‘low confidence that the virus was natural.

to the medical yeti, there are two people who are probably glad they don’t know you right now, with your attitude 1. would be any patient of yours vaccinated or not and the 2nd would be your lawyer should you ever get sued and have to defend that comment.
My post had nothing to do with vaccines.

Denial of guilt is one thing but the people in the US that had ties to the Wuhan Lab attacked people who suspected the lab and used their connection and authority to cover up the ties until the overwhelming evidence mounted against them. ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’

whom ever squirrel is I just copied a bullet point from the report. you copied and cherry picked. Why didn’t you included the bullet point that the agencies had ‘low confidence that the virus was natural” or why didn’t you copy and paste the whole thing.

Does it some how hurt your credibility. How hard is it to say this was a leak from a lab, accidents happen, even in the US labs. Everything about this virus has been political and not about science.

Touched a nerve? Get your vaccine and stop spreading bs. Contrary to what you see on TV you need cause you sue someone. Me trying to protect you from a horrible, foreseeable, and preventable health outcome isn’t cause.

Why do not show actual evidence that was a lab leak ? Another issue is that if it were a lab leak, immediate action to stop should have been taken. Assessment do not claim that it was a bioweapon, so no military secrecy is involved.

I’ve had my vaccine you ignorant macaroon (and not the good cookie kind, the 3 stooges kind).

And exactly what was BS with my posting of the combined intelligence agencies assessment, or does it go against your faith?

‘Contrary to what you see on TV you need cause you sue someone. Me trying to protect you from a horrible, foreseeable, and preventable health outcome isn’t cause.’

Well no you don’t need cause to sue someone, just look what someone did to Orac, there are over 20 million lawsuits filled in the US every year, you think all of them had cause? it’s about tone.

Do you also talk to your patients who are over weight, don’t exercise, drink, smoke etc. the same way as you do to the unvaccinated.

Is this how you respond to everyone who even slightly disagrees with you?

Again why is the lab leak so touchy of a subject and why does the thought of a lab leak of this virus, Covid, cause so many issues, when there have been other lab leaks before (and we will have them in the future).

-Glad to hear it!

-I do. Especially right now. Severe obesity/smoking and covid don’t mix. These are tough, medico-social issues and the obesity issue is getting worse with each successive generation.

Again, the thing could have escaped a lab. That’s no “Conspiracy theory” as you led with. It’s a perfectly plausible explanation for how we got here.

I ask again, what is evidence ? Currently, you are just appealing authority.

There’s a difference between careless protective measures at a lab and ‘made in a lab’. I’m not aware that the evidence for ‘made in a lab’ has increased since the people who’s job it is to know this sort of thing said it was unlikely ages ago?

“That’s no “Conspiracy theory” as you led with. It’s a perfectly plausible explanation for how we got here.”

Use the search at the top of this page using the words ‘conspiracy theory wuhan’ it will return 32 hits over 15 of those posts refer to a lab leak as a ‘conspiracy theory’.’ it is a little unsettling that people are so closed minded on a science blog, to me ,this is way too early in the pandemic for much of science to be consensus, we’re still learning things about the Spanish flu that happen over 100 years ago.

On who’s authority are you appealing, that it wasn’t a lab leak?

‘made in a lab’ I never stated/put that out (the report is a flip of the coin on that, which is why I didn’t mention it)

The lab leak theory was said to be a “conspiracy theory” on this website as late as June 2021.
A quick search shows 34 links (on this site alone) that claimed the lab leak was a ‘conspiracy theory’.

7 June 2021 ‘the lab leak hypothesis is becoming conspiracy theory”

And what authority are you appealing to by claiming the lab leak was a ‘conspiracy theory’

I carefully reread my posts and found no references to ‘made in a lab’. The report does mention the made in a lab theory (but they didn’t have enough evidence one way or another, so I never referred to it)

There is a lot about this virus that we don’t know about (and may never know). And new information is being produced every day. We are still learning about the Spanish flu 100 years later. It something called science, it changes.

Why is there so much disbelief that this was leaked from a lab and causes so much anger when it is mentioned it ‘probably leaked from a lab’.

‘It (sic) something called science, it changes.”

It changes on the basis of good evidence.

“You’ll see I’m right some day, ha ha” is not evidence.

Conspiracy theory was much more than just lab. It involved Fauci and other assorted bogeymen.
If COVID originates from a bat (or some other animal) grown in a lab, one should be able find this bat species in nature. Lab leak hypothesis is not better than natural origin this regard.

It’s possible. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy theory, per se. No offense meant to our fantastic host.

Since evidence to the contrary is lacking it remains a possibility that Clint is a small furry creature from Alpha Centauri. However, regardless of the source it is important that readers be inoculated against this particularly alien form of nonsense. Failure to inoculate can lead to permanent personality alteration in a small percentage of the population after exposure to its droppings.

“That conspiracy theory is that the causative microbe was developed in a laboratory and/or escaped a laboratory.”

From your link Clint.

The conspiracy theories usually involve ‘made in a lab’. Some then expanded their scope to include multiple US government figures as being complicit with the Chinese government using it as a bioweapon.

In its simplest form of ‘virus being studied escapes due to carelessness’, it’s only a conspiracy in the sense that someone might try to avoid responsibility. In its most complex form, it is definitely a conspiracy theory of the tinfoil hat type.

One might also ask why some people are so invested in the source being a lab rather than a wild infection?

“No offense meant to our fantastic host.’

you don’t need to suck up to our host….. from what I’ve read he understands and doesn’t hesitate to admit missteps, we all make them. I made the mistake of posting here ( a newbie) I had no idea this site was so void of real science or medical knowledge and commenters had such a hard time with a google search or even how to search THIS website, I probably should just get a twitter account.

to rs, ….. maybe you should visit alpha centauri, they probably have better drugs then what you are currently on. I might make a suggestion when you book your ticket to Centauri don’t go to A, it’s a little too hot as B is a little colder and C is really cold.
So rs that was kind of fun, all you have to do is make stupid comments with not one piece of real knowledge or even an intelligent thought and someone will read your rants, I weep for our future.


people who believe in the lab leak theory really have little or nothing to gain maybe a little political gain but not much else. if you can show anything else they would gain I would be willing to discuss it.

The people who lobbied for the natural origin of Covid don’t gain much but have lots to loose.
Peter Daszak and his EcoHealth Alliance would probably be the biggest looser as would Ralph Baric (who has changed his mind and now says the lab leak ‘remain viable’ and the head of NIH Dr Fauci.
It was Daszak who first used the ‘conspiracy theories’ about the lab leak in his February 19 2020 in the Lancet which was an attempt to shut down the debate over covid origins. “Peter Daszak, longtime collaborator with the Wuhan Institute of Virology who steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in National Institutes of Health funding to the Chinese lab, helped organize the original Lancet letter despite clear conflicts of interest.” VOX

Numerous articles have been written about his obstruction of investigation (Vanity Fair). Other stories in NPR and Nature have shown that Daszak was a collaborator with the Wuhan lab and EcoHealth gave money to the Wuhan lab. If you have forgot Daszak was an investigator for WHO in the original lab leak theory. In January New York Magazine concluded that is was more than plausible. Daszak has even been recused from further WHO investigations into COVID. Those publication are not right wing or anti vax news organizations.
So the biggest looser in the lab leak theory would be EcoHealth Alliance and he and 27 authors of the Letter would possibly loose funding and by standing in the ‘virus’ community.

Follow the money.

People who insist it was a lab leak obvious have something to gain.

Maybe it’s psychologically advantageous to blame this on people. That way you can convince yourself that being careful will prevent it in the future. If it is a wild infection then it can happen anywhere.

Maybe it’s the opportunity to demonise China which has political benefits for the Trumpist end of the spectrum. Plenty of money involved in penalising China with economic impact too.

Maybe it’s just more science bashing. Which ever way you look at it, insisting on one true cause when the evidence is flimsy is evidence of underlying motives. Psychological, political or economic.

Personally, I don’t particularly care. It’s happened. Now we have to deal with it.

You may want to check who is head of NIH. Fauci did not finance gain of function research either. NIH grants are peer reviewed, decided by committee. Daszak is not only person to oppose lab leak hypothesis
You changed your hypothesis, I noticed. New one is that SARS CoV2 is result on gain-of.function research, However, sequence of gain of function virus is very different. That is because mouse coronavirus was used as a backbone,


I tried to answer the question as to why/what motivated (who had the most to gain or lose in those two positions) the no lab leak side or the lab. leak side (follow the money)

The lab leak side gains very little from that theory (that it was leaked from a lab) no extra funding, no fame, no fortune, no elevation among peers is going to occur from that position.

On the other side (natural source) the researchers who invested in the wuhan lab would continue to get funding from government and private sources. They would lose no fame, no fortune and would continue to be elevated among their peers. If they could muddy the waters enough or at least cover up their involvement.

How ever if the theory is proven, true lots of money will not be given to the Ecolab nor wuhan lab and future NIH grants will be curtailed as well. Daszak attempted to lead or mislead the investigation and steer the focus away from the lab, as he knew the consequences of a wuhan lab leak.

Your argument that I changed the focus to gain of function is a straw man. What they (Daszak et al) were funding has no real nexus to the lab leak vs natural, but does have future consequences for some of the people who tried to bully people or divert thinking from the lab leak theory and that is why it (lab leak theory) was so vigorously opposed by people who much to lose if it is proven.

Actually lab leak hypothesis has political aspect: do not claim Trump, claim Fauci.
Problem with Wuhan has always been gain-of-function research. But as I said, SARS CoV 2 is not result of it.

[…] It is true that Sen. Diaz qualifies his statement (apparently in order to seem reasonable) by saying that MMR, polio vaccine, and all the others have a long history of safety and efficacy, in contrast to the COVID-19 vaccine, but the fact that he would even propose reviewing school vaccine mandates gives away his game and is a dangerous development. Florida’s school vaccine mandate is actually pretty much in line with most other states. It’s even slightly more rigorous than some in that the only nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates that it allows are religious exemptions. It does not all “personal belief” exemptions, which includes, in essence, any reason for not vaccinating based on “personal belief.” Of course, I also oppose religious exemptions to school vaccine mandates (or any vaccine mandate), and antivaxxers have long abused religious exemptions, claiming fake religious exemptions, going all the way back to before I had even started paying attention to the antivaccine movement and predictably continuing right up through the COVID-19 pandemic. […]

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