Antivaccine nonsense Bioethics Medicine

Bioethics recycles old antivax tropes about COVID vaccines for children

A recent article in Bioethics makes ethical arguments against vaccinating children against COVID-19. If you change the word “COVID-19” to measles, chickenpox, or rotavirus (or others), this article could have been published on one of the higher-brow antivax websites in 2010. Antivax arguments never change; they’re just continually recycled.

Regular readers might be getting tired of my pointing out how there’s nothing new under the antivax sun in terms of deceptive arguments, conspiracy theories, and tropes designed to argue against vaccinating. However, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced these talking points to a much large audience than had ever seen them before so I considered it my duty to educate our readers and to point out that none of the antivaccine misinformation that has hit us like a tsunami since COVID-19 vaccines first entered large clinical trials in the summer of 2020 is anything new. It just seems new if you haven’t seen it before. Examples include, of course, misinformation claiming that the vaccine kills based on misinterpretation of the VAERS database; that it sterilizes our womenfolk; that it “sheds” and endangers the unvaccinated; and that it causes cancer, none of which are anything new. Even the claim that it “permanently alters your DNA”, although it might appear like a new talking point based on the fact that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were the first successful translations of mRNA technology into a clinical product, if you look really hard, is not a new claim. (Transhumanism, anyone?) As Charles Pierce likes to say, history is so cool. In this case, though, I’d add: It’s only cool and useful if you know about it and can use it to counter the pernicious misinformation about vaccines of the sort published by, for example, The Wall Street Journal and deconstructed by Jonathan Howard a week ago. What I didn’t expect was to see common antivaccine tropes weaponized in a bioethics journal, but that’s exactly what I saw almost two weeks ago.

Last week the journal Bioethics published another example of how everything old is new again in the form of an article titled “Against COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children“. It might as well have been titled “Against vaccination of healthy children”, because pretty much every one of the arguments presented could be used to argue against long-accepted childhood vaccines that have been mandated as a prerequisite for school enrollment in the US for decades. You’d think Bioethics editors would have realized that, but guess what? They didn’t!. I’ll explain in a moment, but, given that this is presented as piece of serious scholarship, I wondered who was behind this “bioethics” tour de force of recycling old antivax lies.

It turned out to be from a last-year graduate student named Steven R. Kraaijeveld at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and Associate Fellow at the Research Consortium on the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies. It’s noted in the Biographies section that his “PhD dissertation is on the ethics of vaccination. His research focuses on philosophy and ethics of technology, medical ethics, public health ethics, and moral psychology.” After reading this article, I’d say that he needs to go back to the drawing board, particularly given the Tweets with which he bragged about his Bioethics paper late last month:

In the thread, as he lists his reasons based on “bioethics” for arguing against the “both routine and mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children” he brags about all the data that back up his ethical conclusions, after, of course regurgitating the “health freedom” and “parental rights” arguments that have long been a staple of antivaccine activists going back decades:

Mr. Kraaijeveld’s Bioethics co-authors include Rachel Gur-Arie, PhD, MS, Hecht-Levi Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethics and Infectious Disease at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, and Euzebiusz Jamrozik, MD, PhD, practicing Internal Medicine Physician and fellow in Ethics and Infectious Diseases at Ethox and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities at the University of Oxford, as well as Head of the Monash-WHO Collaborating Centre for bioethics at the Monash Bioethics Centre. You’d think that at least Dr. Jamrozik would be aware of the antivaccine tropes being recycled in this graduate student’s paper, but apparently not. I’ve found that, depressingly, a lot of academics who actually work on infectious diseases and vaccines are blissfully unaware of common antivaccine tropes, which leads them to regurgitate them inadvertently in a much more palatable, academic-seeming form. This is what this paper does. The same problem also must have applied to Bioethics editors and peer reviewers.

The recycling of antivax tropes as “bioethics” begins

In fairness, I will give the authors a modicum of credit in that they seem to realize that their arguments could be used to argue against other childhood vaccines. They even say so in the introduction, claiming that they’ll show you why the arguments in favor of routine vaccination of children against COVID-19, arguments that they find compelling for other childhood vaccines, don’t hold up for COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, as I’ll show, the arguments they make against the key pillars of the case for vaccinating children against COVID-19, far from being good bioethics, could just as easily be deployed against many, if not most, childhood vaccines currently in use and long accepted.

Kraaijeveld notes:

This article presents an analysis of the ethics of vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19 by responding to the strongest arguments that might favor such an approach.5 In particular, we present three arguments that might justify routine6 COVID-19 vaccination of children, based on (a) an argument from paternalism, (b) an argument from indirect protection and altruism, and (c) an argument from the global public health aim of COVID-19 eradication.7 We offer a series of objections to each respective argument to show that, given the best available data, none of them is tenable. These arguments, which might be compelling for childhood vaccination against other diseases and in different circumstances,8do not appear to hold in the case of COVID-19 with the currently available vaccines. Given the present state of affairs and all things considered, COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children is ethically unjustified.

If one accepts our conclusion that routine vaccination of healthy children against COVID-19 is ethically unjustified, then it follows that coercion, which is an ethically problematic issue in itself, is even less warranted. Nonetheless, mandatory vaccination of healthy children against COVID-19 is already being considered—and, in some places, implemented—as a way of increasing vaccine uptake.9 We therefore also provide two objections specifically against making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children, which center on additional ethical concerns about overriding the autonomy of parents and legal guardians and of children who are capable of making autonomous decisions. If vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19 is ethically problematic, then coercing vaccination is even less acceptable—but even if vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19 should at some future point be considered more defensible (e.g., should a much more favorable cost–benefit analysis emerge), important ethical objections against coercive mandates will still remain.

As I said before, Mr. Kraaijeveld is recycling the “health freedom” and “parental rights” arguments that portray any attempt to require vaccines for children before entering public school or daycare facilities as an unacceptable fascistic assault of freedom. It’s a very old antivaccine argument that takes a reasonable debate about the limits of what can be mandated in the service of public health and turns it into a Manichean view that portrays any sort of mandate or even mild coercion as evil. One has only to look at the “Defeat the Mandates” rally held in Washington, DC in January (with a repeat scheduled for Los Angeles in April) to see this argument taken to an extreme.

Bioethics parrots Defeat the Mandates
t’s true that “Defeat the Mandates” tends to include more than vaccine mandates, but it also adds a healthy dash of “parental rights” to the rhetoric of “health freedom”, all with a Boomer-friendly design (note the font) reminiscent of Woodstock.”

Let’s look at Mr. Kraaijeveld’s main arguments one by one.

“Paternalism”: Same as it ever was

Mr. Kraaijeveld begins by characterizing the appeal to paternalism thusly:

The first argument in favor of childhood vaccination for COVID-19 derives from paternalistic considerations and holds that routine vaccination of healthy children is justified because it is in the best interests of the would-be vaccinated children. The argument from paternalism suggests that COVID-19 vaccination will, all things considered, benefit children the most (or cause them the least harm). Given that routine vaccination is the most effective way to ensure vaccine uptake, it is therefore justified for the sake of the health and well-being of children themselves.

Unsurprisingly, his objections are twofold:

  1. Low risk of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality to children
  2. Known risks and unknown long-term vaccine safety profile for children

Both Dr. Jonathan Howard and I have been repeating for months now how these claims are not only wrong, but echo the same claims made by antivaxxers about the MMR vaccine. Whenever the argument that we shouldn’t vaccinate children against COVID-19 because the disease isn’t that dangerous to children (i.e., quite literally, “doesn’t kill that many children”), I’m reminded of the appeal to the Brady Bunch commonly repeated by antivaxxers in 2015. I’ll discuss that more in a moment, but first let’s see what Mr. Kraaijeveld actually argues:

According to the best available data, healthy children are at a much lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and are less susceptible to infection than older adults.10In contrast to many other vaccine-preventable diseases, healthy children are at low risk of severe COVID-19 infection, morbidity, and mortality.11 Hospitalization of children with COVID-19 is rare, although emerging data suggest that children with severe underlying comorbidities are at higher risk.12 Deaths among healthy children due to COVID-19 are very rare; for example, a large study in Germany found no deaths among children aged 5–11 without comorbidities.13 We agree with the assessment that COVID-19 is not a pediatric public health emergency.14

That last citation (#14) is to an article by Drs. Wesley Pegden, Vinay Prasad, and Stefan Baral published in May 2021 arguing that COVID vaccines for children should not receive emergency use authorization. Dr. Howard recently discussed that article and its many flaws in great detail in follow-up to his original discussion of the article last year, which means I don’t have to repeat his analysis. Read the articles for the details, but, in brief, Pegden et al. presented a case that made COVID-19 appear essentially harmless to “healthy” children (much as antivaxxers had long claimed that measles, chickenpox, and the like are essentially harmless to “healthy” children for years before) while leaving out information about how effective the vaccines were in children. Let’s just echo what Dr. Howard said by listing again some of his key bullet points (remember, this was May 2021 and lots more children have been hospitalized and died since then in the US):

  • 482-582 children have died of COVID-19 in the US.
  • A non-trivial percentage of children who contract COVID-19 will need to be hospitalized.
  • One-third of hospitalized children require ICU level, care and 6% require invasive mechanical ventilation.
  • Over half of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had no underlying health condition.
  • 19% of American children are obese and therefore “high-risk.”
  • COVID-19 may cause long-term complications in children.
  • Tens of thousands of children have lost a parent due to COVID-19.
  • Millions of teenagers older than 16-years have been safely vaccinated so far.
  • A highly successful trial of the COVID-19 vaccine has been completed in adolescents. (Another successful trial has also been completed, with preliminary data just released).
  • Further vaccine trials (and presumed approvals) are proceeding in a purposeful, stepwise fashion by age.
  • Vaccine side-effects almost never emerge after two months. (This is relevant to the second part of Mr. Kraaijeveld’s argument.)

That sounds serious to me, and, remember, the Pegden et al. article was published almost 11 months ago, and, as our very own Dr. Howard pointed out, there was definitely some cherry picking going on here:

And also, others pointed out how cherry picked Mr. Kraaijeveld’s citations were:

Actually, it wasn’t just cherry picking; it was misrepresentation, too:

I’d also suggest that Mr. Kraaijeveld look at who is leaping to his defense. Personally, I’d be embarrassed if I had people like this defending me:

If you want to see how bad Mr. Kraaijeveld’s arguments are, look no further than this passage:

Overall, the burden of COVID-19 in children appears to be similar to or lower than that of typical seasonal influenza in the winter (unlike the much higher disease burden of COVID-19 in adults).16 In 2020, 198 children aged <17 officially died of COVID-19 in the United States.17 In 2021, with Delta being the predominant variant, that number increased to 378,18 which is comparable to the official number of children aged <17 who died in the 2018–2019 influenza season in the United States (i.e., 372).19

Notice how every time the claim is made that COVID-19 is much less deadly (or at least no more deadly) than the flu in children (even, as I note, routine yearly vaccination against the flu is recommended for children), it’s always the 2018-2019 flu season that’s cited, Always. Of course, that was the last complete flu season before the pandemic, which means that citing it is citing a season with zero mitigations of the likes that the pandemic brought us. There were no mask mandates, no business shutdowns, no virtual schooling, and no social distancing. It’s an intellectually dishonest comparison of apples to oranges worthy of antivaccine activists (which is why Mr. Kraaijeveld really shouldn’t have used it), and, as Dr. Howard put it, 1,200 is more than six. Basically, in the same environment, with mask mandates and mitigations, COVID-19 was much more deadly to children than the flu. Mr. Kraaijeveld’s argument boils down to the same argument antivaxxers make, namely that routine (or even mandated) vaccination of children against COVID-19 is unnecessary because it’s more or less harmless to “healthy” children and “not that many children” die of it. Again, it used to be accepted that children aren’t supposed to die if we can reasonably prevent it (which we can with COVID-19 vaccines), but arguments like Mr. Kraaijeveld’s amount to a shrugging of the shoulders over a level of child death that used to be considered unthinkable, even though 20% of COVID-19 deaths occur in children with no underlying conditions. Some ethics!

This brings us back to the Brady Bunch.

I last discussed the Brady Bunch gambitthree weeks ago. It was basically an antivax trope pioneered several years ago by antivaxxers about the measles. They’d point to a 1969 episode of the classic sitcom The Brady Bunch in which all six kids (and, ultimately, Mike and Alice, who, it turns out, had never had the measles as children) caught the measles. The whole situation was played for laughs, with the kids—who didn’t look ill at all—happily staying home and playing games, the only evidence that they were ill being phony-looking red spots painted on their faces and limbs. It wasn’t just The Brady Bunch either. Even though it’s only three weeks since I last cited it, here’s a 2014 YouTube video that was making the rounds then:

You get the idea, I think. I consider Mr. Kraaijeveld’s paper to be an academic version of the Brady Bunch gambit, which is why I’ll take this opportunity to point out yet again that according to the CDC, before the vaccine, 48,000 people a year were hospitalized for the measles; 4,000 developed measles-associated encephalitis; and 400 to 500 died. By any stretch of the imagination that was a significant public health problem, and the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, followed by the MMR in 1971, made it much less so, bringing measles under such control that it became very uncommon and deaths from it rare. As Dr. John Snyder reminded us nearly 13 years ago in his response to Dr. Sears making the same arguments in his vaccine book that touted an “alternative vaccination schedule”, measles is not a benign disease, regardless of what popular culture thought of it 50 or 60 years ago. (More recent data show that a severe complication of measles, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), is more common than we used to think.) Meanwhile, over 13 years ago Dr. Sears was claiming that the risk of fatality from measles is “as close to zero as you can get without actually being zero”. Sound familiar? This is basically the same argument that Mr. Kraaijeveld is making for COVID-19, which has killed over 1,300 children in the US since the pandemic hit, arguably more than the average yearly toll of measles before the vaccine.

Mr. Kraaijeveld also invokes another common antivax argument:

Furthermore, post-infection immunity has been found to be at least as effective as vaccination at protecting against disease due to reinfection with COVID-19.24 An increasingly large body of evidence suggests that immunity after previous severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is at least as robust as vaccine-induced immunity.25 Childhood exposure to SARS-CoV-2, which, as previously discussed, is generally associated with mild viral illness, may offer protection against more severe illness in adulthood.26 To date, hundreds of millions of children have already been infected with COVID-19. For children with immunity from previous infection, the potential benefits of vaccination are likely to be lower than for children without immunity…

I’ll give Mr. Kraaijeveld credit for using the preferred term “post-infection immunity” rather than “natural immunity”, but this, too, is an old antivax argument, namely that “natural immunity” is better than (or at least as good as) vaccine-induced immunity. It’s an argument that I first encountered over 20 years ago, which was when I first started taking a serious interest in the antivaccine movement. Sometimes it got really ridiculous too. Does anyone remember the book Melanie’s Marvelous Measles 11 years ago? It was a children’s book that argued that measles was not only not harmful but that it was good for children because it built “natural immunity.” Indeed, its blurb read:

This book takes children aged 4 – 10 years on a journey of discovering about the ineffectiveness of vaccinations, while teaching them to embrace childhood disease, heal if they get a disease, and build their immune systems naturally.

Actually, measles is worse than we thought in that it causes “immune amnesia” that suppresses immune memory and makes one susceptible to other infections for 2-3 years. You know why “natural immunity” isn’t better than vaccine-induced immunity? It’s because achieving “natural immunity” requires that one actually suffer through the disease and risk its complications, up to and including death.

I like to ask everyone, including Mr. Kraaijeveld, who argues against routine vaccination of children against COVID-19 because it isn’t that dangerous to them: Why aren’t you arguing against routine vaccination against measles? The death toll among children due to COVID-19 over the last two years (>1,300) translates to a higher yearly death toll than the measles produced in the years right before the vaccine. What about chickenpox, which used to kill “only” around 100 children a year before the vaccine? Why aren’t you arguing against the varicella vaccine?

Oh, that’s right. It’s because the COVID-19 vaccine is supposedly so much more “dangerous”:

The case for vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19 for their own sake is undermined by uncertainty; that is, by the currently poorly characterized potential for rare, harmful outcomes associated with the vaccines in children. Public safety data from the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trials in children included 2,260 participants aged 12 to 15, of which 1,131 received the vaccine.37 In addition to a small sample size, the trial follow up period was of short duration; therefore, no reliable data presently exist for rare or longer-term vaccine-related harms.38 Though common adverse events occurring less than 6 months after vaccination may be ruled out, the risks of rare or delayed adverse outcomes can simply not yet be evaluated.39 Should vaccine harms occur, they will be revealed in the general pediatric population only after thousands or millions of children are already vaccinated, which would also risk seriously undermining vaccine confidence. The restriction of AstraZeneca vaccines to older age groups due to blood clotting events early on in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, as well as reports of increased rates of vaccine-related myocarditis among younger age groups illustrates that rare risks are sometimes more common in younger age groups and might sometimes outweigh benefits in children.40 Severe cardiac manifestations such as myocarditis and pericarditis are now recognized as rare risks of the COVID-19 vaccines.41 Myocarditis-induced deaths following COVID-19 vaccination have been documented in adolescents as well as in adults.42

This is a classic antivax argument, namely that the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease. Of course, if the vaccine truly is more dangerous than the disease, then that is a compelling argument. However, as we’ve discussed many times (particularly Dr. Howard), this is not the case with COVID-19 vaccines. Even the cases of two adolescent deaths after vaccination cited by Mr. Kraaijeveld are not nearly as clearcut as portrayed, as pediatric cardiologist Dr. Frank Han discussed, noting that dilation of the heart (found in one boy) doesn’t occur within days and the autopsy findings were missing some key pieces of information that would definitively suggest the vaccine as the cause.

The speculation about potential “long term effects” is also a common antivaccine trope. Antivaxxers, failing to be able to make the case that routine childhood vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases that they vaccinated against, often pivot to handwaving about unknown (and undescribed and unproven) “long term” effects. Before COVID-19, those “long term” adverse events were autism, autoimmune disease, cancer (still a favorite for COVID-19 vaccines), and pretty much every major chronic illness. (Indeed, antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. came up with the false claim that the current generation of children is the “sickest generation“, largely due to—you guessed it!—vaccines.) The last time I dealt with the claim of “long term” adverse events (i.e., greater than a few weeks to six months after vaccination), I noted that they were very rare, so rare that Paul Thacker, for instance, had to do incredible contortions to find very rare cases that occurred only in the special case of immunosuppressed children and cite narcolepsy after the H1N1 vaccine Pandemrix, which actually occurred within weeks after vaccination—hardly “long term”.

So this section is basically one antivax argument—disguised as “bioethics,” of course!—that the “vaccine is more dangerous than the disease.” It’s not; so Mr. Kraaijeveld’s ethical argument falls apart. Next up, he appeals to a lack of sterilizing immunity.

Sterilizing immunity

The next arguments for vaccination against COVID-19 that Mr. Kraaijeveld takes are all based on the observation that COVID-19 vaccines do not produce “sterilizing immunity”; i.e., they do not completely prevent infection and transmission, although he does concede that they are quite effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Based on this observation (primarily), he takes on the argument from indirect protection and altruism and the argument from global eradication. I’ll start with the latter first, because in its service he makes an argument that caused me, literally—and I do mean literally—to facepalm as I read it. Specifically, he objects to claims that ongoing transmission will:

  • lead to the evolution of viral variants that are more harmful, perhaps also for children;
  • make the virus more likely to evolve to evade vaccine-derived immunity; and/or
  • ceteris paribus make the long-term cost-effectiveness of eradication more favorable than control

Mr. Kraaijeveld objects to the first argument by pointing out that evolutionary fitness of an infectious virus is determined more by increased transmissibility rather than virulence, which is true as far as it goes, although he cites a 2020 paper making the argument that there was not yet evidence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with increased transmissibility. (Those would arrive a few months later in the form of the Delta and Omicron variants, the Delta variant being more transmissible than the original Wuhan strain and the Omicron variant being more transmissible than the Delta variant.) However—and here’s where the facepalm came in as I read—that is actually a strong argument, both from a scientific and bioethics standpoint, for doing everything reasonable, especially vaccination, to decrease the level of transmission to as low a level as is feasible, in order to decrease the likelihood of more transmissible variants arising. Again, as people making these arguments always seem to do, Mr. Kraaijeveld is falling prey to the Nirvana fallacy, in which an imperfect intervention is portrayed as a useless one. When someone like this argues that COVID-19 vaccines “do not prevent infection or transmission”, it implies that the vaccines don’t prevent infection or transmission at all, which is nonsense. Of course they do; they’re just not 100% effective (or, since the rise of Delta and Omicron even close to it).) The way to look at it is that the vaccines are “less good” at preventing infection and transmission than they are at preventing serious disease and death, not that they don’t prevent transmission or infection at all.

What flows from Mr. Kraaijeveld’s Nirvana fallacy is predictable. He argues, as I mentioned above, that mass vaccination of children will not contribute to preventing the development of more “harmful” variants. I note that, even as he observes that virulence and transmissibility are often incorrectly conflated, Mr. Kraaijeveld himself seems to be doing the same thing as he in essence argues against a straw man of the real argument, that decreasing transmission is useful in terms of controlling the disease, even if the vaccines don’t produce anything near sterilizing immunity. He also argues:

The notion that unbridled transmission would make the virus more likely to escape vaccine-derived immunity makes the eradication argument either self-defeating or incredibly costly. Aside from the fact that current vaccines do not prevent infection or transmission, if certain variants really are highly efficient at evading vaccine-derived immunity—or, worse still, if more variants continuously evolve to evade vaccines more efficiently—then attempts at eradication through global vaccination, and the strong evolutionary selection pressures this entails, will be met with diminishing returns for the costs of such a program.

It’s also rather funny how Mr. Kraaijeveld fails to note that these new variants are also pretty good at evading post-infection “natural” immunity as well—possibly even as good as they are at evading vaccine-induced immunity—to the point where it’s increasingly being concluded that, while it’s better to prevent COVID-19 with vaccination, if you do get it “hybrid immunity” (a combination of infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity from getting the vaccine after you’ve recovered) is better at preventing the disease than either alone. I also note that there are few areas in the world where the vaccination rate among adults (much less among children) is anywhere near high enough to result in significant selection for variants that evade the immune response; what we are seeing is primarily a selection for increased transmissibility due to wide and largely uncontrolled circulation of the coronavirus among large populations.

Mr. Kraaijeveld also argues that children are not a major driver of COVID-19 transmission, thus making vaccinating “healthy” children pointless, because, according to him, COVID-19 is not dangerous to “healthy” children. One notes that there is more cherry picking here, given that all the studies he cites are pre-Delta and pre-Omicron. Moreover, more recent studies showing that mask mandates significantly decreased transmission suggest that schools are not as insignificant a source of COVID-19 circulation as Mr. Kraaijeveld would argue.

“Defeat the mandates!”

The last part of Mr. Kraaijeveld’s Bioethics paper opposes any sort of mandates for COVID-19 vaccines for children that are straight from the antivax playbook. First, the appeal to “parental rights”:

Mandates for children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 would limit and, depending on their nature, even override the autonomy of parents and guardians to make decisions about the health of their children. This requires ethical justification as such, but it demands stronger justification in proportion to the level of coercion that mandates would involve.100 When mandates are in place, the actors who make decisions for the health and well-being of children de facto become governments and public health officials rather than parents, although less coercive measures (e.g., small fines) might allow some parents to opt out and thereby retain decisional autonomy.101

I have to wonder right here if Mr. Kraaijeveld understands how mandates work for children, in the US at least, either from a legal or bioethics standpoint. Here, the mandate is that children require certain vaccines to attend school, but there is no legal penalty for not vaccinating one’s children other than not being allowed to enroll them in school. Certainly, there are no fines, and it’s pretty rare that parents are investigated by child protective services for not vaccinating their children. (Usually, such investigations involve far more than just not vaccinating.) He also seems unaware that most states allow religious and philosophical exemptions to these mandates, in addition to medical exemptions. In the US, at least, the “coercion” that he decries isn’t much in the way of coercion at all, which makes me wonder why he doesn’t think that, in the US at least, mandating COVID-19 vaccines for school is acceptable. Oh, wait. As discussed above, he echoes—unknowingly, I hope, but possibly knowingly I fear—antivaccine talking points about them, such as the claims that COVID-19 doesn’t harm “healthy” children, that the vaccine is more dangerous than the disease, that it doesn’t produce “sterilizing immunity” and is therefore useless in contributing to herd immunity, and other arguments. He then marshals such old bogus antivax tropes as “bioethics.”

He also goes straight into Great Barrington Declaration/Urgency of Normal territory of “focused protection”:

For COVID-19, vaccines are safe and effective in higher-risk groups, including older adults and the immunocompromised,59 and significantly reduce the risk of severe illness even when vaccinated groups are exposed to substantial community transmission.60 While there are some people for whom the current COVID-19 vaccines are contraindicated (e.g., those with severe allergies), this group appears to be small.61 It is therefore not the case that vulnerable groups cannot protect themselves, which would make routine vaccination of less vulnerable groups—children, in this case—more compelling. Moreover, as argued above, children are not major drivers of COVID-19 transmission. As such, there is no strong ethical justification for COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children for the sake of vulnerable groups.

This is, in essence, the same argument that Great Barrington Declaration authors make about all interventions to prevent the spread of COVID-19—including masks, “lockdowns,” and vaccines—namely that it’s possible to protect the “vulnerable” (“focused protection”) and that no intervention should be permitted that is not completely voluntary. Unsurprisingly, consistent with this Mr. Kraaijeveld is apparently not a fan of nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as masks and “lockdowns,” to slow the spread of COVID-19 either, viewing them as ethically problematic as well.

Bioethics? More like antivaccine tropes recycled!

To summarize, Mr. Kraaijeveld argues that, because current COVID-19 vaccines do not produce sterilizing immunity, herd immunity is not achievable, and vaccinating children doesn’t protect others, nor would vaccinating them prevent the evolution of more harmful and/or immune-evading variants, and, as a result, vaccinating children is not ethically supportable, and vaccine mandates of any kind for COVID-19 are completely unjustifiable from an ethical standpoint. Of course, he fails to mention that most vaccines do not produce sterilizing immunity. It’s not as though this hadn’t been discussed at the time the vaccines were being rolled out or that scientists hadn’t recognized that COVID-19 vaccines were unlikely to produce true sterilizing immunity. It’s just plain incorrect to argue that you have to have sterilizing immunity for a vaccine to contribute to herd immunity or even the elimination of a disease. For example, the smallpox vaccine did not produce sterilizing immunity; yet, as has been observed, it was crucial in eradicating smallpox. Neither the Salk (inactivated) nor the Sabin (live attenuated) polio vaccine produces sterilizing immunity, but the global eradication of polio is within reach, thanks to the vaccines:

Also, while we’re on the topic of polio, it turns out that the same appeal to the “disease doesn’t kill that many children” argument can be made for polio (and was made for it by antivaxxers):

One wonders whether Mr. Kraaijeveld similarly questions—on the basis of bioethics, of course—whether routine polio vaccination is advisable, as well. Just as most of his arguments could be used against routine measles vaccination, similarly most of them could also be used against polio.

Or rotavirus:

The case of rotavirus—which causes severe vomiting and watery diarrhea and is especially dangerous to infants and young children—is fairly straightforward. Vaccination limits, but does not stop, the pathogen from replicating. As such, it does not protect against mild disease. By reducing an infected person’s viral load, however, it decreases transmission, providing substantial indirect protection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, four to 10 years after the 2006 introduction of a rotavirus vaccine in the U.S., the number of positive tests for the disease fell by as much as 74 to 90 percent.

I mean…

In other words, it is not a prerequisite that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission completely for them to be very valuable in curbing the pandemic. Moreover, newer generations of COVID-19 vaccines might actually be able to achieve sterilizing immunity. I also note that it has long been a favorite antivaccine argument to cite one vaccine in particular that doesn’t provide sterilizing immunity, specifically the pertussis vaccine, whose immunity also wanes with time, like that from COVID-19 vaccines.

While issues of freedom and parental rights are issues of bioethics and law about which there will always be some subjectivity based on differing belief systems and about which reasonable people can disagree, accurate science and data are required to have reasonable debates about how much the state should be allowed to infringe upon individual freedom and autonomy as well as parental rights. By massively downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in children in a manner that is, quite frankly, eugenicist in its emphasis on the disease supposedly being pretty close harmless to healthy children—not to mention based on cherry picked data primarily from before the Delta and Omicron surges—and exaggerating the dangers of the vaccine, Mr. Kraaijeveld, whether he realizes it or not or will admit it or not, tilts the playing field in favor of his arguments in the same intellectually dishonest manner that antivaxxers have long done. He even recycles their arguments, as the way his appeal to the lack of sterilizing immunity due to COVID-19 vaccination and his claim that COVID-19 is close to harmless to most “healthy children,” both of which are old antivaccine claims used for a number of vaccines in the past, but particularly MMR, rotavirus, and varicella.

All of these reasons are why I now eagerly await Mr. Kraaijeveld’s next bioethics treatise arguing that we should not routinely vaccinate children against measles because the disease doesn’t kill that many kids and that we shouldn’t vaccinate against polio, pertussis, and most other childhood diseases because the vaccines don’t produce sterilizing immunity and therefore cannot produce herd immunity or contribute to the elimination of the disease. After all, if he’s going to recycle, he should go all-in and recycle everything. Surely another prominent Bioethics paper awaits!.

Meanwhile, people who like Mr. Kraaijeveld’s message have predictably gone all Humpty Dumpty about words and argue that an article titled “Against COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children” is not actually arguing against vaccinating children against COVID-19:

Same as it ever was.

Bioethics: Same as it ever was, antivax-wise.
Bioethics: Same as it ever was, antivax-wise.

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]

57 replies on “Bioethics recycles old antivax tropes about COVID vaccines for children”

This isn’t surprising: Kraaijeveld has a 2021 paper “COVID-19: Against a Lockdown Approach” where his position is that lockdowns are bad and letting people be altruistic so they “do the right things” is good.

“Given that the individual measures necessary to limit the spread of the virus can in principle be achieved voluntarily as well as through enforcement, the question arises of how much freedom governments ought to give citizens to adopt the required measures. I argue that an altruistic approach is preferable on moral grounds: it preserves important citizen freedoms, avoids a number of potential injustices, and gives people a much-needed sense of meaning in precarious times.”

Slightly unrelated, but I chuckled at this:

“For the data supporting the arguments, please see the paper itself (which includes over 100 footnotes,”

I once heard G. Gordon Liddy rant in defense of the book “Silent Coup” (the authors argued that John Dean was behind the Watergate break-in because officials in the Democratic Party had information that tied Dean’s wife to a D.C. call-girl ring. They also named Alexander Haag as Deepthroat.) by saying “It has several hundred footnotes. When someone puts that much effort into research you know they’re right.”

Footnotes: one of the lesser known accuracy metrics.

over 100 footnotes

Gish, meet Gallop.

I once heard G. Gordon Liddy

Unlucky. The “G” is for “Gaslighting”, of course.

Question: If Science is descended from Philosophy, why are there still Philosophers? More evidence, were it needed, that they’re not worth piss up a tree.

If you’re going to play the Herschel Walker of epistemology, you should understand that the analogy favors the philosophers.
(since “why are there still monkeys?” is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard…)


That said, the question is also a serious one. If philosophers can win tenure just by negotiating how many angels dance on a pin then more power to ’em. But at least scientists can experience the practical consequences of being wrong, while medical practitioners out on the front line learn first-hand what it is to tell a parent that her child is dead.

But okay, let’s give young Master Navel Fluff his chance: Exactly what skin does he commit to this game?

Why, not so much as a flash of Victorian ankle! Defending his Thesis? The little twerp isn’t even defending his Twitter comment! So damn straight he’s an inflated child, just seeking attention. And shame on the pampering “adults” for feeding his ego.

So call me once he’s worked a year on a COVID ward, and can bring long pants and real life experience to temper his now-idle pontifications. Because the Atlas Shrugged fanfic crap really won’t cut it.

To answer you question seriously, then: there are still philosophers because ideas still matter— especially the bad ones. Since Dr. Brian O’Blivion is one of my avatars, I must quote the line about Videodrome from Videodrome: “It has something you don’t have, Max. It has a philosophy. And that’s what makes it dangerous.”

Kraapeveld may be a twerp, but he’s not negotiating how many angels can dance on a pun head, but how many people can suffer or die for an abstract ethic of individual autonomy (in which children are not individuals but parental appendages).

Two problems with your “no skin in the game” smack. 1) [practical] It dovetails too neatly with long-standing American anti-intellectualism, which in turn feeds ugly reactionary politics. 2) [analytical] It’s based in, and thus reinforces, a similar individualist framework to Kraap’s right- wing ideology. A respiratory disease pandemic is a public health crisis, meaning it operates at a broad systemic scale — which is nevertheless made up of uncountable iterations of individual virus. The physician treating patients in a COVID ward does nothing to slow the spread. In the grand scheme of things whether or not I as one person get vaxed, mask, or social distance makes only a teeny weeny eensy difference. But scale that up, and it matters.

Ideology works the same way. Taken in isolation, your philosophy or my philosophy or Kraap’s philosophy can be easily dismissed. But ideas don’t stay in isolation. They reproduce. They spread. They grow. As you observe below, the particular strain of toxic reactionary politics now plaguing us was once confined to a disreputable fringe. How do you think that changed? It wasn’t a simple process, but right-wing philosophy, and it’s associated institutions in academia and private foundations were absolutely a big part of the mix.

There’s only so much you can do to quarantine against toxic philosophy — deplatforming and the like. In the end, you have to face off against it in the realm of ideas — with a better argument, a better philosophy. Which is why “science” is inadequate by itself, as in separating itself from ‘natural philosophy’ it separated the pursuit of ‘truth’ or ‘knowledge’ from considerations of value. Pretending you don’t have a philosophy doesn’t mean your actions aren’t guided by one, or beholden to those of others.

I lost a comment earlier so sorry if this repeats.

— Woo apologists generally support an all-or-nothing approach , thus, if vaccines don’t completely eradicate illness and transmission, they don’t count . HOWEVER decreasing transmission and serious illness keeps people from crowding emergency departments and critical care units as well as allowing doctors and nurses valuable respite from overwork.
BUT alties don’t seem to apply all-or-nothing to children’s illness and death rates. If some kids die, it’s okay: it only would count if all died I suppose. What’s a few lost TO THEM?

— Del and Joshua Coleman will be at the LA rally on the 10th: they expect 100,000 marchers. Josh predicts he’ll get 1000 signs -which are available for purchase or for donation @ 30 USD each at his website V is for Vaccine.

— I asked this earlier:
herd immunity was discussed earlier in the pandemic as 80-90% fully vaccinated IIRC. According to sites I watch ( e.g. Mayo) some places in the US, UK, AUS have very high rates of vaccination ( 75% or more) and low rates of illness, Rt and death as they relax restrictions. NYC comes to mind. Are they approaching herd immunity? Or do variants prevent that?

Mr. Kraaijeveld is recycling the “health freedom” and “parental rights” arguments that portray any attempt to require vaccines for children before entering public school or daycare facilities as an unacceptable fascistic assault of freedom. It’s a very old antivaccine argument that takes a reasonable debate about the limits of what can be mandated in the service of public health and turns it into a Manichean view that portrays any sort of mandate or even mild coercion as evil.

This isn’t an “antivaccine argument” in the sense that it comes out of the anti-vaccine movement. Rather, it’s a far broader ideology that antivaxers echo as it suits their ends. While Orac naturally focuses on the “bio’ in the Kraaijeveld paper, we might also note the broader concepts of ethics to which he subscribes, which are expressed in the quote ldw56old cites above, “an altruistic approach is preferable on moral grounds: it preserves important citizen freedoms, avoids a number of potential injustices, and gives people a much-needed sense of meaning in precarious times.” That is, morality, and with it ethics, devolve to questions of individual choice. This is basic conservative philosophy: Life only has meaning if we rise or fall by our choices, so the most immoral thing that society can do — encapsulated in the pejorative “paternalism’ — is take choice away from the individual. About anything. (BTW, this is the theme of the novel A Clockwork Orange, though not of the film adaptation…) When Orac writes:

While issues of freedom and parental rights are issues of bioethics and law about which there will always be some subjectivity based on differing belief systems and about which reasonable people can disagree, accurate science and data are required to have reasonable debates about how much the state should be allowed to infringe upon individual freedom and autonomy as well as parental rights.

I suspect he begs the question for the likes of Kraaijeveld, as I venture to guess they would consider how much the state should be allowed to infringe upon individual and autonomy and parental rights as ‘not at all’. That would fit with arguments that, as Orac shows, work as well for all childhood diseases as for COVID, and with Kraaijeveld revealing, in essence, that his arguments relating to the “bio” part are ultimately irrelevant, as the ethic triumphs regardless: “if vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19 should at some future point be considered more defensible, important ethical objections against coercive mandates will still remain.”

Nevertheless, I’ll observe that the confluence of this right-wing ethic with cherry-picking and misuse of evidence is no accident at all.

From sadmar:
“I suspect he begs the question for the likes of Kraaijeveld, as I venture to guess they would consider how much the state should be allowed to infringe upon individual and autonomy and parental rights as ‘not at all’. ”

I live Michigan and teach in Grand Rapids. The region from there to Lake Michigan, then north to Muskegon and a little beyond, is largely conservative with a strong libertarian leanings (with the northern part home to a few militias). There was a lot of “my kids are my property and the government can’t tell me what do with with my property” stuff spewed as reasons to oppose vaccines and masking.
That, to me, is a very disturbing voicing of the notion of “parental rights”.

I live in the Netherlands and I suppose mr. Kraaijeveld comes from another line of thinking. We have certain religious groups that are against vaccination, because it shows a distrust in the ways of the Lord. Although this is just a small fringe group, Christian political parties are against vaccine mandates, because the seem to want to cater these groups.

“my kids are my property and the government can’t tell me what do with with my property”

That could also be consistent with narcissistic abuse. Children of narcissists are not fully-realized individuals with identities and rights of their own, but mere extensions of the parent organism; like limbs.

I have often speculated on the overlap between Cluster B personality types and woo, antivax, and other (increasingly extremist) Outsider ideologies. The desperate need to be Special. The absolute need to Control. The lack of empathy. The pathological inability ever to admit error.

ISTR reading somewhere that Cluster Bs are typically around 3% of the population. And it is a spectrum, so some will be less harmful than others.

That said, after these last 6 years I wonder if somebody dropped a zero.


We have certain religious groups that are against vaccination, because it shows a distrust in the ways of the Lord.

UGH! I always hated that line of thought. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” I’m an agnostic now but was a Catholic for decades. Back then, I believed that God gave us brains and the ability to think and solve problems.

This is basic conservative philosophy: Life only has meaning if we rise or fall by our choices, so the most immoral thing that society can do…is take choice away from the individual.

Were that actually true it would deserve respect; at the very least it’d be internally consistent.

And perhaps it was in Adam Smith’s day? But that was a long time ago.

The reactionary degenerates now stamping around in their “conservatism” skin-suits don’t even pretend any more, laboring tirelessly to strip everyone else of their choices, rights, and even lives; while grabbing for themselves everything that’s not tied down—regardless of whether they need it or not—just so that no-one else has it. Because it is not enough for them just to improve their own lot in life, they must also ensure that everyone else’s gets worse. It is only the delta they care about. To stand tall they require others to spit on below; and if they don’t exist, they’ll make them.

The titular Right now seeks Power and Control, nothing more—“Rules for Thee and None for Me”—segueing almost seamlessly from whatever imperfect but communally still-workable humanity that Conservatism may have once held into flawlessly overt fascism; with themselves positioned on top of the pile, of course. (At least the amateurs think that they are; the professionals playing them laugh at them and us both.)

Right means Might; Might means Right. And if a rising tide raises all boats, they will choose to nuke the ocean.

Whatever you want to call that, conservatism it is not.

Just, don’t tarry. And don’t overthink it. Because they won’t.

“conservatism it is not”

When the wrong side is democratically elected, you argue for authoritarianism.

Under the wrong authoritarian, you argue for democracy.

Of course, “conservatism” has multiple definitions… I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any government that has called itself conservative that held true to that conservative philosophy of individual choice. ‘Rules for thee and none for me’ isn’t exactly anything new. Nor is the drive to grab everything not tied down, exactly because they DON’T need it, to maximize the delta, to further emiserate the have nots. George Will once told an interviewer his favorite historical period, the time he wished he could have lived in, was the Gilded Age. That’s conservatism: celebrate the robber barons, eliminate child labor laws and bring back the Triangle Waste fire.

So, no I don’t have much sympathy for “no true conservative” arguments. But if you’re only applying that to choosing to “nuke the ocean”, the frightening apocalyptic lust for vengeance that’s animating the alt-right, sure I’ll allow that’s not characteristic of old school conservative philosophy, which imagines itself the height of above-all-that-rabble rationality. (‘Objectivism’ my ass.)

BTW, I really detest the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” because, among other things that’s not how tides and boats actually work — places where there are boats being in opposite sides of the Earth vis a vis the Moon.

But that reminded me of another aspect of classic conservative philosophy we can find in arrears amidst the “populist” right: an overt defense of elitism, a rejection of democracy in all things based on contempt for the common folk, the mass — imagined as a herd of dullards that would be scrambling amid squalor if not stampeding over a cliff but for the efforts of the exceptional few to elevate the species. It is, as you say, Randian fanfic. The classic conservative imagines himself as a Roark battling off mediocre minds in pursuit of excellence, or a revolutionary ready to chuck the rest of society into the dustbin and head off to Galt’s gulch.

You’re no doubt correct that the professional populists are just playing the boobeoise to achieve the neo-aristocratic ruling power they think they deserve, and having a good laugh about how well that’s working. But I can’t get from there to a blanket condemnation of philosophy. A consequence of being wrong as a medical doctor may be the death of an individual patient. The consequence of bad philosophy can be the deaths of millions.

“Because it is not enough for them just to improve their own lot in life, they must also ensure that everyone else’s gets worse.”

Here in the US their goal seems to be the destruction of all the social constructs they took advantage of to get to their position so that none of the “wrong people” can have the same chance — and so they can claim to be “self made”.

“a rising tide lifts all boats”

Even when all the boats are in the same tide, the people in the smallest boats start out behind, and after the tide has come in they are just as far behind because, well, all the boats got lifted.

As an interested outsider in the US Culture Wars (they spill over here, sometimes with hilarious consequences), one of the impressions I have gained about the ‘Right’ is that there is an increasing amount of vengeance associated with their actions and rhetoric. Their perceived ideological opponents need to be punished, no matter what. Even if that means life is worse for those on the ‘Right’. The number of people who have been willing to risk their lives and those of their families over COVID-19 just to “own the libs” has been staggering.

This is coupled with a view that criticism is suppression and is somehow a violation of their personal rights. That they should be allowed to say and do whatever they like with no consequences. This of course does not apply to anyone else.

Finally, their is the massive sense of entitlement. They are like a bunch of adult toddlers.

“um, what?”

Too opaque? Much of conservatism has shifted hard right in many countries. They have no scruples about getting “their guy” into power. If elections work, great! If they don’t, overturn democracy. The end justifies the means. That is all.

Anytime someone says that the vaccine is not efficacious because it does not provide sterilizing immunity, I want them to show their work. Derive a mathematical model that shows that a vaccine that reduces the course of the disease and limits the number of infections to other persons is useless compared to sterilizing vaccine, and no better than no vaccine at all.

Problem here is that Religion gets played by the anti-vax movement. Every time State Senator Richard Pan of Sacramento says things like vaccine mandates protect immunocompromised and Autistic civil rights then the anti-vaxxers will say ooh it violates our religion and personal beliefs.

It’s never in the form of public health, virology, epidemiological studies though.

Another conspiracy site john? You folks who are without a clue (or, apparently, integrity) tend to clump together.

Just what monumental scheme is the item you posted without comment supposed to bring to front?

So breaktrough cases are new to you too ? Vaccines are not 100% effective (an nobody has claimed that they are), which does not mean they are 0% effective. Find out the actual number, it is out there.

So, by this logic, if the vaccine was more effective (or when a better) vaccine comes to market, ‘vaccination of healthy children’ would be ethical, would be approved by the authors?

Re coercion: It does happen as in this egregious case where only the poor seem to being coerced.

Australia to stop welfare cash of anti-vaccine parents (2015)
BTW I consider the Australian action unethical be cause of the attack on the weakest members of society.

I have to wonder right here if Mr. Kraaijeveld understands how mandates work for children, in the US at least, either from a legal or bioethics standpoint.

Mr. Kraaijeveld is in the Netherlands. He, likely, is not considering individual countries and have no reason to be considering the USA in particular.

Re parental rights, where I live parental rights only go so far. In one of the few sensible moves of provincial government’s fight against the pandemic it allows anyone 12 and over to receive the vaccination without parental approval if it is deemed that the child understands the issues.

@ ldw56old

“It has several hundred footnotes. When someone puts that much effort into research you know they’re right.”


“Bjørn Lomborg” for anyone who knows the climate change wars?

BTW I consider the Australian action unethical be cause of the attack on the weakest members of society.

You’re assuming western anti-vaxxers = poor people. While vaccine hesitancy is fairly well spread across ethnicities and social strata (a little higher in black communities due to long-earned trust issues), anti-vaccination, as expressed through propaganda and militant action, is predominantly while, middle-class, and somewhat educated (at least in the rote mindless hoop-jumping that passes for K12).

That puts them well in the category of being able to look after their kids out of their own pockets. What cutting off their social benefits does is kick them right in their outrageous entitlement. Which is absolutely the correct response to a Narcissist.

Don’t want to pay your dues? Don’t enjoy the privileges either. That’s now a healthy society works.

At best, you can train them, like dogs. If not, cut them off. Otherwise they will use and abuse you. Because it’s all about them, nothing and nobody else.

Rest assured, their well-fed emotionally-starved kids will suffer vastly more from being raised by toxic manipulative assholes than from having to forego a few extra all-organic lattes (the parents, natch, not their offspring).

You’re assuming western anti-vaxxers = poor people.

I think you may be misunderstanding the policy. The Australian initiative was aimed at those on the Australian equivalent of welfare in North American terms. There was no penal for anyone else. Anti-vaxer billionaires were under no such coercion but the poorest of the poor were.

@John Kane
1) These are the only people that the Australian government has this kind of leverage over, so of course the super-rich aren’t impacted; they’re super rich.

2) And how often does it happen that these payments are actually withheld for non-vaccination? I used to know this number, I think it was very small.

3) Given that in Australia it is a legal requirement to vote, with real and serious fines and punishments if one does not, I think we can identify that Australia has a different approach to what is a socially-acceptable amount of government coercion to encourage good social behavior (like voting and vaccinating).

Here’s the thing: every law, rule and regulation is a form of coercion. My freedom to defecate where ever I want is limited by laws about things like waterway contamination (there are serious fines for contaminating a reservoir, for example). Part of being part of a society, any society, is exchanging some unfettered freedoms for structures that promote health and safety.

The Family Tax Benefit Part A, which is main payment reduced if your child is not vaccinated, is in fact an example of middle class welfare. Taxpayers are eligible provided they have children under age 19 (although they must be at school for ages 16-19) and they meet the means test.

The Family Tax Benefit cuts out at $105,000 adjusted taxable income (that is taxable income after all deductions have been made) if you have one child, $115,000 if you have 2 children, $137,000 if you have 3 children, $154,000 if you have 4 children, $170,000 if you have 5 children and $186,000 if you have six children.

There is a second payment, The Child Care Subsidy, that is also affected. That payment is paid to anyone with a family taxable income under $354,000 and with a child in child care*.

*This vaccination requirement is mostly irrelevant here, because you cannot access child care unless your child is vaccinated or has a medical exemption.


Given that in Australia it is a legal requirement to vote, with real and serious fines and punishments if one does not

Yes, and there’s also a requirement to register to vote. But the fine for failing to do either is AUD20 (~USD15), which I don’t think is really a “serious fine or punishment”, and can be avoided if you give the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) “valid and sufficient reason” for not having voted. Failure to pay the fine can lead to more serious fines or even imprisonment, but they’re for failure to pay the fine, not for not voting.

@prl, thanks for the correction!
The Aussies I had heard talk about it seemed to take their “sorry, I’m in the USA” forms very seriously, which made me think that the fines must be pretty high.

JustaTech: No problem.

In fact, if you want to push it to its absurd limit, there is actually no compulsion to vote in Australia. You must attend a polling place, have your intention to vote marked off on the electoral roll, accept the ballot papers and then you may not do anything with the ballot papers other than to take them to a booth and then place them in the correct ballot box. There is no enforceable compulsion to mark them.

However, most Australians take their duty to vote seriously, even when they grumble at the same time that there’s no-one worth casting a vote for.

There’s about 96% enrolment to vote in Australia, and of those who enrol, typically more than 90% vote. Before voting was made compulsory, turnout was never above 80% in federal elections or referendums.

In January, the Australian Electoral Commission started a program encouraging people to enrol (mostly those who have become eligible since the last election, and haven’t yet enrolled) because a federal election must be held on or before 21 May.

Anyway, getting a bit OT, so I’ll not post further on it unless there are specific questions.

I don’t think the fines for failing to vote have been increased in a long time, so they once were more serious. However, voting has become a cultural norm through the expectation to vote and the annoyance you have to go through if you don’t vote.

When I last voted here in Australia, they’d almost run out of democracy sausages!

You will notice term “paternalistic”, one od Pavlov reflex words.It is paternalistic to reduce smoking ? Some things are atually dangerous.

Peter Abraham forecasting the 2022 baseball season in today’s Boston Globe:

“AL wild cards: Twins, Red Sox, Yankees. There could be five or six teams in the mix on Labor Day. Can’t help but wonder whether anti-vax players will doom Sox and Yankees.”*

*unvaccinated players can’t be in the lineup for games played in Toronto.

Holy crap john, it’s astounding how deep into the scum you’ll wade to find someone who supports your lies. Kim iverson? Right-wing loon and mouthpiece for russia?

Try to find some legitimate sources for once. I know that goes against your natural habits, but just try to exhibit a little integrity and do it.

Holy crap john, it’s astounding how deep into the scum you’ll wade to find someone who supports your lies. (of course they aren’t lies) Kim iverson? Right-wing loon and mouthpiece for russia? (citation needed).

In any case the source is ultimately the docs that Pfizer, the FDA and DOJ wanted 75 years to produce. Can’t imagine why.

The points john, is there is nothing earth shattering there, and your lies (and the lies of the folks you link to) don’t matter.

More importantly: did it ever occur to you that the fact you needed to dig low enough to find get coverage from that dirtbag is an indication of what a big sack of nothing it is? You seem to think that “reputable” means someone is as off track and suckered by asinine conspiracies as you.

@john labarge Check what Iverson is saying about Russia
Fact remains that diggers of FDA raw data have not found anything yet.

There are lots of papers about natural immunity, so no new here. One problem wit it is that you may die before getting it, and variants circumvent it it as well.
11000 pages and this is only bombshell found ?

10x the adverse reactions that were reported.

And 100-1000x the doses delivered.

I think that has may be interested in my observation..

I’ve noticed, especially of late, that the alties I survey frequently seem to display delight as they regale their audiences with tales of oncoming food shortages, famine, death on a mass sale, hyperinflation, currency collapse and societal upheaval that are about to happen as well as when they ‘inform” us about the dreadful effects of eating an average diet, not exercising or being vaccinated. It appears as if they enjoy frightening their followers whom they supposedly care about so much. Mike doesn’t even attempt to hide his glee as he narrates nightmare scenarios that will soon engulf the entire globe, laughing, making jokes and doing ‘comic’ voices. Gary sounds more the scold who “has told you so” hundreds of times before as he has his friends and family who “never listened” and now are dead contrasted with stories about people who diligently followed his sage advice and are now active and healthy at advanced ages.

Of course, much of the motivation may be salesmanship in order to sell their products and their ideas such as supplements, “pure” foods, prepping supplies and their philosophy BUT I detect a hint of sadistic pleasure as suffering and dire situations are described in detail. Of course, neither of them will be affected as they exemplify radiant health and self-sufficiency, being prepared for any emergency and advising followers how to avoid the effect of climate change**, global war, poverty and anarchy.

Both give financial advice which discourages investment in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and using banks as well as investment in property in and around cities. Farm land, silver, gold***, stored foods and useful machines/ tools are the way to go. I recall that in the 2008-9 financial crisis, Null advised followed to get out of banks, stocks, bonds etc because the Dow would fall to 3000 and never recover. Needless to say, I didn’t follow his advice. He also predicted that cities would never recover from the pandemic and left NY for good for his estates in Florida and Texas ( after decades of making money off of NYers). This talk poorly hides what seems to be contempt for city dwellers- “careerists”, the “elite”. university snowflakes etc. Obviously, they assiduously avoid anything that could be labelled racist BUT Mikey does some very interesting comic voices for his gang characters and violent city dwellers.
These websites are where woo meets alt right BS.

** only Null believes in climate change and tells listeners where to move and how to get off of the grid ( paid virtual seminars)
*** Mikey’s broadcasts are sometimes sponsored by a company that sells precious metals

“Of course, much of the motivation may be salesmanship in order to sell their products and their ideas such as supplements, “pure” foods, prepping supplies”

It’s not even remotely subtle.

You can’t trust your marks to make the connection between the impending end of civilization and the need to stock up for the apocalypse, so NN runs doomsday headlines juxtaposed with urgings to buy Health Ranger survival buckets.*

Beyond that, you can keep ’em coming back for scary stories indefinitely – they’ll forget the miserable failure of all your previous Nostradamian warnings. Very rarely I’ve seen a devotee wonder what good it does to know about impending catastrophe engineered by global elites if you’re helpless to thwart them.

*Thankfully, before we moved into our current residence, the previous occupants threw out the ancient jars of luridly green preserved vegetables that had been lining the basement shelves. I wonder how many people have had to shell out extra $$ to get piles of Ranger buckets, emergency seed stashes and other dreck hauled away when the buyers died or had to move.

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