Regular readers might wonder why there was no post earlier this week, as I usually do at least three posts a week. (True, that’s less than I used to do back in my heyday 15 years ago, but these days I try to maintain a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule.) Truth be told, after the sudden death of Dr. Harriet Hall (a.k.a. The SkepDoc), I just didn’t much feel like it. Now I do, and the reason that I do is probably something that regular readers might be able to guess.
That’s right. Unfortunately antivaxxers have glommed onto her death and have added to their “died suddenly” narrative, their conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines are causing a wave of people “dying suddenly.” I’m not surprised. I wish I were. As I said after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered an on-field cardiac arrest, most likely from commotio cordis, after my initial shock my very next thought was to wonder how long it would be before antivaxxers started blaming her unexpected passing on COVID-19 vaccines. It did not take at all after her husband had Tweeted news of her death using her account and the editor of her website and newsletter had sent out a mass email with the news before I started seeing Tweets with the “died suddenly” narrative that either blamed the vaccine outright or were “just asking questions” (a.k.a. JAQing off) about whether the vaccine caused or contributed to her death. Nearly as soon, an antivaxxer started sending me particularly vile emails, the most recent of which I received just yesterday before I started writing this.
As mentioned at my not-so-super-secret other blog (which isn’t secret at all), I asked Harriet’s husband Kirk if my writing about this would hurt him, telling him that I would not do it if he thought it was too soon. He didn’t. Quite the contrary:
I think a post like that is a great idea. The antivaxxers are a loathsome, despicable group who seem to be able to plumb the deepest levels of depravity to push their agenda.
You may use anything I have told you in this and other emails to fight against the disinformation being spread against Harriet and the Covid-19 vaccines.
It’s also true that I’ve already written about this once elsewhere, but given newer developments, I thought it worth writing about here, too. There will be some overlap, of course, but I knew I had to write here as well when I saw this Tweet from Steve Kirsch (whom we’ve met a number of times before):
Worse, I knew things were getting worse when someone like Jim Hoft (sometimes—and justifiably—known as the dumbest man on the Internet) had written about Harriet’s passing, apparently after Alex Berenson (a.k.a. the pandemic’s wrongest man) had taken note last week:
Let me just point out that Berenson knew exactly what he was doing when he Tweeted this the same day that Harriet’s death was announced. His Tweet was a dog whistle to antivax activists pushing the “died suddenly” narrative in which he was “just asking questions” about whether science communicators were avoiding the word “suddenly” when discussing people who died suddenly and unexpectedly.
And even worse still, in response to Kirk’s Tweeting a death announcement using Harriet’s account:
Let this post be my answer, since Harriet can no longer answer for herself.
Harriet Hall: What really happened?
Before I move on to discuss how the antivax vultures and ghouls have descended on the story of Harriet’s passing to promote their “died suddenly” (of vaccines) narrative, let me just emphasize that what happened.
According to Kirk Hall, Harriet’s husband:
Harriet had been in delicate health for many years before the Covid-19 pandemic. Several years ago I took over all household chores after she experienced blackouts and fell in San Francisco and at SeaTac within a week. Recently Harriet’s doctor at Madigan Army Medical Center was having her worked up for possible congestive heart failure. A very recent echocardiogram (we have not received the full results) showed she had leakage in two of her heart valves. She also had a transient heart arrythmia which was of many years’ duration. Neither one of us have had Covid-19 and Harriet’s exposure to life outside the home had for the last several years, been limited to visits to her doctor and dentist.
From a personal standpoint, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not fully appreciate how poor Harriet’s health had become over the last several years. I did that she had had a number of health issues, and I do recall that Harriet did not attend NECSS in 2019 because she could not travel. Realizing that made me also realize that NECSS 2018 was the last time I ever saw Harriet in person. The bottom line is that, sadly, Harriet was 77 and in poor general health, with cardiac disease, arrhythmia, and probably heart failure that together her at high risk for a sudden cardiac event or a stroke. I also know that antivaxxers, when they learn of her health problems and cardiac risk, will likely quite happily respin their story to claim that vaccines killed her because she had had preexisting heart disease. That is how ghoulish they are.
Kirk also told me that Harriet did indeed die in her bed at around 10 PM PT on January 11.
A tale of two antivax ghouls: Jim Hoft and Dr. Paul Alexander
There are two posts by prominent antivaxxers that I want to deal with. First comes from the aforementioned dumbest man on the Internet, Jim Hoft, and was entitled Dr. Harriet Hall, Staunch Critic of Anti-vaxxers and Alternative Medicine, Dies in Her Sleep. In it Hoft tries to sound all empathetic and sad, but let’s just say that he’s fooling no one, least of all Orac. He quoted the Science-Based Medicine announcement of her death from last week. He quoted Kirk Hall, including what Kirk wrote above about how loathsome he considered antivaxxers to be. He made it a point to emphasize:
After her passing, many speculated that the Covid vaccination played a role in her sudden death.
Back in 2021, Dr. Hall announced that she received her third dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
“My husband and I (both well over 65) just got our third dose of COVID vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is free at Safeway for everyone. Very convenient and only a short wait. No appointment needed.”
Dr. Hall’s colleagues and his widow were outraged about these claims that she died from the COVID vaccine.
Hoft’s readers got the message. Here are a few of the comments.
From Pinnacle Stoves:
The Grim Reaper just redeemed another soul for Satan. This evil witch is personally responsible for many thousands of deaths; glad she’s in Hades!Stay classy anonymous antivaxxer.
Wondering how many deaths she influenced.
I might be a bit more tolerant of her had she not spewed vitriol at every opportunity toward so many of us.
We’ve enough bad news, finally a good one.
And from someone named Allison Hardy-Wood:
I despise these people who sneer at people they mistakenly imagine are not as smart as them. Dr. Harriet Hall was a proponent of the vaccination mandate and against all-natural remedies.
I know we are not supposed to gloat when God takes them out.
But I find this one very difficult, she is a mass murderer
I continue to be blown away at how such supposedly, highly educated people can be duped so easily.
Bye b*tch, Enjoy Hell!
That’s not even the worst one.
Here’s one that I find interesting:
The Twitter responses from the lefties are the real tell here. Within the space of one post they went from “So sorry she’s dead” to “I wonder how quickly the anti-vaxxers will say the vaccine killed her.”
It means they know the vaccine killed her and so many others, but they are still in the denial and projection stage; rather than admit they are horribly wrong, they want to blame the anti-vaxxers for the vaccine deaths, as if that makes a lick of sense. This vaccine thing is finally coming to a head, but they’re still in denial.
Actually, no, that’s not it at all. Rather, it’s because we know that antivaxxers have developed a conspiracy theory that blames COVID-19 vaccines for every unexpected sudden death. It’s not projection. It’s depression and anger at the current reality, in which antivaxxers do what antivaxxers do and have done at least since they blamed vaccines for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and Gardasil for supposedly killing adolescent girls and young women, blame vaccines for death, whether there’s a plausible link or not. Prepandemic antivaxxers even made a YouTube series called Sacrificial Virgins, about how Gardasil had supposedly killed a number of young women. Since the pandemic they’ve invented a whole mythology of “sudden adult death syndrome” (SADS) due to COVID-19 vaccines. Come to think of it, getting back to my “everything is old again” narrative, of late disgraced cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough has been ranting about people having syncopal episodes after COVID-19 vaccination. Sound familiar? Antivaxxers used to rant about exactly the same thing when teen girls fainted after receiving Gardasil shots.
But I digress.
The point is not that somehow we “secretly” admit that the vaccines are killing people when we anticipate antivaxxers blaming a sudden death on COVID-19 vaccines. We are simply acknowledging a simple fact. This is what antivaxxers do. They’ve been doing it for a while now, and they did it to Harriet. I could not abide them doing it before Harriet died, and I can’t abide them doing it to a friend.
Which brings us to Dr. Paul Alexander. You might recall him as an advisor to President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) who was best known for an email from July 2020 that was reported in December in which he wrote:
“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.
“Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…” Alexander added.
“[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected” in order to get “natural immunity…natural exposure,” Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee’s select subcommittee on coronavirus.
Since the Trump administration ended, Dr. Alexander has gone full COVID-19 crank and conspiracy theorist. His Substack is known for long, ranty headlines followed by even rantier posts. Such was his announcement of Harriet Hall’s death, Dr. Harriet Hall, Fierce Critic of Anti-vaxxers & Alternative Medicine has died while sleeping; First, we mourn & wish her haste to heaven; we never hate while I strongly disagreed with her views.
“Never hate”? Somehow, I have a hard time believing that after coming across “hang ’em high!” posts calling for “Nuremberg 2.0” with titles like, My call to ‘hang ’em high’ (Fauci, Birx, Francis Collins, Bourla et al.) following proper legal judge inquires that declare guilt causing death, has Margaret Anna Alice calling for justice, I join her and ‘Hang them high (hang ’em high)’ is my metaphor for accountability, it is a colloquial way for saying I/we want accountability & justice for all wrongs done in COVID, proper judicial reviews/trials. The problem is, it’s pretty obvious reading these rants that he doesn’t mean it metaphorically at all when he says “hang ’em high,” and it’s even more obvious that what he wants are sham kangaroo courts to come to predetermined verdicts.
But back to Dr. Alexander’s take on Dr. Harriet Hall’s death:
In this era of DIED SUDDENLY, and she was heavily vaccinated, and these COVID gene injections do kill, then we must have it on the table. We cannot hate each other and this battle has pitted us against each other and this is wrong. A death is a death, and if I and others suspect the vaccine, it must not be open season on us skeptics and COVID vaccine questioners for we have the right to question a gene injection that has not been tested for safety. A gene injection that has toxic mRNA as the payload and the deadly lipid-nano particle to encapsulate it, and which has shown to be harmful with death in many instances. We must question.
I do not want people to say ‘good riddance’ etc. No, we mourn, this is death and painful yet her position was flat wrong in any attacks on the unvaccinated. When she spoke ‘balance’ it was important and I thank her for that. Other than that, I wish her family peace as they grieve and her a direct route to heaven to our maker and huge love even as I say she was dangerously and recklessly wrong in her advocacy for an injection that killed. As smart as she was, she fell for the lies and did not look and the body of evidence that accumulated to show the shot was ineffective and dangerous and was subverting the immune system.
Huge love and hugs to her!
“Huge love and hugs to her”? I rather suspect that Harriet would not have been interested in Dr. Alexander’s “love and hugs.” As for what he was referring to about Harriet’s “balance,” he was referring to an article that she had written in 2021, Vaccine Refusers Are Not Stupid, in which she explained exactly what the title says, with none of what she wrote being very similar to what I and most other science communicators routinely say about the vaccine-hesitant, about they are not stupid and are persuadable, having reasons that they distrust vaccines. That is, of course, in contrast to what we say about die-hard antivax conspiracy theorists profiting off of their spreading of antivax conspiracy theories. The point is that the antivaxxers don’t really acknowledge nuance or attempts to be balanced, and Dr. Alexander’s smarmy bit about “huge love and hugs” comes off as insincere as he is about everything else.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Alexander’s readers got the message, and his comments are filled with the same sort of vileness that Hoft’s were.
For example, here’s TSMe:
Dr Harriet Hall is wearing a mask in her profile pic whilst alluding to the unvaccinated being ‘stupid idiots’. Good riddance indeed.
Am I callous for saying so?
Doctors, in particular, like Dr Harriet Hall led many hundreds of thousands of non-medically trained people (and their children) down the road of mRNA vaccination. If we accept this is highly detrimental to their health, then we cannot pretend she has not done enormous harm. She will cease doing such harm now.
And Fast Eddy:
I am experiencing a really good Shad right now (Schadenfreude)…
I’m sure this anonymous troll is.
Harriet’s case isn’t even unique
One of the longest standing conspiracy theories about vaccines are being used by global “elites” in order to cause “depopulation,” all for nefarious purposes of profit and control. Utterly unsurprisingly, before the pandemic, antivaxxers loved to compare vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and Nazi war crimes (with themselves as persecuted Jews). After the pandemic, there quickly arose conspiracy theories that the pandemic was planned, of course, as in “plandemic” designed to force peple to get vaccines, whose purpose was really not to save lives but to cause “depopulation.” These sorts of conspiracy theories were being spun before COVID-19 vaccines had been granted an EUA—even passed clinical trials, for example Mike Adams’ Oblivion Agenda.
It also came as no surprise that antivaxxers soon started weaponizing reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database, starting almost immediately. By summer 2021, the narrative had evolved to become an updated version of the hoary old antivax chestnut portraying vaccines as a “depopulation agenda“. Not coincidentally, one of the antivaxxers promoting the claim that vaccines are causing “depopulation” during the summer of 2021 was disgraced cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough, who figured prominently in weaving the narrative that facilitated antivaxxers falsely blaming his cardiac arrest on vaccines. Indeed, by March 2021, less than three months after the vaccines first started rolling out, antivaxxers were linking any death that occurred after COVID-19 vaccination to the vaccines, whether there was a plausible case or not, a phenomenon that I had noticed less than two months after the vaccines received their EUAs and continued to write about. In fact, I even noticed as early as mid-February 2021 how Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had started falsely blaming COVID-19 vaccines for heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths based on misinterpreted VAERS data, a narrative that continued through 2021 and continues to this day, antivaxxers even having co-opted an acronym SADS (sudden arrhythmic death syndrome) to “rebrand” it as “sudden adult death syndrome” (due to vaccines). These days, the narrative involves blaming vaccines, not the far more likely cause of COVID-19, for the large number of excess deaths recorded over the last couple of years.
I described elsewhere how the “died suddenly” narrative had been percolating starting when the vaccines rolled out but lacked a pithy, memorable phrase. “Died Suddenly” was that phrase. It appears to have originated sometime in the fall of 2021, but it didn’t really take off in a big way until summer of 2022. Now it’s a catchphrase, a dogwhistle. To antivaxxers it means “died suddenly because of vaccines,” but the “because of vaccines” part is silent and understood implicitly. Or, as I like to say, “Died suddenly” is antivax code for “vACcinEs aRE KiLlIng pEoPLe! Unfortunately, “died suddenly” has become so pervasive that it’s basically nearly impossible to avoid any more. (Tucker Carlson pushed it after Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field two weeks ago.)
I’ve said a number of times that I now hate the way my brain works with respect to vaccines and deaths, referring to how one of my first thoughts after learning that someone had died unexpectedly—including, sadly, Harriet—is to ask how long before antivaxxers start blaming the death on vaccines. Even more sadly, it’s rarely very long at all if the person is the least bit famous—and sometimes even if the person isn’t famous at all. Unfortunately, I will probably be thinking that way until the day that I, too, die, either suddenly or not, after which antivaxxers will probably blame my death on vaccines, even if I meet my end being run over by a truck.
I will conclude with one final observation. This “died suddenly” phenomenon is not unique to vaccines and antivaxxers. It is, rather, a subset of a more general phenomenon in which those who deny science-based medicine blame deaths on the intervention or preventative, rather than the disease itself. Long before the pandemic, I was writing about how quacks and cranks would seize on the deaths of celebrities of cancer to blame chemotherapy, rather than their cancers, for having killed them. Examples are numerous (some catalogued here) and include David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Tony Snow, Farrah Fawcett, Elizabeth Edwards, Patrick Swayze (with a particularly despicable use of a photo showing how emaciated he was). Alternatively, they “lament” how a celebrity with cancer might have lived if only he had chosen (or stuck with) alternative medicine, such as Steve Jobs. The ghoulishness is a feature, not a bug, of the denial of medical science, of which the antivaccine movement is just a part and the COVID-19 antivaccine movement is now the most visible example.
It is a denial that Harriet dedicated her post-Air Force life to combatting and that we here at SBM will continue to do. Antivaxxers can try to claim that vaccines killed Harriet all they want, but we know the truth, that unfortunately there are things medicine can’t always fix or prevent and that none of us gets out of here alive. All we can do is to use what time we have to do as much good as we can while we are still breathing, which is what Harriet tried to do.