Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking

Claiming the mantle of “reasonableness” by attacking even worse cranks

A couple of days ago, Joe Mercola tried to seem “reasonable” by contrasting himself to other quacks by “conceding” that SARS-CoV-2 actually exists. Last night Dr. Vinay Prasad tried to do the same thing by “analyzing” the appearances of conspiracy theorists on Joe Rogan’s show. The parallels are eerie.

This post started out by being just about Joe Mercola, which is amusing to me because I just wrote about Mercola the other day, specifically his brilliant grift in making all the content on his own website “ephemeral” (disappearing after 48 hours) and then moving it over to his Substack, where he charges his marks to access his “Censored Library.” On Monday, he apparently had decided that he wanted to seem “reasonable.” The way he went about it was hilarious in the extreme. In brief, Mercola made a big show of “conceding” that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, actually exists, contrasting his “reasonable” and “scientific” take with some of the cranks and quacks who, in addition to denying germ theory, deny outright that this coronavirus even exists, attributing COVID-19 to other things. (Mercola’s article might well be gone by not long after this posts; so I’ll quote liberally.) Then, late last night, I saw a post by someone who is not antivaccine but over the course of the pandemic has been rapidly descending into the realm of being a crank himself, Dr. Vinay Prasad, that very much did the same thing. (As evidence of this, three months ago I noted Dr. Prasad going full Godwin over pandemic public health interventions, likening them to incipient fascism.) I had to do a bit of last minute…surgery…to this post, expanding it to take a look at the parallel.

Before I look at the two articles, let me just briefly mention why I’m lumping Dr. Prasad’s article together with Mercola’s article. The reason is simple. Like the Spider-Man meme that I chose to use as the image for this article in which Spider-Man and a double are trying to convince people who is the real Spider-Man, cranks sometimes like to claim that they are the “real” scientist or “real” reasonable person, even though they look just like the crank and are, for all intents and purposes, just like the cranks they’re pointing at. In Mercola’s case, this is really obvious, as he is a total crank pointing at even worse cranks and saying they are wrong, even as he echoes some of their other points. In this case, Mercola is pointing to the most bonkers things that germ theory denialists say (e.g., that SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t exist) to contrast with his more “reasonable” take (that SARS-CoV-2 exists, but that “terrain” is more important than the virus). Similarly, Dr. Prasad claims that he’s doing the “fairest” analysis of claims made by two cranks whom I’ve discussed before, Drs. Peter McCullough and Robert “inventor of mRNA vaccines” Malone, slapping down some of their more ridiculous conspiratorial nonsense but agreeing with some of their ridiculous conspiratorial nonsense.

Prasad on cranks on Rogan
The “fairest” analysis? I can only respond: “Fair.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. You just want to make your views seem more “reasonable” by contrasting them to the most “out there” views of cranks. I also like the capitalization of the word “fairest.” Nice touch.

Joe Mercola: “These cranks’ germ theory denial is bonkers, but this lesser germ theory denial isn’t”

Let’s look at Mercola’s article first, which is entitled Yes, SARS-CoV-2 Is a Real Virus (again, this article could be gone by the time you read this, which is why I will quote liberally) and is complete with the claim that it’s “fact-checked” that Mercola loves to add to his “analyses,” as though including a lot of bad science by other cranks and misinterpreted science is equivalent to a real “fact check.” My amusement aside, let’s see a crank try to be “reasonable”:

While some still claim SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t actually exist, this seems to fly in the face of several well-established facts. The virus has actually been photomicrographed,1,2 whole-genome sequences of the various strains are available,3,4 and with the appropriate credentials anyone can obtain the live virus to conduct research.

While I am absolutely no fan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they do grow the virus in cell culture to ensure widespread availability for researchers who want to study it.5 Examples of research where you need the actual virus include antiviral research, vaccine development, virus stability research and pathogenesis research.6

Next up:

At least part of the confusion appears to be rooted in how the term “isolated” is defined. Some insist a virus is not isolated unless it’s also purified, while others say a virus doesn’t have to be purified in order to be “isolated.”

Ironically, in arguing that SARS-CoV-2 actually does exist (something that’s been known since December 2019 or January 2020 at the latest, when SARS-CoV-2 was first isolated and its complete nucleotide sequence published), Mercola cites Dr. Malone and Steve Kirsch, who are, of course, total cranks

Steve Kirsch claims to have asked several experts about this, noting that all, including Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Li-Meng Yan, say that the virus has indeed been “isolated.” “So, it has been ‘isolated’ according to their belief in what the term means,” Kirsch writes, adding:7
Others interpret the term differently and would claim the virus hasn’t been isolated. In fact, according to their definition, no virus in history has ever been isolated. That’s important to know. They use that as justification for their belief that there is no virus here since viruses don’t exist at all.
When Kirsch asked his readers for input, one pointed out:8
The real question is … has it been isolated from a HUMAN subject w/o passing it through (say) Monkey Kidney Cells? Because there is plenty of evidence out there that says it hasn’t been isolated directly (no intermediaries) from a HUMAN subject.
According to Kirsch, the scientists he spoke with did not agree that this was a concern, and “Sabine Hazan verified that the sequence of the virus obtained from ATCC [the American Type Culture Collection, a global resource center for reference microorganisms] matched exactly what she found in people who have the virus.”9

This sort of argument is, of course, nonsense, as one has to define “purified.” I’ve grown and “purified” viruses myself. What you generally end up with is a solution with a certain titer of virus, which is often measured (at least for the viruses I used to work with) in a plaque assay, which involves putting serial dilutions of the virus supernatant onto cells and counting how many plaques form, each plaque representing a single cell that had been infected and then burst to release virus that infected surrounding cells, which then burst to infect more cells. The result, after a certain amount of time to let the virus grow, is a spot on the plate that you can often see with the naked eye. The reason for the serial dilution is to get enough plaques to count, but not so many that they completely cover the plate. In any case, once you find the right dilution you can back calculate what the concentration of active virus was in your solution.

I don’t want to dwell too much on this, given that this argument by germ theory denying cranks is a profoundly stupid one, but the basic idea is that, because the virus has never been “isolated” that must mean it doesn’t exist. Basically, because viruses can’t replicate on their own, in order to grow enough of them to work with virologists have to grow them in living cells, a situation that cranks use to claim that such virus stocks are hopelessly “contaminated.” I discussed a lot of this nonsense over a year ago, but will add that virologists and microbiologists have always worked with supernatants; so the germ theory denial angle by cranks claiming that SARS-CoV-2 has never truly been “isolated” is a claim that can be made for pretty much every virus ever identified to cause disease. (I suppose that’s the point.) That’s how cranks move the goalpost. As scientists show one point, they retreat to more and more requirements, such as the one above about the virus having been “isolated directly” from a human with no intermediaries. If you point to, for instance, PCR tests that detect viral nucleotide sequences in a patient, they will claim that’s not the “isolated virus.” Before the pandemic, virologists wouldn’t believe me when I told them that not only did people deny germ theory but that they made claims like this about viruses, but I guess they do now.

Or, as Frank Visser put it:

Now here’s the pivot. After having staked out the scientific “high ground”—never mind that conceding that SARS-CoV-2 exists and that it’s been sequenced is barely above sea level—Mercola goes on to write:

As noted by independent journalist and political analyst Jeremy Hammond in a March 2021 interview,11 the claim that SARS-CoV-2 has never been isolated and actually doesn’t exist at all is perhaps one of the most counterproductive arguments of the health freedom movement.

By insisting that there is no virus, and that COVID-19 is caused by things like 5G radiation alone, allows the mainstream media to dismiss entirely legitimate concerns about electromagnetic field exposure (EMF) and 5G — including the possibility that it might make some people more vulnerable to infections.

Like Hammond, I believe the pathogenesis of COVID-19 involves both germ theory and terrain theory, not just one or the other. “SARS-CoV-2 infection is an insufficient but necessary factor in the pathogenesis of COVID-19,” Hammond says, adding that “the virus is constantly being isolated and whole genome sequenced by scientists all over the world.”12

COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call to the human population, and especially the populations of developed countries, about the need to focus on natural means of maintaining good health and living in greater harmony with our natural environment. ~ Jeremy Hammond

That said, environmental factors can clearly play a role, in that they can make you more or less predisposed to severe infection when you encounter this virus. This includes EMFs, toxins like glyphosate, previous vaccine injuries and much more.

I’ve discussed the idea of “terrain” many, many times. It all goes back to the time of Louis Pasteur, when it was not yet clear that his theory of infectious disease would win out against the competing ideas of the time; for example, those of Claude Bernard and Antoine Béchamp, both of whom who postulated nearly the exact opposite of what Pasteur did: that microorganisms were not the cause of disease but rather the consequence of disease, that injured or diseased tissues produced them, and that it was the health of the organism that mattered, not the microorganisms. In other words, the “terrain” was all. Bernard, for example, described the milieu intérieur, the interstitial fluids regarded as an internal environment in which the cells of the body are nourished and maintained in a state of equilibrium, which he and others also called “terrain.”

You can see why this concept is so attractive to alternative medicine mavens. It basically argues that you can make yourself immune (or close to it) to infectious disease if you just make your “terrain” healthy enough (whatever “healthy enough” means), no vaccines necessary! Also, there was a grain of truth in Béchamp’s ideas that makes them even more appealing to quacks today. Specifically, it is true that the condition of the “terrain” (the body) does matter when it comes to infectious disease. Debilitated people cannot resist the invasion of microorganisms as well as strong, healthy people. For SARS-CoV-2, this issue manifests itself as a much higher risk of severe disease and death in the elderly and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. There is a twist, though. The “terrain” can facilitate the harmful effect of microorganisms in unexpected ways. One well-known example is how certain strains of influenza (as in 1918 and H1N1) are more virulent in the young because the young mount a more vigorous immune response against them. In any event, in the era of this pandemic, most germ theory denial is like Mercola’s germ theory denial; i.e., “soft” denial. He doesn’t deny that, for example, SARS-CoV-2 exists. Only real cranks do that! He does, however, use the discarded 19th century theory of “terrain” to hand-wave about unnecessary studies that he thinks should be done, such as whether the vaccine causes antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). Never mind that billions of doses have been administered, and this has not been found to be a problem.

He then ever-so-piously concludes:

Either way, I believe it’s scientifically accurate to claim that SARS-CoV-2 has been isolated, genetically sequenced, and that it exists as a pathogenic entity. Getting too far into the weeds of theories that refute the existence of viruses altogether will only slow down and hamper the truth movement rather than aid it along, and I would strongly discourage anyone from engaging in this highly unproductive narrative.

Translation: “See! I’m not like those real cranks who deny germ theory! I concede that SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses actually exist and have been “isolated” as a “pathologic entity.” You cranks claiming that are hurting me and making me look like another crank. Stop it. Instead, follow me in my “softer” germ theory denial that relies on 19th century ideas that competed against Pasteur’s germ theory but have been long discarded about microbes and disease.

Dr. Vinay Prasad: “These quacks are right about this but wrong about this. See how fair I am?”

In his article We need to talk about the vaccines, Dr. Prasad, although I’m sure he would vigorously deny it, does something very similar to what Mercola did in his article. Indeed, the subtitle (Public debate on side-effects is being censored) gives the game away. Interestingly, though, instead of leading with the worst claims of the cranks, only to dismiss them and then claim the mantle of reasonableness, Dr. Prasad starts by discussing which claims he agrees with, after which theatrically demolishes what he considers to be the more ridiculous claims that they made, all to demonstrate his “fair-mindedness.” Basically, he alternates discussing claims that he considers “plausible” or “reasonable” with claims that he considers bonkers, all to demonstrate his “fairness.”

Before I get into the article, I must point out that it hasn’t been a great week for Dr. Prasad. People started noticing that he has been publishing COVID-19 minimizing articles and articles hyping uncommon side effects of COVID-19 vaccines over at the Brownstone Institute website. The Brownstone Institute, as I’ve discussed, is the “spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration, a document published by crank scientists brought together by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) in October 2020 that advocated, in essence, a “let ‘er rip” strategy for COVID-19, with an ill-defined “focused protection” strategy to keep the most vulnerable from dying like flies. Never mind that “focused protection was never really well-defined and that it’s impossible to keep the vulnerable safe in an environment of uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, making the Great Barrington Declaration eugenics. More recently, though, Brownstone embraced its inner antivaxxer, using language identical to that of antivaxxers on vaccine mandates.

It’s worse than that, though. People also started noticing that Dr. Prasad’s work for Brownstone has been picked up by outlets that are even less “respectable.” (That’s an understatement.) For instance, one of Dr. Prasad’s Brownstone articles recently popped up in The Epoch Times:

Even worse, it was noticed that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had picked up some of Dr. Prasad’s articles:

I have to think that the pressure was on for Dr. Prasad to demonstrate that he is not one of the cranks. That’s what he appears to be doing with his “fairest” analysis of the claims made by Drs. Malone and McCullough during their appearances on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Of course, having written about how Dr. Malone had gone full antivax (plus his conspiracy theories) and Dr. McCullough’s conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines are part of a “depopulation agendakilling tens of thousands of people, I knew what sorts of things they were bound to say when Rogan interviewed them. Let’s just say that it would not be…good.

Dr. Prasad, however, frames it not as cranks pushing misinformation on the podcast of a crank whose audience numbers in the millions, but rather an issue of “FREEDOM!” versus “CENSORSHIP!” Here’s where he claims the “reasonable”-seeming “middle ground”:

Last week, a group of scientists, doctors, and academics published an open letter calling on Spotify “to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform”. Specifically, they were objecting to two recent episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast, in which he interviewed the prominent vaccine sceptics Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone. “By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions,” the letter claimed, “Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”

I am an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, as well as a practising physician, and I firmly believe that it would be a mistake to censor Rogan under the guise of combating “misinformation”.

Rogan is not a scientist, and, like everyone else, he has his biases. But he is open-minded, sceptical, and his podcast is an important forum for debate and dialogue. It is not enough, moreover, to simply dismiss Malone and McCullough as conspiracy theorists. They are controversial and polarising figures, but they do have real credentials. Malone is a physician who has worked in molecular biology and drug development for decades, while McCullough was, until recently, an academic cardiologist and researcher.

The phrase “controversial and polarizing” is doing a lot of work here, as Malone and McCullough are conspiracy theorists. It’s not even a close call. (See above.) The fact that they were once respectable scientists matters not one whit. They are cranks now. Again, it’s not even a close call, as much as Dr. Prasad labors to make it seem as though they are. Come to think of it, I have to wonder if maybe Dr. Prasad sees a bit of himself in Drs. McCullough and Malone and fears that he will soon be viewed with as much disdain as they are. Whatever the case, if Dr. Prasad hadn’t destroyed so much good will before the pandemic by dismissing efforts by skeptics to combat health misinformation as being akin to LeBron James “dunking on a 7′ hoop” and therefore unworthy of his vast medical and scientific intellect, perhaps he would have learned that most important of lessons that skeptics must learn: Anyone and everyone are prone to manipulation. Any scientist can descend into crankery. Just look at Nobel Prize winners like Luc Montagnier (who promotes homeopathy, antivaccine pseudoscience, and, more recently, COVID-19 conspiracy theories), Linus Pauling (who promoted the idea the vitamin C cures cancer), and Louis Ignarro (who became a shill for the supplement MLM company Herbalife), all of whom succumbed to what I like to call the “Nobel Disease.” If he’d taken skepticism more seriously, he might have known that, if Nobel Prize winners can become conspiracy theorists and cranks, any seemingly reputable scientist can too.

Next comes the bothsidesism:

Both speakers made accurate and useful points on Rogan’s podcast — as well as unsupported, speculative, alarmist, and false ones. The correct way to deal with incorrect ideas in biomedicine, if they rise to a level of prominence that warrants rebuttal, is to rebut them.

Funny, but rebutting “incorrect ideas in biomedicine” is exactly what skeptics combatting health misinformation have been doing for decades. It’s the very thing that the once-eminent now imminent crank Dr. Prasad first dismissed so contemptuously a few months before the pandemic hit the US. Is Dr. Prasad now “dunking on a 7′ hoop” or has he come around to our way of thinking? The answer, obviously, is neither. He’s doing what Mercola did, only slightly more subtly. Also, he obviously doesn’t realize that what Drs. McCullough and Malone were promoting on Joe Rogan’s podcast was not just “incorrect ideas in biomedicine,” but science denial, and all science denial is a form of conspiracy theory. Dr. Prasad is either being dishonest or clueless, take your pick.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on all the claims discussed by Dr. Prasad, because I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak. I do note that Dr. Prasad agrees with the two cranks that “risks of mRNA vaccination are underdiscussed and boosters should be debated.” My reaction to the word “underdiscussed” was this:

Godzilla facepalm
If there’s one thing that isn’t “underdiscussed,” it’s the risk of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters!

Seriously, is Dr. Prasad on crack (to be polite)? If there’s one thing that isn’t “underdiscussed,” it’s the risks of COVID-19 vaccines, such as their potential risk of contributing to myocarditis, or the risks of boosters. He even goes on to refute his immediately preceding point inadvertently by showing just how much these risks have been discussed and disagreements about them debated:

Such concerns are not limited to the fringe. Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, the former director and deputy director, respectively, at the US Food and Drug Administration, resigned last autumn over White House pressure to green-light boosters. Paul Offit, a prominent vaccine advocate and the director of vaccine communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recently told the Atlantic that he advised his own 20-something son not to get boosted. Other nations are taking the myocarditis concern seriously, too. Several have banned or discouraged the use of Moderna in young men. Others advise two doses spaced further apart, and some have held off on a second dose entirely for younger age groups.

This sure sounds to me as though the risks of boosters are being very widely discussed in the media and by governments and public health officials.

How disingenuous can you get?

Even more disingenuous is Dr. Prasad’s citation of Dr. Offit to support his implication that COVID-19 boosters are unsafe, and here’s why:

Moreover, Dr. Offit was not saying that boosters weren’t safe, but rather that they probably just aren’t necessary right now for teens and young men given their low risk of complications from COVID-19. I don’t agree with him (most pediatricians don’t), but Dr. Offit most definitely is not supporting the narrative of cranks around boosters.

After this, Dr. Prasad starts alternating claims that he considers unfounded with claims that he doesn’t, all in order to make him seem more “reasonable”:

At other points in his interview, Malone alludes to many potential side effects of vaccination, claiming it can result in seizure and paralysis, and that the menstrual irregularities associated with the vaccine suggest it is a “major threat to reproductive health” for women. He suggests that vaccination can suppress T cells, raising the risk of unusual cancers.

To date, I have seen no evidence to support any of these claims, and I believe it is a mistake to raise them. First, they are irresponsible — Malone’s rhetoric verges on fear-mongering — and second, they distract from his legitimate points on myocarditis in young men.

McCullough suggests that vaccine-related deaths and injuries in the US are severely underreported by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). While I agree that there are problems with VAERS, I find it difficult to believe the numbers McCullough offers of 45,000 dead and 1 million injured. Here is why.

And then:

Death signals are trickier to parse, and require knowledge of the ages and medical problems of people getting vaccinated. Even then, they must be weighed against data that shows vaccines reduce a big cause of death — death from Covid-19. For these reasons, I think it is premature and misleading to talk suggest that the vaccine caused 45,000 deaths. If McCullough wishes to make this case, the best forum would a scholarly publication, where other researchers can examine and critique his methodology.

“Premature and misleading”? How about just “misleading” or, better yet, “disinformation” and “lying”? I’ve written about VAERS more times than I can remember dating back to 2006, but, more importantly, pro-vaccine advocates were warning before COVID-19 vaccines were even released that antivaxxers would be using the VAERS database to try to weaponize it to portray the vaccines as deadly and have been documenting their dishonest use of the database ever since. Perhaps if Dr. Prasad hadn’t been so busy criticizing skeptics for “dunking on a 7′ hoop,” he might have been aware of the ways before the pandemic that antivaxxers had long used the VAERS database to demonize vaccines. He would also know that VAERS does not show that COVID-19 vaccines have killed 45,000 people, Dr. McCullough’s claims of a “depopulation agenda” based on his misinterpretation of VAERS notwithstanding.

In case Dr. Prasad doesn’t remember who Drs. Malone and McCullough are, let me remind everyone that they are going to be sharing top billing with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at an antivax rally this Sunday:

Yes, that’s Drs. Malone and McCullough, their pictures right next to that of RFK Jr. on top billing. Word to Bret Weinstein and Drs. Malone and McCullough: If you share top billing at an antivaccine rally with RFK Jr. and Del Bigtree, your protestations that you “aren’t antivax” are not very convincing.

The planned activities of the doctors that Dr. Prasad tries so desperately to “both sides,” so it goes for the rest of the article. Dr. Prasad will cite something he considers plausible (although even the “plausible” claims he discusses are not really that plausible) and even very theatrically demolishes the conspiracy mongering about ivermectin and “early treatment protocols” being “suppressed”:

These are entirely false and insulting allegations, and Malone’s in particular are flat-out conspiratorial. Academic hospitals attempted all sorts of disparate treatment protocols in the hopes of helping sick patients. Many physicians did not wait for randomised control trials — the gold standard of medicine — to act; they simply acted. In fact, a Harvard hospital recommended hydroxychloroquine prior to randomised data.

The problem was not that there was no appetite for early treatment. The problem was that when the randomised trial data came in, they suggested the drugs favored by Malone and McCullough were ineffective. A pooled analysis of all such studies by Axfors and colleagues suggests patients treated with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine had increased risk of death.

Dr. Prasad is actually correct here. The allegations that ivermectin and other “miracle cures” for COVID-19 are being “suppressed” is a false and insulting conspiracy theory. It’s too bad that Dr. Prasad couldn’t resist the temptation to use his refutation of utter nonsense to pivot to trying to seem “reasonable” by agreeing with only somewhat less nonsensical utter nonsense. If only Dr. Prasad had ended here, I might not have been so harsh. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. He went on to rant about the “lab leak” hypothesis conspiracy theory and attempts by Facebook and other social media to tamp down the spread of outright misinformation on their platforms, invoking a bit of a conspiracy theory of his own that the platforms are choosing “fact checkers” that accept the “prevailing narrative” in order to “suppress” dissent.

He then writes:

Malone discusses a controversial October 2020 email from National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins to Anthony Fauci in response to the Great Barrington Declaration. In it, Collins called three of the declaration’s authors “fringe” epidemiologists and demanded a “quick and devastating published take down of its premises”. I completely agree this was problematic.

As I have argued elsewhere, 2020 was a time of deep uncertainty about the science surrounding Covid-19 and the appropriate policy response to the pandemic. Collins is not an epidemiologist, and he has no standing to decide what counts as a “fringe” view within that field. As NIH director, his job is to foster dialogue among scientists and acknowledge uncertainty. Instead, he attempted to suppress legitimate debate with petty, ad hominem attacks.

Cranks do love “debate.” Also, it wasn’t “ad hominem” to refer to the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration as “fringe scientists.” They were fringe, even back in October 2020. Their views were very much fringe in epidemiology and public health, and the Great Barrington Declaration was roundly dismissed by the vast majority of the fields as unworkable and dangerous—and rightly so. More importantly, the Great Barrington Declaration was astroturf, denialism in the cause of “opening up” the economy. It was a political, not a scientific, document, written by useful idiots brought together by a right wing think tank for propaganda purposes. It was disinformation. Again, if Dr. Prasad had not been so contemptuous of skeptics, he might have recognized that. Alternatively, one must consider the very likely possibility that, given his association with the Brownstone Institute, which was a direct spin-off of AIER, the originator of the Great Barrington Declaration, Dr. Prasad is aware of the astroturf behind the Declaration but just doesn’t care—or, worse, agrees with it.

Dr. Prasad finishes by retreating to a favorite crank complaint, that attempts to deplatform misinformation and disinformation are intended to “suppress debate”:

One problem, which has been on full display in this controversy, is that censorship may draw more attention to incorrect ideas. Another is that in the middle of any crisis, the answers to many scientific and policy questions will be uncertain. Disagreement on these questions is natural, and attempts to suffocate “harmful” speech run the risk of stifling critical debates, including by silencing third parties who may have important contributions but who fear the professional or reputational consequences of speaking up.

Perhaps the most serious objection to censorship is that the censors themselves are not fit for the task. Censors are unaccountable. They may be biased, misinformed or undereducated. They may lack perspective. In short, they are as fallible as the people they are trying censor. This is especially true in science, where, as history shows us, consensus views can turn out to be false, while controversial or heretical ideas can be vindicated.

That last bit is what I like to call the fantasy of future vindication, win which cranks believe that their views will one day be vindicated and they can somehow rub that vindication in the faces of their critics. My response to that fallacy runs along the lines of Carl Sagan’s famous quote, which echoed previous sentiments:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

I realize that these days most would probably choose to pick someone other than Columbus for a quote like this…

Or, as Michael Shermer once said, “Heresy does not equal correctness” (to which I would add: nor does it even necessarily equal being worthy of serious scientific consideration) and:

For every Galileo shown the instruments of torture for advocating scientific truth, there are a thousand (or ten thousand) unknowns whose ‘truths’ never pass scientific muster with other scientists. The scientific community cannot be expected to test every fanstastic claim that comes along, especially when so many are logically inconsistent.

Interestingly, seventeen years after I wrote my post quoting him, Michael Shermer has forgotten his own lessons, given how he has gone all “Intellectual Dark Web” and transphobic, which is why he is so problematic himself. However, this quote is still spot-on; so I use it.

When you boil it all down, Dr. Prasad is simply attacking outrageously pseudoscientific and conspiracy mongering things said by Drs. Malone and McCullough only as a pretext to make himself seem reasonable as he agrees with only slightly less outrageously pseudoscientific and conspiracy mongering things said by Drs. Malone and McCullough, just as Mercola attacked outrageously pseudoscientific and conspiracy mongering germ theory denial claiming that SARS-CoV-2 does not exist only as a pretext to make himself seem reasonable as he agreed with only slightly less outrageously pseudoscientific and conspiracy mongering germ theory denial and antivaccine claims. It’s a tactic with which skeptics are familiar and with which Dr. Prasad might have been familiar if he hadn’t been so relentlessly contemptuous towards our efforts.

I also can’t help but wonder if Dr. Prasad wants to be interviewed on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The whole effort, in addition to being an obvious gambit to portray himself as the “fairest” and “most reasonable” even as he promotes the same conspiracy theories that Drs. Malone and McCullough promote, seems like a massive sucking up to Rogan asking him to invite him to be a guest on The Joe Rogan Experience.

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 “Claiming the mantle of “reasonableness” by attacking even worse cranks”

A. Dr. Prasad: vaccines risks are not discussed.
Major newspapers and ACIP: spend hours discussing potential and actual vaccines risks.

B. You are very generous in assuming Dr. Prasad doesn’t know the links between GBD and other groups. Given his involvement with Brownstone and the other places that picked up his work, I don’t know that we can assume that. He may know but not care, in the service of self promotion.

It really may be that he wants an invite to Rogan, as you say.

The logic seems to go “These people are peddling shit; therefore, my product is chocolate pudding.”

Believe it or not, the de-corticate sinkholes of unreason that I survey frequently say nearly the same thing– there are others spreading CTs who need to be “fact checked” and “de-bunked” by “scientific inquiry” based on “peer review” ( sic) studies reviewed their own “research scholars” ** Followers should become “critical thinkers” and be aware of how others present mis-leading material as fact: use Occam’s Razor to cut to the essentials, study statistical analysis, learn about logical fallacies.
i swear that this is true.

** prn’s Richard Gale who pontificates about bio/ med/ pharma has degrees in Comparative Religion and Eastern Religions. ( Linked In)

I’ve made the point many places, as have others, that all pseudoscience seems to use the same methods, the same logical fallacies. In a non-health-related science subject I critique, I’ve seen all these same methods. And the “meet in the middle” or “let’s be reasonable by meeting halfway between your position and mine” was one used by a proponent after being hammered with facts in a forum for a year or so. But the middle ground between fact and BS is nonsense, and not some desirable destination.

A pediatrician who used to post here labored under the delusion that he represented an oh-so-reasonable middle ground between pro-immunization zealotry and hard core antivax ranting.

To paraphrase a famous Barry Goldwater quote, wavering helplessly between good science and foam-at-the-mouth lunacy is a vice.

If one person says the Earth is round and another says it is flat, that does not make it a cube.

It is the old story, a 50:50 mix of apple pie and horse sh!t is neither appetising nor useful.

At what point in this whole process, do the majority of people just toss in the towel and say, I’m done getting jabbed?

What is YOUR limit, 4, 5, 6 or more…….. because when you reach that limit, you will be labeled an anti-vaxxer and not caring about your ‘community’ or fellow mankind.

Orac, thank you. You made my point.
I have had most every vaccine Polio, shingles, pneumonia, yellow fever, 3 anthrax, rabies (almost yearly) hep A & B, frequent tetanus the list could go on. I did however quit getting the flu vaccine about 20 years ago, i get sicker from the shots then the actual flu (only about 40-60% of the US population get the flu vaccine). I have gotten 2 moderna shots and I will not be getting a 3 or 4th shot.
Since I posed the question, the poster here did what I predicted. I was labeled an anti-vaxxer, probably for just posing the question. I don’t remember people who didn’t take the flu vaccine ever being treated the way people who don’t take the Covid vaccine or won’t get a booster, are treated.
Again at what point will the public say ‘no mas’ (I believe we are very close now).

“Again at what point will the public say ‘no mas’ (I believe we are very close now).” Who is ‘we?’ More like this is you. Some people are full on antivax–no vaccines. Some refuse flu vaccine every year. Some have refused covid vaccines.

The rational answer is–when viruses go away, are eradicated (like smallpox) or there is no safe/effective vaccine. But people are free to make all sorts of decisions rational or irrational.

Or a simpler rational answer is ‘when my doctor tells me to’ as they have health expertise I don’t have (mine is highly specialized). I get blood draws (jabbed) when they ask, get screened when they recommend it, get flu jab when they recommend (every year also to protect my patients as they do), and rely on the emergency physicians when something really bad happens.

We should definitely start treating people who don’t get flu shots like that. It’s criminal that yearly deaths are so high.

Mr. Bill:

I was labeled an anti-vaxxer, probably for just posing the question.

If you repeat common anti-vax “talking points”, you’re likely to get mistaken for one.


I was referring to the collective ‘we’, as in ‘we’ will reach a ‘tipping point”. In any endeavor a fatigue factor comes into play and people start to focus on other things, think about what was a driving force in public opinion 5 years ago, 7 years ago, you can’t keep people on edge like this, I think it’s called crisis fatigue.
I will give an example, right now about 10 million people in the us have had the 3rd shot since it was approved in October. (4 months), In the 4 months of the original shots over 60 million people had gotten a shot. (sometimes they were giving 1.5 to 2 million shots in a DAY.

“We should definitely start treating people who don’t get flu shots like that. It’s criminal that yearly deaths are so high.”

in the 2020-21 flu season we had about 600 deaths only 1 child.

@Mr. Bill:
Flu deaths were very low in the US during the 2020-2021 flu season because the mitigation steps in place to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID also prevent/reduce the spread of influenza.

Also, there are flu shots.

As long as the vaccines work, I have no limit. Yep, like flu vaccines.
Also, a lot less of a pain than following a diet to keep my weight and lipid profile in the healthy range. I miss eating like a teenager.

As with most antivaxers who like to trot out the fact that Israel is giving a second booster/fourth shot, Mr Bill ignores the fact (that’s in the article that he linked to) that it’s not recommended to the general population, but only (to quote the article he linked to) to “its most vulnerable and high-risk groups”.

And, as well as the annual flu shot that Orac mentioned, Australia’s childhood vaccination schedule recommends 6 DPT shots, and tetanus booster vaccinations are required on an ongoing basis for life.

Well,last year I got 2 vaccinations for Covid and one flu shot. Yesterday I got my booster. In the fall I will get my yearly flu shot and if I need another Covid booster, somewhere this year, I take it. And if next year is the same, I do so as well. I hope all shots will be done in the practice of my family doctor. For my boostershot I had to make an appointment on a large location, which ment logging in, getting 3 options, 2 on locations to far removed to travel by bicycle and one on a reasonable distance and then I should hope the appointment was on a suitable time. Preferable not having to bike in the dark through a desolated industral area, where the vaccination location is.

I got another tetanus vaccine when I stepped on a nail last year. I am guessing it might be number 10, but I am no longer counting. I get the flu vaccine every year and have for the past decade. This year will be number 12.

I am failing to understand your problem with the number of vaccines. It is not as if there is no space in the body for more. After all deciding I was only allowed 3 tetanus vaccines may have resulted in a nasty trip to hospital. After spending a bit of time in hospitals 4 years ago, I have decided I don’t really like them.

Infants get a DTaP vaccine at 2, 4, 6, 15 and 48 months and then a Tdap vaccine (which is a booster as well) at 11 years of age.

I don’t have parents screaming your nonsense at me for this.

Would it be reasonable to believe that conspiracies do exist? Part of Rogan’s appeal is discussing alternative viewpoints and poking holes in mainstream narratives with guest of (somewhat) credible backgrounds. These discussions are considered taboo amongst skeptics, but this really has struck a chord with public health experts who want this misinformation to be regulated or censored. However, the consequences of banning the most popular podcast in America will probably do more harm than good when a sizable portion of the country is already losing trust in corporate media outlets.

“Would it be reasonable to believe that conspiracies do exist?”

In a general abstract sense, yes. Once you start fleshing out the details then you need evidence though. However, your average conspiracy theorist has the same approach to evidence that witch finders had to witches. If it floats, it’s a witch. No other explanation is possible. No point paying attention to them after that.

Would it be reasonable to believe that conspiracies do exist?

Yes indeed they do. That does not of course mean that everything you don’t agree with is a conspiracy. Conspiracies are really hard to keep secret.

The best hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that it will involve a large number of completely unrelated people, such as all the regulators in the world, or all the doctors, or all the scientists. Almost all of Rogan’s content would require massive conspiracies of this sort to be true. The more prosaic explanation is that it is a load 9f old rubbish dressed up to sucker the rubes in.

I don’t think that ‘news’ sources, such as Rogen, should be ‘tolerated’ just because of their large audience. It is because of the size of their audience that they should be held to a minimum of accountability for what is said.

@ David:

Do you ever get the impression that these performers ( Substack writers, podcast hosts, altie sites/ broadcasts) would say anything just to be provocative and get new followers? Almost as if they’re saying, ” Can you top this?” Usually on serious subjects.
Of course, they may shade off into questionable, ludicrous territory.
Right now, I hear a lot about The Great Reset and internment camps for the unvaccinated . Vaccine passports have become rather passe.
e.g. Mike Adams: there should be vaccine injury reparations; people should sue pharmaceutical companies, the government and the media ( because they profit from
pharma adverts).

Definitely, Denise. It feels that they introduce terms they know will stick, like “mass formation psychosis”, to grow their clout.

There have been real conspiracies.

Conspiracy theorists are fond of pointing to things like MK Ultra and other things that mostly were secret or not widely publicized but not conspiracies. However, the number of actual conspiracies uncovered by people waving their hands on the Internet approaches zero.

As moon hoax debunker S. E. Collins says, the end effect of ‘viral’ (false) CTs is to deflect attention from real conspiracies, e. g. the military industrial establishment or dark money in politics, which are both too mundane to make for compelling stories and too entrenched to imagine challenging.

“deflect attention from real conspiracies”

it seems to me the intent of conspiracy theory mongers is to eliminate the distinction between an unsupported conspiracy theory by conflating them with known conspiracies from the past.

Corruption in military procurement and “dark money” in politics* don’t qualify as actual conspiracies for the most part. All too often people confuse secrecy and criminal behavior in general with conspiracy.

*The odds of social media warriors picking up on misdeeds in either of these two categories is also extremely unlikely.

Slightly old school but most of them work like this:

del .

F#£k me, I’m a software engineer.

Orac’s caption,

“Crank? I’m not a crank! I’m the real scientist, and he’s the crank!”

MJD says,

The image of two seemingly identical Spiderman’s at the beginning of this post suggests that one is a “crank” and one is a “real scientist.” An educated guess, with the evidence provided, is the best means to make the right decision. For example, a “real scientist” would likely have a spider image with eight legs, not six.

As a measuring stick, respectful insolence (RI) can be used to determine one’s educated-guess abilities and “crankiness.”

Thanks, Orac!

@ Mr. Bill

You write: “I did however quit getting the flu vaccine about 20 years ago, i get sicker from the shots then the actual flu (only about 40-60% of the US population get the flu vaccine). I have gotten 2 moderna shots and I will not be getting a 3 or 4th shot.”

First, since you didn’t experience the actual flu, you are just guessing that the shot worse than the flu. However, you may have been incubating the flu at time you received the shot, so what you experienced wasn’t the shot. Finally, the flu shot not even close to effectiveness of Covid vaccines; but does usually reduce severity, risk of hospitalization, and even death. Not all or none. Seatbelts only reduce deaths and serious injury by about 50% and some injuries caused by seatbelts; e.g., ruptured bladder, bruised kidneys; but risk minimal compared to risk not wearing. I got the two Moderna shots and the booster and hope they will be offering 2nd booster soon. And when around people; e.g., shopping at Costco, always wear N95 mask.

I wouldn’t label you an antivaccinationists; but someone who hasn’t thought it through, not completely informed.

I should also mention that at 75 I donate one unit plasma and one unit platelets every four weeks, so, needles don’t bother me and get annual physical which includes lab taking blood, so a few more shots don’t bother me. If getting a booster four times yearly to prevent or reduce severity of COVID I wouldn’t hesitate. And, yep, second shot gave me sore arm and about 4 hours of low grade fever and chills. Didn’t take aspirin or ibuprofen because they reduce immune systems response, though usually still good enough; but actually was glad for reaction because told me my immune system was reacting to vaccine. Booster only sore arm for a day. Probably worst vaccine experience was Shingrix, shingle vaccine; but having seen both my grandparents and parents suffer from shingles, still the vaccine the far best choice.

So, I suggest you reconsider both Moderna booster and flu shot.

Just to make clear, I am retired epidemiologist, which included researching infectious diseases, studying immunology, microbiology, and reading tons on history of various vaccine-preventable diseases. When people complain, for instance, about so many vaccines for kids, well, except for smallpox, diphtheria, and tetanus, I experienced ALL childhood illnesses, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, rotavirus, etc. Fortunately, no lasting problems; but miserable; but fortunately my mother was housewife and doted on me, though missed some school which I loved. Also, wasn’t allowed to go to neighborhood swimming pool, movies, etc because of polio, then first cohort to get the new vaccine and could go places again. And I knew kids with steel braces, in wheel chairs, and in late 1980s met a man who had been in an iron lung since early 1950s. Then several colleagues developed postpolio syndrome.

In any case, your choice; but overwhelming evidence that COVID vaccines work and also flu vaccines, just not as good.

The result, after a certain amount of time to let the virus grow, is a spot on the plate that you can often see with the naked eye.

So you can see all the cell goop? Ew.

Yup! It’s quite nifty.
Here’s an example you hopefully won’t encounter: if you have a bottle of simple syrup that’s been in the fridge (or worse, on the counter) a long time and one day you notice a perfectly spherical bit of cloudy stuff floating inside it, congratulations! You’ve got a colony! It’s probably bacteria (though it could be fungi), and you should throw that stuff away, but yes, you can see bacterial colonies with your bare eyes.

And when you’ve got a whole carpet of them on a petri dish you can see holes in that carpet with your bare eyes as well.

Orac- you persist in misinterpreting Claude Bernard and his concept of milieu interieur which has to do with homeostatic mechanisms and not germ theory denial. Your wiki reference says nothing to substantiate your allegation and knowing a little of what he was about through his book ‘Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine’ I challenge you or any of our knowledgeable commenters to produce any reference to substantiate this slur. I am certainly prepared to re-evaluate my opinion as a result of any valid information that refutes what I say, as you should if such evidence cannot be produced.

@ Leonard Sugarman

First, Pasteur and Bernard were friends. Bernard, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t deny that germs can cause disease; but strongly emphasized that if the body was healthy it could withstand. As we know, even the absolute healthiest individual when confronted with a germ not recognized by the immune system, one that wreaks havoc before the immune system can react, can be deadly.

However, it was Antoine Bechamp who completely denied germ theory and only focused on healthy bodies. Don’t know if this helps or not.

Joel -you are echoing what I think. Although Bernard may have overestimated the body’s ability to withstand some external hazards there is still some validity in the fact that a healthy body can better withstand some ‘pathological hazards’ better than the unhealthy individual.

It looks to me like Bernard was too emphatic about the ability of the “milieu interieur” to compensate for outside influences (like pathogens), but not into the quackiness of Bechamp and his belief that pathogens were generated by an unhealthy body and not a cause of disease.

Still, Bernard has much to answer for that goes beyond his terrain theory being massively co-opted by germ theory deniers. He reportedly had a “total disregard” for suffering of unanesthetized animals he worked on. Supposedly, his wife and daughters founded the first anti-vivisection society in Europe after coming home to find out that Bernard had vivisected the family dog.

Dangerous Bacon- C Bernard’s concept was the early vision of some unknown controlling factors regulating a constancy of the internal environment. It was substantially developed by Walter Cannon, as (homeostasis) and of course many physiologists since. As regards the ethics of conducting experiments on animals it can be said that he is not in isolation with many other experimenters whose practices would not be allowed today. As examples, Best and Banting killed dozens , if not several hundred of dogs, in an unsavory environment and discovered a factor controlling blood sugar. Salk injected himself, family and team with his new vaccine then went on to inject inmates from care institutions who often were in no fit state to give the permission required. Regardless of the distortion and misuse of Bernard’s concept by the numerous antivaxxers and their followers it is still not valid of Orac to continue to conflate the developing physiology and medicine of C Bernard with the ‘nutters’ ( a very professional concept!) he expounds on so very well. I have seen no evidence, and not for want of trying, that Claude Bernard was in any way a denier of the germ theory of disease. In any event thanks for a considered response.

While the standards for human and animal experimentation have changed dramatically, it’s important to remember that the word “vivisection” is distinct from “dissection” and that vivisection requires that the animal being dissected is still alive. See (or don’t, it’s gross) Harvey’s “On the Motion of the Heart and Blood”.

Also, even by the standards of Bernard’s time it’s a jerk move to torture the family pet to death. And this was understood at the time because people have and continue to make the distinction between “pet” and “livestock”.

Justatech -I make no defense of any cruel animal vivisection where the animal has pain. There are many more modern examples , without going back a couple of hundred years to castigate Bernard. In any event my beef ( no pun intended) is about making the claim , which seems to be quite untrue, that Bernard was a germ theory denier.

When the liberals and progressives have had their limit, Bari Weiss (she was the editor of the New York Times) on Bill Maher show. ( she says that her liberal friends are afraid to say it, because they will be labeled as anti-vax).

Even Britain is throwing in the towel and lifting most restrictions, no masks, no passports, no tests…..

@ Mr Bill

Britain is led by Boris Johnson who early on refused mitigation measures and UK had among highest rates of hospitalization, deaths, etc. If “throwing in the towel” means what is politically expedient and ignoring risks of much higher hospitalizations, etc. we’ll see; but odds are UK will see increases in covid illness, etc.

And I think Boris Johnson is having problems, because of some parties in the garden of Downing Street 10, when there were lots of restrictions on these kind of things, So by throwing a bone a.k.a. lifting most of the restrictions, he might be trying to distract the public.

“When the liberals and progressives have had their limit, Bari Weiss (she was the editor of the New York Times) on Bill Maher show.”

Hilarious! They are both cranks. How did the University of Austin work out:

And Bill Maher has been antivax for years:

Weiss was an op-ed staff editor at the Times, not the editor.

“Speaking on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, the Substack journalist declared that she is ‘done with covid!”

That’s nice.

Wonder if that will be her line if she gets sick and needs hospital care.

Meantime, this “journalist” has her Substack subscribers to curry favor with.

I am ‘done with ninnies’.

@ Mr Bill

You write: “When the liberals and progressives have had their limit”

Science isn’t liberal or conservative. The science on non-pharmaceutical mitigations; e.g., masks, etc. and vaccines is quite clear, both significantly reduce risk of severe illness, hospitalizations, long covid, and death. However, whether one applies science or not depends on politics. If you are saying liberals and progressives value human life and, thus, act based on science vs conservatives who believe profits trump everything else, you are right. Remember beginnings of pandemic? Many big businesses did NOT supply masks or do anything to protect essential employees until government mandated it and even younger employees ended up with severe covid and death.

@ Renate

You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Everything I’ve read is that he is trying to distract public from his hypocrisy, etc.

“We may need to boost again” (that would be the 4th shot)

Interview with Dr. Fauci ABC news.

@ Mr Bill

You write: ““We may need to boost again” (that would be the 4th shot)”

Yep, and I eagerly await chance at a booster. At 75 with over 40 years of knowledge of immunology, microbiology, epidemiology, etc. and keeping up with current pandemic, probably read over 1,000 paper since beginning, if a booster was necessary every three months, I would gladly get it. And though no guarantees, it would significantly reduce my chances of severe disease, hospitalization, long covid, and death. And if each booster causes a sore arm and even mild fever, headache, makes me happy because tells me my immune system, even at my age, is reacting.

In 1969 I purchased my first car when in grad school. It had lap seatbelts and I almost unconsciously put them on and anyone who rode with me had to also. Though they thought I was a bit weird, they complied. This was long before public service messages of value of seatbelts, and even longer before laws requiring people to wear them. And even today stats finds seatbelts only reduce deaths and serious injury by about 50% and can cause ruptured bladders, bruised ribs and kidneys, and even a couple of deaths; but compared to the alternative, not even in ballpark.

You obviously don’t understand immunology, don’t really understand viruses in general and the current corona virus, don’t understand history of infectious diseases, etc.; but just keep displaying your ignorance. Unfortunately, you represent a broad swatch of Americans. The Omicron variant is less severe than previous; but still killing people, overwhelming hospitals, and now found that asymptomatic carriers develop various versions of long covid, mainly among unvaccinated.

They only thing I feel from the booster is the feeling someone punched me in the arm. Besides that, absolutely nothing, as if I just got some kind of placebo.

About the Prasad essay being passed around to various outlets. This has been a thing for decades.

Sometime in the late 1970s (or maybe early 1980s–my memory doesn’t serve and I can’t find validation) the Hoover Institution took up a program of sending out weekly opeds to small town newspapers, based on work Hoover Fellows were doing. The oped articles were ghost written by a few folks in the Hoover adminstration who had had journalism experience and could translate scholarly language into a plausible, short oped.

I don’t know if Hoover invented this program, or if it was a brainchild of one of the other programs funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.

However, Hoover had the adminstrative funding and the grunts to do the weekly mailings of about 1,000. I was one of the grunts as an hourly job on campus.

Back then, it was all snail mail. Somebody had to photocopy and hand staple 1,000 pieces (autostapling photocopiers hadn’t been invented yet). Somebody had to affix mailing labels to 1,000 envelopes. I think there was a folding machine, but I think it was still hand-stuffing.

At least there was a postal metering machine.

I’m pretty sure there was a press-clipping service, but somebody had to hand-collate the hits and misses to tune what got picked up and what didn’t.

It’s not quite astroturfing… but it

Joel didn’t the CEO of Pfizer say that the booster offered limited protections “We know that the two doses of a vaccine offer very limited protection, if any.” (against Omicron). Three doses with a booster offer reasonable protection.”
So 3 & 4th of the same vaccine are……. only “reasonable protection”?

“And though no guarantees, it would significantly reduce my chances of severe disease, hospitalization, long covid, and death.”
You might as well just get a shot of salt water.

They are working on a vaccine that stops Omicron. so it would be 5 and done?

I find it very interesting/amusing that the CEO was on a conference call at the time and now the company lawyers a demanding that the conference be removed as a ‘copyright’ violation, by JP Morgan.

“This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”

My original post was about Covid fatigue and when will people get to the point of ‘I’m done”

Actually three doses (booster) did give reasonable protection (read my and Orac links)
Speaking about salt water, there is again data from Singapore:
88% of total population fully vaccinated. Still number of deaths among unvaccinated is six time higher.
This is not Pfizer CEO, nor US government.

@ Mr Bill

You write: “Joel didn’t the CEO of Pfizer say that the booster offered limited protections “We know that the two doses of a vaccine offer very limited protection, if any.” (against Omicron). Three doses with a booster offer reasonable protection.”
So 3 & 4th of the same vaccine are……. only “reasonable protection”?”

And, despite antivaxxers claims, the vaccines are quite safe and I prefer “reasonable protection” to none. Seatbelts only reduce deaths and serious injury by 50% and I always have worn them, long before public service announcements and laws. The flu vaccine some years only confers maybe 25% protection and I still get it, having twice been seriously ill with flu. And “reasonable protection” doesn’t mean all or none, it means reduced risk of serious illness, hospitalization, long covid, and death.

You write: “They are working on a vaccine that stops Omicron. so it would be 5 and done?”

NOPE, MAYBE. Covid could mutate significantly to being a minor cold-like experience or much much more serious. And I would be glad to get another booster.

Immunity reduces to both natural infection and vaccine-induced immunity. Having devoted over 40 years to public health, etc. and keeping up with latest on COVID-19, I really don’t care what Pfizer executive said, I look at actual peer-reviewed journal articles and reports from various national public health departments, as well as WHO, CDC, etc. Pfizer is good; but I got the Moderna and it is a bit better

So, just keep showing your ignorance. We don’t live in a perfect world. Old saying: Don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect. Vaccines are the GOOD.

@ Mr Bill

You write: “My original post was about Covid fatigue and when will people get to the point of ‘I’m done””

Depends on whether they ignore the science or not. I would rather be Covid fatigued than Covid severely sick, hospitalized, long covid, and even death. Years ago, other diseases did NOT die out until vaccines were available, smallpox, polio, etc. Before the polio vaccine my mother during polio season did not allow me to go to municipal swimming pool, movies, etc. After vaccinated, could. Should my mother have had polio fatigue and before the vaccine allowed me to go places during polio season???

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