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On “reasonable” apologists for the antivaccine movement

There have always been “reasonable” apologists for the antivaccine movement. Thanks to COVID-19 their prominence has increased as they mistakenly conflate “antivaccine” with “vaccine hesitant.”

I realize that I sound like the proverbial broken record (and that many of the younger people reading this might not even know what that reference means), but I’ve been at this a long time. I was countering quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience on Usenet back in the 1990s into the early 2000s and then have been blogging about it since 2004. I like to think that two decades of combatting antivaccine misinformation have given me some perspective, which is why I sometimes get so frustrated with so many “reasonable” doctors, scientists, and pundits who, before the pandemic, had paid scant, if any attention to the antivaccine movement, and are shocked—shocked, I say!—to discover the conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric that I’ve been documenting for nearly two decades. Some of them who had paid a little attention would sometimes even periodically castigate me for being a “frenzied, self-righteous zealot” who supposedly couldn’t tell the difference between vaccine-hesitant parents and antivaxxers, never mind the number of times I’ve discussed exactly that difference.

The complaints by these oh-so-“reasonable” people continue, a year and a half into the pandemic. What brought this to my attention is the reaction to an op-ed article in the New York Times by Tara Haelle published yesterday and entitled This Is the Moment the Anti-Vaccine Movement Has Been Waiting For. I’ll start with a brief (for me) discussion of the article, and then move on to some reactions on social media that, whether the people expressing such annoyance at Haelle’s message know it or not, follow a tired, well-worn playbook for apologists for the antivaccine movement. It’s a sentiment that has long annoyed me in that it’s apparently based, above all, on the apologist’s desire to be “reasonable” and bend over backwards to consider “both perspectives.”

From my perspective, I might quibble a bit around the edges of the article, but from the article’s core, I see that Haelle “gets it,” as you can see from the very first passage in the op-ed:

As the coronavirus began pushing the nation into lockdown in March 2020, Joshua Coleman, an anti-vaccine campaigner who organizes anti-vaccine rallies, went on Facebook Live to give his followers a rallying speech. He laid out what he thought the pandemic really was: an opportunity.

“This is the one time in human history where every single human being across this country, possibly across the planet, but especially in this country, are all going to have an interest in vaccination and vaccines,” he said. “So it’s time for us to educate.”

By “educate,” he meant to spread misinformation about vaccines.

The approach that Mr. Coleman displayed in his nearly 10-minute-long appearance — turning any negative event into a marketing opportunity — is characteristic of anti-vaccine activists. Their versatility and ability to read and assimilate the language and culture of different social groups have been key to their success. But Mr. Coleman’s speech also encapsulated a yearslong campaign during which the anti-vaccine movement has maneuvered itself to exploit what Mr. Coleman called “a very unique position in this moment in time.”

Haelle also “gets” what a lot of people, even on “our side,” don’t get, mainly how the antivaccine movement has successfully co-opted the language of right wing populist movements and used it as an “in” to recruit those sympathetic to such views and the conspiracy theories associated with them. Antivaxxers have even gone so far as, more or less, to fuse with QAnon, join COVID-19 antimask and “anti-lockdown” activists and conspiracy theorists, and buy into the election “fraud” conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Let’s just put it this way. When you see a lefty antivax leader like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. addressing a far-right rally in Germany, you can see how thoroughly this “joining of forces” has gone.

Haelle notes:

Over the last six years, anti-vaccine groups and leaders have begun to organize politically at a level like never before. They’ve founded state political action committees, formed coalitions with other constituencies, and built a vast network that is now the foundation of vaccination opposition by conservative groups and legislators across the country. They have taken common-sense concepts — that parents should be able to raise their children as they see fit, and that medical decisions should be autonomous and private — and warped them in ways that have set back decades of public health advances.

She also correctly cites the Disneyland measles outbreak and the reaction to that outbreak that resulted in the passage in California of SB 277, the law that eliminated nonmedical “personal belief exemptions” to school mandates as a sea change in the area of antivaccine messaging. I might quibble a bit with the narrative in that the flirtations between antivaxxers and right wing activists had begun and picked up speed years before antivaxxers mobilized to oppose SB 277 in California. Indeed, there’s long been a right wing/libertarian strain of antivaccinationism going back to General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation and earlier. More recently, but still years before the “coming out” of the antivaccine-pandering to antivaccine fringe of the Republican Party as the mainstream face of the party. Before I get to the “reasonable” apologists for antivaxxers, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.

Many of the the antivaccine people and groups whom I’ve long monitored tend to be anything but liberal politically. For example, the Canary Party, a rabidly antivaccine group that still pushes the idea that toxins in vaccines are responsible for autism and all sorts of health issues and that autism “biomed” quackery is the way to cure vaccine injury teamed up with the East Bay Tea Party as early as 2012 to oppose vaccine mandates in California. Moreover, the Canary Party was known for sucking up to former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), with one of its major financial backers, Jennifer Larson, contributing a lot of money to Issa’s campaign (indirectly, of course) in order to buy influence and win a hearing by his committee examining autism and focused on vaccines as one potential cause. Fortunately, Issa’s hearing, which took place in 2012, was a bust. Before that, the foremost antivaccine legislator in Congress was Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who, as a believer in the discredited idea that the mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be used in several childhood vaccines caused autism, abused his position as the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the late 1990s and early 2000s to drag CDC officials before his committee and castigate them not taking the claimed link seriously enough or even for covering it up.

Let’s just say that there’s a reason why in 2018 I started calling the Republican Party the “antivaccine party.”

As an aside, I’ve frequently pointed out that the common narrative that the antivaccine movement is primarily a bunch of crunchy, hippy-dippy lefties was never correct, despite its promulgation several years ago by people like Samantha Bee, who really should have known better. Fortunately, Haelle doesn’t fall into this trap, noting about the fight over SB 277:

Anti-vaccine activists of all political stripes pushed back — hard — against the bill. When they found that inaccurate claims about vaccines didn’t sway California legislators, they shifted gears and asserted that removing nonmedical exemptions impinged on their freedom to raise their children as they wanted. In the late-Tea Party era, that argument had traction.

I’ve been discussing this very tactic for years and years now. Again, appeals to “parental choice,” “freedom,” and fear of government overreach have been a part of antivaccine messaging ever since I started paying close attention to the antivaccine movement around the turn of the millennium. I had even noticed increasing appeals to these messages before the Disneyland measles outbreak. However, as Haelle points out, SB 277 was a sea change. Before SB 277, right wing populist messaging, although a prominent part of antivaccine propaganda, was not dominant. Afterward, it rapidly became dominant, to the point that by 2019, a few months before the pandemic hit, antivaxxers in California were teaming up with right-wing militia groups. As Haelle documents, this team-up has become, more or less, a fusion, to the point where conservatives who are “not antivax enough” risk backlash from the GOP base.

Moreover, it’s been at least six years in the making, as she points out:

Those of us who have followed the anti-vaccine movement for years know that’s been the plan all along. Although the movement’s leaders could not have known a pandemic was coming, they were more ready to take advantage of the moment with their messaging than public health experts and policymakers were to combat it.

It is at this point that I like to point out my own prior naïvété on this issue. There was a time that I believed that, if a really bad infectious disease ever started sickening hundreds of millions of people and killing millions, threatening to cause the collapse of healthcare systems in many areas of the world, antivaxxers would see the value of vaccines and come around. (I suspect that I was not alone in this foolish belief.) By the time the pandemic hit, though, the doubling down on their beliefs and increasing militancy on the part of antivaxxers in response to efforts to encourage vaccination sparked by the Disneyland measles outbreak and the epidemic of measles in countries like Samoa had disabused me of my prior optimism. I had by then realized that antivaccine ideology is at heart a conspiracy theory in which vaccines are harmful but “they” don’t want you to know The Truth. Given how conspiracy theorists rarely believe in just one conspiracy theory, it’s not surprising that antivax conspiracy theorists would gravitate to the many conspiracy theories that sprang up with the pandemic, and vice-versa.

Enter the “reasonable” people acting as unwitting apologists for antivaxxers:

No doubt Allison Krug, if she sees this, will strenuously object to my characterization of her as an apologist for the antivaccine movement (even as an unwitting one), but, as much as she denies it, that’s what she’s functioning as when she Tweets criticisms of articles like Haelle’s. Above all, antivaxxers crave legitimacy and to have their concerns, no matter how bizarre and based in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, be taken seriously and viewed as “reasonable” (or at least as not unreasonable). Between the first draft of this post and my final edits, I had actually toned down my criticism. I’d originally had a different title for this post (and for people like Krug) in mind. I leave speculating about what that title might have been as an exercise for longtime readers.

Note the strawman that Krug wields like a cudgel against Haelle. It’s a painfully obvious one, too. In fact, I went back and reread Haelle’s post, and nowhere did I see any sort of characterization of the antivaccine movement or the vaccine-hesitant as “anti-thought.” Moreover, Krug completely misunderstands the very nature of the antivaccine movement, past and present. From my perspective of nearly two decades countering the antivaccine movement, Haelle is one of the journalists who most “gets it.” Her primer on how antivaxxers successfully co-opted right wing messaging and, in a mutually beneficial arrangement, right wingers embraced antivaccine messaging in order also to support their opposition to mask mandates and “lockdowns” (and, truth be told, to any public health intervention that requires government or collective action) should be required reading. Moreover, she understands how antivaxxers coordinate their messaging, to great effect.

Unfortunately, Krug is not alone in being an unwitting apologist for the antivaccine movement:

Lucy McBride also misunderstands the nature of the antivaccine movement, and in a manner that I’ve seen many times before dating back to long before COVID-19 was even just an outbreak of a mysterious viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China in late 2019. This is a fundamental category error that’s been made by “reasonable” antivaccine apologists like Krug and McBride. In brief, they conflate the vaccine-hesitant with the antivaccine movement, and it is that mistake that leads to their seeming willful blindness to the nature of antivaccine activists. They conflate the vaccine-hesitant with the militant antivaxxers spreading the disinformation that contributes to vaccine hesitancy and the politicians pandering to those militant conspiracy theorists.

No one, least of all Dr. Peter Hotez or others quoted in the article says that we shouldn’t try to “step into the shoes” of others and recognize their complexities. On the other hand, it is very important to know who is and isn’t reachable. The vaccine hesitant (i.e., the victims of antivaccine disinformation) are usually reachable with empathy, facts, and debunking of misinformation and conspiracy theories associated with antivaccine messaging. In contrast, many of the purveyors of that misinformation (i.e., hardcore antivaccine activists like Del Bigtree, RFK Jr., Andrew Wakefield, Sherri Tenpenny, Barbara Loe Fisher, Joseph Mercola, etc., and all the antivaccine bloggers, social media influencers, and protestors) are almost impossible to reach.

Why is this the case? For some of these influencers (likely a minority), admittedly it’s all about the grift. They don’t care about science or the truth, as long as the profits and fame flow (and they might not even be true believers anyway). It is not the grifters who are the most effective messengers, though. True believers are, and most of the other leaders and influencers in the antivaccine movement, whether they also engage in antivaccine grift or not as a result of their beliefs, have internalized the misinformation and conspiracy theories behind that misinformation to the point that they have become part of their identities, much like a person’s religion or political beliefs. Do Krug and McBride think that you can change someone’s religion by “stepping into their shoes” and recognizing the “roots/complexities of their beliefs”? Or change the political beliefs of a member of a political party’s base by the same technique. They’re welcome to try, but I predict that they’ll have very limited success at best.

Also contrary to claims by so many “reasonable” critics, it’s not as though we who defend vaccines and vaccine mandates don’t realize that antivaccine beliefs are about more than vaccines. I’m going to go back to 2012 and quote an article by Mark Largent, a historian of science at Michigan State University. Ask yourselves if this doesn’t sound very familiar, indeed very much like the attacks on Tara Haelle’s article Tweeted by Allison Krug and Lucy McBride :

It is my hope that by pressing a more moderate position in this op-ed and in my book Vaccine: The Debate in Modern American (Johns Hopkins University Press) we can get more parents to vaccinate more children against more vaccine-preventable diseases. I firmly believe that the best way to do this is to actually address their concerns, not cast them as ignorant fools who mindlessly follow a celebrity. Wakefield and McCarthy would never have garnered as strong a following had there not already a substantial pool of vaccine-anxious parents whose concerns were not being adequately addressed.

Again, no one, least of all I (or Haelle or anyone else pushing back against antivaccine disinformation) argues seriously that we should “dismiss” concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine or attack the vaccine hesitant as fools. That didn’t stop Largent from engaging in false balance, even going so far as to refer to “extremists for and against vaccinations,” as though they were equivalent. (You can see that same sort of rhetoric from the oh-so-“reasonable” doctors arguing, in essence, that the risk from COVID-19 is so low in children that we don’t need to vaccinate them and shouldn’t really be concerned.) As I said in my post at the time, this is the fallacy of the golden mean, or, as I like to call it, the fallacy of false balance, and this is the same fallacy that Krug and McBride appear to be falling prey to.

This category error is one that has reared its ugly head repeatedly going back years and years. Indeed, I recall writing at length about it when Alice Dreger took me to task and portrayed me as a frenzied self-righteous zealot for an article I had written three years before (that’s 2012, people!) about the difference between respecting parental concerns about vaccination and pandering to antivaccine fears and conspiracy theories. Here’s what Dreger wrote:

In his work, Largent refuses to take sides with either a) the anti-vaxxers, who think vaccines cause disorders such as autism, or b) the anti-anti-vaxxers – let’s call them the vaccine zealots – who think any parent who resists any vaccination is a dangerous idiot. Even though Largent is easily as “pro-vaccine” and pro-science as I am, among the frenzied zealots his sympathy for resister parents has marked him out as a heretic.

Notice how Dreger portrayed Largent’s refusal “to take sides” with either antivaxxers or those whom she smeared as “zealots” who view any vaccine refusenik as a “dangerous idiot” as an unalloyed good, a trait to be admired. I did not and do not find such studied “neutrality” to be an admirable stance. Also, in her “bothsides-ism,” Dreger destroyed yet another of my irony meters given how she also accused “vaccine zealots” of using overwrought, emotional, and insulting language, even as she falsely portrayed pro-vaccine advocates as mindless zealots attacking parents using overwrought, emotional, and insulting language.

Sadly, even now, “reasonable” commenters often seem unable to see the difference between respecting the concerns of the vaccine-hesitant, be they about the COVID-19 vaccines or any other vaccine, and pandering to antivaccine conspiracy theories. They seem unable or unable to recognize or acknowledge the difference between the two. Let’s just say that it is very possible to do the respect the concerns of the vaccine-hesitant without falling into the trap of pandering to antivaccine fears. In a way, these “reasonable” critics understand that most people refusing vaccines are not antivaccine, but they seem obstinately unwilling to recognize that there are real antivaxxers and that these antivaxxers are a major influence that contributes to vaccine hesitancy and sometimes converts the vaccine-hesitant int0 antivaxxers.

As one person put it on Twitter:

Exactly. Kudos, too, for the explicit comparison of antivaccine beliefs to a cultish religion.

Unfortunately, this oft-repeated appeal to being “reasonable” and to “moderation” that unintentionally (or, I suspect on occasion, intentionally) erases the difference between the purveyors of misinformation (hardcore antivaxxers) and the victims of that misinformation (the vaccine-hesitant) applies to a lot of science communication that seeks to refute pseudoscience and science denial. (I’m thinking of a followup post discussing this.) Moreover, it is quite possible to walk and chew gum at the same time; i.e., refute the disinformation and conspiracy theories promoted by the true believers and grifters who fuel vaccine hesitancy and to employ facts and science with empathy and understanding to work to change the minds of the vaccine-hesitant. Lumping together the true believers and grifters who spread vaccine misinformation with the victims of that misinformation ignores the different strategies necessary to deal with each.

Finally, the chances of success using empathy, facts, and careful debunking of misinformation are much higher with the merely vaccine-hesitant than with antivaxxers, for whom such techniques are so unlikely to be effective as to be rarely worth the effort given that the same effort could sway lots more of the vaccine-hesitant, who are far more numerous. That is exactly why conflating vaccine-hesitancy with antivaccine activism and thereby portraying them both as “reasonable” (or, again, as at least not unreasonable) is not at all helpful. Quite the opposite, in my view. This error provides conspiracy theorists with statements from oh-so-“reasonable” people granting them the legitimacy they crave by conflating the reasonable concerns and fears about COVID-19 vaccines expressed by the vaccine-hesitant (many of whom come from disadvantaged communities with a history of mistreatment by the medical profession that makes their distrust understandable) with their utterly bonkers pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. Again, there is another term for people who do this other than “‘reasonable’ apologist.”

Tara Haelle is correct, too. The COVID-19 pandemic is the moment antivaxxers have been waiting for, and they’re taking full advantage of it.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

63 replies on “On “reasonable” apologists for the antivaccine movement”

Let me take a shot at the previous version of the title – something along the lines of “useful idiots”, perhaps?

Indeed, there’s long been a right wing/libertarian strain of antivaccinationism going back to General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation and earlier.

His widow, Rima Laibow, later hooked up with one Gordon H. Pederson to peddle colloidal silver. This did not go well.

Rima Laibow’s “Dr. Rima Recommends (TM) nano silver product didn’t fare well either.

The good news is that her former sidekick, Gen. Albert Stubblebine (ret.) has returned from the afterlife where he presumably has been staring at deceased goats, with important news. From Rima’s website:

“What if a World Leader came back from the Dead to talk to us?
He has! I have been keeping a secret about General Bert and now it is time to share it…”
Dr. Rima”

See, a dose of nanosilver goes a long way.

About Orac’s “prior naivete” regarding anti-vaxxers changing their stripes if a deadly disease came about.

I must admit that I felt the same, even speculating that their leaders being held up to scrutiny and derision as Wakefield was, would help. ( Although I always knew that a few odd balls would persist and continue down their sorry path).

But the current state of affairs is beyond imagining.
Because I read and hear the worst of the worst, it appears that the most entrenched go as far as to recommend people take up arms or absent themselves from society. Mike Adams: hospitals have become “murder factories”, killing patients with respirators! Alex Jones told him he “rescued” his own father from such a fate. Del refused blood from vaccinated people when he was down several units. Lately, Gary Null has given up flying as he films his “documentaries” instead driving long distances and sleeping in a sleeping bag ( because I guess hotels are forbidden spike protein farms as well) and NYC is totally off limits. Anti-vaxxers who live in NYC, like Katie Wright, are certainly put in an untenable situation: they love the culture but hate civil responsibilities like cooperating with public health measures. RFK jr advised his 90 year old mother against the vaccine!

Obviously, there are lower levels of anti-vax that shade off into vaccine hesitancy but true believers are probably unreachable as these ideas have become part of their identity, perhaps resting upon a grave mistrust of authority and a need to be regarded as different, independent or truly ahead of their time. A few psychologists have studied what personality and demographic factors influence these positions ( which I have outlined numerous times before in these pages) because some of these qualities suggest personality issues, I would not predict much success in changing them.

The other part of it is that anti-vaccine is not just a belief, it’s a social community. These people interact, become friends, support each others. Sometimes they support each other in ways that are really beneficial – like finding services for disabled children.

But the social aspect reinforces the belief. If giving up the belief costs you your friends, it’s a lot harder to leave.

In addition, it gives many of them a chance to parade themselves as experts, as critics of SBM and society in general. Because their role models are mis-information providers, they become adept at ‘instructing’ newer cohorts and serving as role models which solidifies their own beliefs. Some of them write books ( usually published by Skyhorse) and lecture at conferences. They theorise about physiology, diets and treatment and tell others about their discoveries/ successes.
It’s a pyramid scheme of woo.

That is so right. A hardcore antivaxxer I know too well (I call him a “vicious antivaxxer”, since he’s so entangled in conspiracy beliefs) socializes only with the anti-everything crowd, and a close friend of his is a non-doctor member of AFLD (America’s Front Line Doctors). For some reason, I don’t think that guy corrects them when they refer to him as “Dr B”. He probably enjoys it (but that’s beside the point).

Is it commonly known that Harvey Risch is tied in with that group? Risch has been promoting papers arguing against the need to do RCT’s, stating that “The RCT argument is a shibboleth fetish and anti-science. There are long published discussions about this.”

Thanks you Dorit. I witnessed the same while going to an anonymous group (not AA but one of the spinoff) that some peoples will go to the center of earth to support their mental exercise in the wrong direction…

We see this in the home birth community constantly. Call out bad care from a midwife and you will be kicked out from that community.

I finally figured out one more way that home birth midwives are different from OBs.
If you aren’t happy or comfortable with your OB care, you can and should seek a second opinion. Doctors are usually evidence based enough that they’ll give you a professional opinion based on your situation. Doctors are rarely concerned about contradicting each other.

The home birth community is a subset of a larger, very people oriented, very social community. Relationships are very important. If you went looking for a second opinion from another home birth midwife, the odds are extremely good that the second midwife will not contradict or criticize the first midwife. It is not done. It’s a betrayal to do it. Not even if someone is receiving poor care. The welfare of one person versus the perceived welfare of the community – that’s the equation.

That’s what makes identity politics so problematic. People will make completely unnecessary sacrifices in order to protect their community from perceived threats.

Unnecessary sacrifices.
Like dying of COVID.

. . . they love the culture but hate civil responsibilities like cooperating with public health measures. . . .

As with many of this and related ilk, it’s always about their rights and rarely about responsibilities. Apparently, the Founding Fathers did not believe citizens had any such duties.

I just found this:

Two of RFK jr’s CHD video bloggers ( see Children’s Health Defense. org) appear on Steve Bannon’s rightwing fest to announce their plans for parents to protest mandates ( vaccine. mask et al) by keeping kids out of school on the 13th and then, think about home schooling.

I’m sure that second part will go over really big after a year or more of virtual education.

In regard to useless idiots:

Look out, CDC – James Lyons-Weiler, the “pro-vaccine rational scientist” has issued an open letter challenge to you. He is quite unhappy about a CDC report documenting that among a group of Kentucky residents who previously tested positive for Covid-19, re-infection rates were 2.34 times higher in those who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to those who did. This supports the idea that vaccination is useful even in those who acquired the infection “naturally”.

Naturally L-W is pissed and in his open letter, engages in quite a JAQ-off fest, including the following:

“Per your report, the “vaccinated” (love the scare quotes) were considered vaccinated on 14 or after, per CDC guidelines. This seems unusual; if the vaccine harms the immune system for a period of time and makes people more susceptible to infection, it would appear within the first two weeks, given what we have seen in animal studies.”

Um, what?

L-W closes by asking, as a “professional”, for the favor of a reply. I’m used to seeing “the favor of a reply is requested” on the envelope when getting come-ons from variably shady businesses trying to sell me something. I rip those up without reading. Maybe the CDC will urgently have a team prepare responses to L-W’s queries. It’s not like they have anything better to do.

That quoted bit about the 14 days rather suggests he has no clue how in immune system works and that it takes time for it to respond. It rather looks like he thinks humoral and cell mediated immunity are supposed to be instantaneous after vaccination.

There was a time that I believed that, if a really bad infectious disease ever started sickening hundreds of millions of people and killing millions, threatening to cause the collapse of healthcare systems in many areas of the world, antivaxxers would see the value of vaccines and come around.

Through my long association with anti-vaccine arguments going back to the early 1990s, I never expected the anti-vaxxers to come around. I just expected them to do what they always do and move the goalposts around.

What I did think might happen is that the anti-vaccine adjacent might leave the movement. There had certainly already been some of this in Australia when vaccine requirements were tightened for childcare and the publicity surrounding the rabid anti-vaxxers’ behaviour over infant deaths to pertussis. The big surprise was how being anti-vaccine came to be seen as an indicator of political purity by the Trump base, pandered to by Trump even though he got himself vaccinated. This seems to have infected right wing circles in the rest of the World. I find it staggering that people are prepared to die just to “own the libs”.

In Australia, vaccine mandates are certain to happen. The two major airlines have already moved, other business are talkng about it and there is talk of states requiring vaccinations to cross borders.

@ ChrisP:

I agree. We may get a biased picture of the anti-vax movement because we usually only hear the most
virulent rhetoric on-line from their leaders ( and I include ‘ concerned parents’ amongst the leaders especially when they take activist roles in spreading misinformation like Rossi, Wright, Blaxill, Larson, Holland, Hooker etc ) and not much from the less entrenched.

If you look closely at jurisdictions that allow vaccine exemptions of any sort, you never find large numbers of parents opting for them even though they are relatively easy to acquire in most places. Of course, there may be a few hot spots but overall, only a few per cent get them.

I think that mandates will be imposed for certain employment, university attendance, entertainment and dining, and eventually, air travel, as well as crossing international borders. Anti-vaxxers call that a sign of imminent Fascism when it is basically pandemic control- I doubt that companies who make money off of travel and entertainment want these measures but they’re sure better for business than shutdowns a la 2020.

The big surprise was how being anti-vaccine came to be seen as an indicator of political purity

In my country, our French leftists are going the same way as our right/far-right elements, opposing vaccination because of freedom from medical tyranny and, more really, because it’s being anti-president Macron.

Of all the hills to die on, they choose this one.

MSN/ US News and Word Review

A new Axios/ Ipsos poll showed that amid the delta surge and after the approval of Pfizer, about 20% of adults said they would not take the vaccine, down from 23% 2 weeks ago and 34% in March. “Hard” opponents were 14%.

Going to go dangerous here.

Is there a test that shows a person has the antibodies to defend against C-19? I’m seeing this more and more as a new defense/argument against vaccination — natural immunity — and details peter out after that (of course). My understanding is that hey — great — you got the C-19 and didn’t die. Everyone in USA should be relieved! However, getting to ‘natural immunity’ has huge risks based on sensitivity of the individual in question. Will the little bugger change enough to let it go eating ya (do some degree of harm)?

I do think it worthwhile to have tests that show your level of protection, rather than a vaccine card. Let them go to licensed physician and pull a blood test twice in 2 months or something better informed with expert advice. Vaccines are a great way to protect as a public health initiative! Prefer that to waiting for it to possibly kill and overwhelm resources.

Frankly, I am unconcerned that the freedom lover will take the risk. Not a problem. Just not cool that they portray the situation in freedom mode when it is obvious that people die expensively and horribly, and that isn’t fake.

Anyway — think the natural immunity thing is worth a discussion.

What is the cut-off for protection? That is a question we don’t have the answer to, so I don’t think this will be useful until that question can be answered.

Then there are the breakthrough infections with the delta strain. We don’t yet understand why the breakthrough infections occur. I have a suspicion that extent of exposure is involved, but we will have to see what the data says.

There are a couple problems.
1. We don’t really know the correlates of protection yet. So we can’t give a firm number for protection against, say, hospitalization or death.
2. It’s probably a sliding scale anyway. As time goes on, the antibody levels gradually decline, making it more likely that an infection can get going. And then the protection against symptomatic disease declines even though the memory B cells can probably crank our enough antibodies to keep you out of the hospital.

Can you please stop calling the covid shots ‘vaccines’?
Or that they are effective?

“The Governor reported that, over the past eight weeks, West Virginia has seen a 26% increase in breakthrough cases, a 21% increase in breakthrough cases requiring hospitalization, and a 25% increase in breakthrough bases [sic] causing death.”

I’m pretty sure that you have already been told, ad nauseam, that vaccines are not 100% effective. I’m also pretty sure that you’ve been told that the virus evolves and that it could develop mutations that reduce the effectiveness further.

As long as the vaccines do something then they will save lives. At some point there’ll probably be discussions about costs Vs benefits if the variants get too frisky but, hopefully, there’ll be better vaccines developed by this point. Or even good enough treatments that lives aren’t at risk any more.


Can you stop your campaign to misinform people which helps them to die of COVID-19?

Do you have credibility to understand anything about COVID?

@1000 Links to a Furlong

Can you stop your campaign to misinform people which helps them to die of COVID-19?

You think statistics about covid deaths are ‘misinformation”?

I repeat again; COVID vaccines are 95% effective. It is consirerable better than zero. I am sure that you prefer 19/20 change to win to zero.

Whilst there are nation states with biological weapons programmes – there will be anti-vaxxers.
If there exists teams of state-sponsored scientists, actively working on biological agents designed to destroy you, and you realize that deception is the art of war, why would you automatically trust anything the state is determined to inject you with?

Remember: The same politicians that will push a “green agenda” have also been responsible for contamination of tonnes of depleted uranium across the middle east.
Lies and hypocrisy are the bread and butter of the politician.

If you, as a scientist are providing politicians tools to push an agenda, it doesn’t matter how good your science is (or isn’t).

The high priests of yore were provided with astronomical data from the science nerds of yore, who had calculated e.g. when a solar eclipse would occur.

The high priest would use that information to terrify the population, into believing they had the power to extinguish the sun.

For the nerd of yore to say “well – I only provided the High Priest with the scientific facts – everything I provided was provably true” doesn’t get them off the hook: They were fully complicit in the terror.

Why would a State with a biological weapons programme harm its own citizens? Your argument is completely illogical.
I first thought you were going to write that a State with a biological weapons programme would spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in states hostile to it to increase the effectiveness of its programme. THAT makes far more sense than what you claimed.

Yes – you’re right. Thinking back over the last couple of hundred years – I can’t think of any examples at all, of agents deployed by the State deliberately conspiring to harm their own citizens.

How illogical of me. How do I dream these scenarios up?
An over-active imagination I guess …

Can you think of an occasion where the state conspired to harm ALL of its own citizens? Because that’s what you’d be talking about.

I see the appointees of the State do little else than harm all the citizenry – albeit not necessarily via the mechanism of biological agents. (Although it would come as no surprise to me, if these were used as well)

The lying, corrupt psychopaths have reigned over us since the dawn of time and will continue to do so: From enslavement to annihilation.

We are nothing more than cattle, and never have been – bio-units to be harvested of taxable value. Mandatory vaccination only confirms this to me.

(As you can see: It’s only being so cheerful that keeps me going.)

Even the deeply caring and humane proponents of these new medical technologies, that post on this very forum, have advised me to overdose on Ivermectin – presumably because I have expressed opinions they find dissonant to their own.

How easily we are controlled to hate,eh?

@Cthulhu It was about intentionally releasing harmful bilogical agents to damage all citizens. Not liking politicians is another matter entirely.

The same politicians that will push a “green agenda” have also been responsible for contamination of tonnes of depleted uranium across the middle east.

You mean contamination of the Middle-East by depleted uranium.
The way you write it, that could be a scenario for a spy thriller novel where the hero contaminates the depleted uranium stocks of some rogue nation to prevent them from enriching that uranium and making nukes.

And you seem very confused. Now, Bush had a green agenda?

More seriously, you want the US military – or any military – to use eco-friendly ammo? Organic bullets?
Lead is not much better than depleted uranium, you know. Or leaving tons of unexploded mines and shells behind. Like we Westerners are used to do.

Did you overdosed on ivermectin? If not, maybe you should.

Ivermectin? Oh no … I remember what they told me at school: Just say no to experimental drugs – however much peer pressure is exerted upon you … and however positive the pusher’s description of the effects may sound.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation where drugs are being used – for any reason at all – the best thing to do is Just Say “NO”.

Yep. That’s what they told us all at school.

I say Nay to ivermectin 😉

@Cthulhu Good decision but for wrong reason. There is no good evidence that ivermection does work,

It is “depleted” it no longer has enough of the fissile U235 to make it worthwhile to enrich. At this time*, it is barely worthwhile to try to enrich it. It is said that 10% of the entire US electrical output was used to enrich uranium during the Cold War.

It was a different story some millions of years ago, cf the Oklo reactor.

It’s not often that I come across two exceedingly bad pieces of Covid mis-information in a very short time period but looking at NN and PRN loads the dice.
— yesterday, NN, Mike Adams states that people vaccinated for Covid can’t donate blood for plasma several times ( somewhere in his interminable podcast, in print and in a short video of a woman shrieking). He claims the Red Cross website states this. He also quotes Zoey O’Toole of TMR fame which neatly illustrates the quality of his sources.
— Gary Null ( today, PRN) claims that ‘natural immunity’ from contracting Covid is much superior to vaccine based responses. AND OTHER STUFF.

Endless. Their BS is endless.

There is a paper from Israel where they compare reinfections versus breakthrough infections. The paper seems to show that breakthrough infections occur more often than reinfections. From this they suggest that immunity from infection is more robust than immunity from vaccination. The authors caution that there is nothing to show that the social behaviour of the two groups (vaccinated and recovered) is the same.

The paper exists as a preprint and hence not peer reviewed. A quick look at the paper appears to show that, despite their claim, the authors had not established matched populations in the two groups. The group who are vaccinated and have breakthrough infections appear to have a larger number of people with comorbidities.

if you actually read the paper it said there were 16215 vaccinees and 238 breaktrouugh cases. So vaccine efficiency was 98.5. I am afraid that authors though publishing this data would be boring,
Natural immunity efficiency was 27/16215 = 99.8. Thus just one procent difference.

If you ask me, the best way to get vaccines into the population would be to create an official voluntary database of those who oppose vaccination – clearly stating that if you submit your details you will NEVER be allowed to have any sort of vaccine for any ailment, anytime ever, come what may, whilst your details remain on the database.
You will never be invited for a vaccination, you will never be factored into any provisioning equation for any vaccine – you will be completely on the outside. Even if you subsequently request vaccination, if you can be found on the database your request will be denied.
Also – there will be some sort of “non-vaccine passport”, where you can proudly prove your complete lack of vaccination, should you want to.

The bluff has been called: Now there exists a means to guarantee non-vaccination.

Do you think many would sign up?

The best way to get people to demand something – is to tell them they can’t have it.

Non vaccnated should not infect other people, either. Vaccine mandates would still apply these persons.

I have had COVID (several months ago) but I have never been vaccinated.

I’m waiting to see what happens to me – and others like me – when it comes to mandatory vaccinations, as by all accounts, my immunity is at least as good (and possibly better), than those who have just been vaccinated.

If it appears a COVID vaccine mandate will apply to me – I will know the whole thing is more about bureaucracy than about public health.

If you need to make a particular course of action mandatory – it presumably means that the level of voluntary uptake is below the level you consider to be acceptable.

In other words – those pushing for this particular course of action have failed to convince a significant percentage of those individuals whose actions you would wish to influence, that the action is a good idea.

So – why have you failed to convince them?

Furthermore – all ideologically-driven psychopaths are convinced that their ideology should be inflicted uniformly on everyone whether they like it or not.

What distinguishes YOU from any other generic ideologically-driven psychopath?

“Furthermore – all ideologically-driven psychopaths are convinced that their ideology should be inflicted uniformly on everyone whether they like it or not.”

That’s a succinct description of the anti-vaxx, anti-mask brigade.

OK – so we’re presented with a choice of psychopathic ideologs – and we go with the one we like best (or dislike least)?

How about … psychopathic ideologs NOT dominating all narratives?

I doubt that will catch on, though. Doesn’t fit with the “divide and conquer” paradigm…

I am afraid I am incarcerated in a maximum security psychiatric hospital: I have very little else to do.

@Cthulhu There is lots of misinformation around, which is the problem., How many non-antivax sites have you visited ?=

When one reads a science paper or stated position one looks at the supporting literature to see if the paper is reasonable, or a maybe, or just simply junk. The usual ratio is 1:3:6. In all sciences.

So lets looks that the literature for SARs Cov 2.

So human corona viruses (HCOV’s) are endemic. One of the most common human infections which kills around 10% of people who die from respiratory infections. So lets go look at the literature. Very little. On its pathology or epidemiology. Although most of the much more extensive influenza research seems to apply. Both for endemic spread and epidemic spread. And the numbers for IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) and CFR (Case Fatality Rate) for all four endemic HCOV’s looks about the same. Maybe. Hard to tell because no one really bothered to find out.

So lets look at the published literature on SARs CoV 1 in 2003. The clinical pathology looks pretty standard but a very odd epidemiology. Mainly it seems because of the widespread cover up for political reasons the main community outbreak in China never had accurate data published. So we only have data for the cluster outbreaks outside China which were mainly HAP’s. Hospital / Healthcare Acquired Pneumonias. Usually after an outbreak like SARs CoV 1 the IFR for the disease is calculated by longitudinal seroloigical studies. Which were never done. So if you go looking for the support data for the IFR for SARs CoV 1 published by the WHO etc there is none. The number that was used as the initial justification for the lock-downs..

Now what I found disturbing is that supposed reputable domain experts never once seemed to have questioned why SARs CoV 1 had an IFR = CFR. Unique for a respiratory viral infection of this type. None seem to have done basic due diligence on the published number. Or kept quiet about this deeply embarrassing fact.

This pattern is repeated everywhere one looks in the SARs CoV 2 story over the last 18 months.

Can you show me the full FDA 505(b)1 approval timeline clinical data for any successful HCOV vaccine candidate in the past? There is none.

Can you show me the full FDA 505(b)1 approval timeline clinical data for any successful mRNA vaccine candidate in the past? There is none.

Can you show me the full FDA 505(b)1 approval timeline clinical data for any successful adenovirus vaccine candidate in the past? Well here at least we have one. For limited not general population use.

Of how about can you show me any 505(b)1 approved viral respiratory infection vaccines that had a field efficacy of greater than 50%. Or had an efficacy period of greater than 9/12 months? Another no.

The huge problem for people who go on about “misinformation” is that their “information” has little or no basis in the the published literature. When one goes looking for the supporting evidence.

Why do you need everyone vaccinated when the base vaccination rate for an R0 < 2 is less than 50%? When you claim an 95% efficacy rate. This is very basic math in epidemiology. This is not childhood measles or chicken pox.

The big problem is that to those of us who have been steeped in the hard sciences for many decades when we analysis your “information” most of it turns out to be as dubious, spurious and often outright incorrect as the complete rubbish spouted by the crank fringe of the traditional anti-vaxers. In fact I’d like someone to defend the use of non strand specific RT/PCR molecular test when used as a screening test in low prevalence groups as proof of active infection by exactly the same standards used to totally discredit the junk MMR Lancet paper.

See the problem? If not, you really dont understand what the science actually is.

Gives us the option of a traditional attenuated virus vaccine like VLA2001 or Covaxin and I’ll roll up my sleeve even though its will be epidemiology speaking about placebo level efficacy. But keep up with the current level of little more than cargo cult science propaganda about what is now just another endemic HCOV like 229E/OC43/HK1/NL63 and try to mandate early clinical trial vaccines types and I’ll be joining the anti-vaxers on the legal barricades. Supplying them with ammunition.

Because I am very seriously worried about the huge reputation damage that will done to vital public health vaccines by the premature rollout of an ineffective and high risk SARs CoV 2 vaccines for reason of pure political expediency. Driven by little more than mass hysteria.

Public trust once lost take generations to return. Just look at minority vaccination rates for proof. Tuskegee anyone?…

Your main point seems to be that you should never do something first time. Your numbers refer to influeza vaccine, which is entirely different thing (virus mutates very rapidly).
Robert Kennedy Jr himself cited a study that showed 98 % efficiency (see previous comment) It is of course better if vaccine is better, there is no need to desing vaccine that is barely satisfactory.

“When one reads a science paper or stated position one looks at the supporting literature to see if the paper is reasonable, or a maybe, or just simply junk. The usual ratio is 1:3:6.”

Does one have facts to back up this assertion, or did one just pull those numbers out of one’s ass?

Why do you need everyone vaccinated when the base vaccination rate for an R0 < 2 is less than 50%?

Everybody who wants Rₑ ∈ [1, 2], please raise your hands.

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