Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics

RFK Jr. “in his own words”: Fiercely antivax

An antivaxxer challenged her readers to judge RFK Jr. by his own words before deciding if he’s antivax. Challenge accepted. He’s antivax as hell.

I’ve been writing about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his antivaccine activities for a very long time now. Indeed, I first started writing about RFK Jr. more than two and a half years before this blog even came into existence. In 2005, to their eternal shame, both and Rolling Stone simultaneously published an article by RFK Jr. entitled Deadly Immunity, and my deconstruction of his version of I like to call the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, noting that antivax conspiracy theories are but a subset of science denial. This version of the central conspiracy theory is one that I like to call the Simpsonwood Conspiracy theory based on its central focus on a meeting convened by the CDC at the Simpsonwood Conference Center in 2000 to discuss the evidence with respect to childhood vaccines that contained thimerosal, a mercury-containing chemical used as a preservative, and autism. No clear evidence of a link was found, and the CDC planned a second phase analysis that was completed and published four years later.

Unsurprisingly, according to RFK Jr.’s telling in Deadly Immunity, the conference was a huge secret coverup designed to hide evidence that the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal was the cause of the “autism epidemic.” (Never mind that the complete transcript of the conference had been published within days of the end of the conference; it was even hosted on an antivax website for a long time! Some “coverup.”) RFK Jr.’s spin was nonsense, of course, based on a misrepresentation of how in epidemiological studies seemingly “positive” associations disappear when confounders are properly taken into account, and overwhelming evidence has long been consistent with the conclusion that there is no correlation between receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines and the risk of autism.

In the intervening 18 years, I have written about RFK Jr. more times than I can remember, both on this blog and my not-so-super-secret other blog, because, unfortunately, he has consistently been a leader in the antivaccine movement. Indeed, based on his thimerosal fear mongering, RFK Jr. formed the antivaccine organization World Mercury Project, which was ultimately renamed Children’s Health Defense after it had become very clear over a decade after thimerosal had been removed from vaccines that autism rates were not falling (quite the contrary, in fact), thus providing a natural experiment that demonstrated no association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Along the way, his claims to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” notwithstanding, RFK Jr. demonstrated himself to be, in reality, fiercely antivaccine, whether he was likening vaccination to the Holocaust, trying to persuade Samoan officials that the MMR vaccine was dangerous (in the middle of a deadly measles outbreak!), claiming that today’s generation of children is the “sickest generation” (due to vaccines, of course!), or toadying up to President-Elect Donald Trump during the transition period to be chair of a “vaccine safety commission.” Indeed, a few years ago his own family even called him out for his antivaccine activism, while, predictably, RFK Jr. has, as so many antivaxxers have done, gone all-in on COVID-19 pseudoscience and conspiracy theories and become anti-mask, “anti-lockdown,” and pro-quack treatments for COVID-19.

All of this explains why I suffered a major facepalm when I read this post on a Substack entitled Is RFK Jr. “anti-vax”? Clearly, the antivaxxer behind this Substack, Joomi Kim (who has antivax proclivities of her own) means to invoke Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, in which the answer to any headline that is a question is no. Besides being irritated, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss this because Kim’s article shows the rhetorical techniques by which antivaxxers try to maintain plausible deniability about being antivax, hiding their true nature behind a fog of language that I recognize—as do many of our readers—as indicating antivax views but that to most people can sound reasonable.

Godzilla facepalm
Joomi Kim’s failure to understand RFK Jr. is epic.

RFK Jr. “in his own words”: His words don’t show what Joomi Kim claims they show

Joomi Kim begins by framing the issue as being one of the press falsely portraying RFK Jr. as “antivaccine.” She includes a bunch of headlines right at the beginning of the post, and then pivots to asking:

There’s no doubt that Kennedy has been critical of at least some vaccines; including, most recently, the COVID vaccines. But is he actually “anti-vax”? Is he against all vaccines? Instead of relying on media headlines, let’s hear what he has said about this.

First, notice how Kim uses a common incorrect definition of “antivax” in which you can’t possibly be antivax unless you’re frothingly ranting against all vaccines under any circumstances. Of course, I like to use this understanding whenever I encounter someone who claims to be “not antivax” to show that they are, in fact, either deluding themselves or lying when they make that claim by asking a simple question: Which vaccines do you currently consider safe and effective enough that you think that the people for whom they are recommended should receive them? With rare exceptions, the answer will either be tap dancing around the question, no answer at all, or something along the lines that “I’d get a tetanus shot if I cut my foot on a rusty, dirty piece of metal.” So, in reality, many “not antivax” antivaxxers are, if not rabidly opposed to all vaccines, at least close enough that the definition is almost correct for many. However, I also like to point out that there are shades of antivaccine views, too, something that defining antivax as being utterly opposed to all vaccines conveniently ignores, allowing plausible deniability for some antivaxxers with respect to their being antivaccine; that is, for general audiences not familiar with antivax rhetoric.

If you want a more detailed discussion of what “antivax” means, I wrote one last fall, which is an update to the one I had written 12 years before that. I refer interested readers to those links for more information.

With that background in mind, having read and heard what RFK Jr. has consistently said over the last 18 years, I’m more than happy to take this challenge and do just that with the quotes supplied by Kim. Seriously, she cherry picked some amazing RFK Jr. quotes, including one recent one from an interview with Piers Morgan conducted on April 27:

INTERVIEWER: You’ve been opposed to vaccines for a long time, very heavily critical of the COVID vaccines.

KENNEDY: That’s not true.

INTERVIEWER: Well you’re not a vaccine denier, but you are very, very skeptical, a very public voice of skepticism about the efficacy of vaccines, would that be fair?

KENNEDY: What I’ve said is vaccines… I’m not anti-vaccine. I think vaccines should be subject to the same level of rigorous testing as other medications. And that is the only thing- my only position. Listen, I fought to get mercury out of fish for forty years and nobody called me anti-fish. I’m not anti-vaccine because I want safe vaccines. And I think everybody wants safe vaccines. And as we all now recognize the COVID vaccines were neither safe nor effective.

Interestingly, Kim only observes about this exchange, “That was a recent interview, but what about in the past? Was he anti-vaccine then?” She seems to assume that the exchange above is evidence that RFK Jr. is not antivaccine, that his mere assertion that he is not antivaccine is adequate evidence that he really is “not antivaccine.” Given RFK Jr.’s long history, you and I know that a mere denial of being antivaccine is not evidence that one is not antivaccine, any more than an assertion of being provaccine is evidence of being provaccine. Actions matter more than mere assertions.

Regular readers will recognize RFK Jr.’s gambit as “I’m not antivax; I’m pro-safe vaccine.” I note that the very first section after the introduction of a 2010 post referred to above is all about this very gambit, which Jenny McCarthy routinely used to use c.2008 when asked about whether she was “antivaccine” or not, as did J.B. Handley, even as he gloated about the decline in confidence in childhood vaccines among parents that he and his allies had stoked. (An alternative response is, “What I really am is ‘anti-toxins’ in the vaccines.”)

RFK Jr. is basically trotting out this gambit here, and Kim fell for it because she wanted to fall for it. You can tell he’s full of the proverbial BS because of his statement that “vaccines should be subject to the same level of rigorous testing as other medications” is the purest BS. Vaccines are subject to the same rigorous level of testing as other medications, arguably even more rigorous. After all, they are by design intended to be administered to large numbers of healthy people in order to prevent disease, a population for whom adverse events are less tolerable. As for that bit about fish? It’s just a variation of a “classic” antivax trope, asking if Ralph Nader was “anti-car” because of his efforts to increase automobile safety. It is a disingenuous false comparison that seeks to deceptively cast antivaxxers like RFK as “vaccine safety advocates,” which they most definitely are not, as their only plan for “making vaccines safer” involves impractical and impossible things, such as removing all the “toxins” out of vaccines. Note that, after thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 2001, antivaxxers immediately pivoted to other “toxins.” In any event, what I like to say whenever I hear or see this gambit is this: Tell me how vaccines are any less rigorously tested than standard pharmaceuticals. Be very, very specific. They never can.

You can really see, however, where RFK Jr. is coming from by how fast he pivots to the gambit of saying, “And as we all now recognize the COVID vaccines were neither safe nor effective.” No, we do not “all now recognize” anything of the sort. The evidence is clear that COVID-19 vaccines are actually very safe; they are also effective. It is true that their effectiveness declined with the Delta wave and Omicron waves, variants that were progressively better at avoiding preexisting immunity. As I like to point out, this ability to evade preexisting immunity applies to immunity due to both the original COVID-19 vaccines and “natural immunity,” more appropriately referred to as “postinfection immunity.” Even so, they are still quite effective at what vaccines are designed to do: Prevent severe illness, even if they are less effective in stopping transmission. Of course, casting doubt on vaccines by portraying them as dangerous and ineffective is a classic antivax narrative, while portraying themselves as “vaccine safety advocates” while engaging in fear mongering about vaccines is a classic characteristic of antivaxxers.

But let’s move on. Kim provides another interview, this time with Tucker Carlson on Fox News in 2017. (Yes, three years before the pandemic and vaccines, Tucker Carlson was doing puff interviews with leaders of the antivax movement like RFK Jr. The right wing embrace of antivaccine views that has shocked so many pundits over the last three years is nothing new.) Here is the carefully chosen excerpt that Kim chooses to use to demonstrate that RFK Jr. is “not antivax”:

INTERVIEWER: So this is such a taboo subject that I think a lot of people would hesitate to even bring it up but I’ve read a lot that you’ve written on it. I don’t agree with all of it but I don’t think you’re crazy. You’re not anti-vaccine, you say you’ve vaccinated your own children but you have concerns. Tell me first what the reaction is when you tell people you’re skeptical of the vaccine regimen of the United States.

KENNEDY: Well like you said I’m pro-vaccine and I’ve never said anything anti-vaccine, but I read the science and the science is very clear that some of the vaccines- and what you have to understand is that the vaccine regimen changed dramatically around 1989- the reason it changed… is that Congress, drowning in pharmaceutical money, did something they never did for any other industry.

They gave blanket legal immunity to all the vaccine companies so that… no matter how absent the quality control, no matter how toxic the ingredients or egregious the injury to your child, you cannot sue them. So there’s no depositions, there’s no discovery, there’s no class actions suits. All of a sudden vaccines became enormously profitable…

I got three vaccines… I’m sixty-three years old. My children got sixty-nine doses of sixteen vaccines to be compliant. And a lot of these vaccines aren’t even for communicable- casually communicable diseases- like hepatitis B, which comes from unprotected sex or sharing needles. Why do we give that to a child the first day of their life? And it was loaded with mercury.

INTERVIEWER: And we do give that to children.

KENNEDY: We continue to give it to them. Mercury has been taken out of three vaccines in this country, but it remains in the flu vaccine- 48 million flu vaccines- and it’s in vaccines all over the world…

Did any of you facepalm reading the part in which RFK Jr. claimed to be “pro-vaccine”? How about the part where claimed that he’d never said anything “antivaccine”? I certainly did, but Kim takes these statements at face value, because that’s what she wants to do. RFK Jr.’s “I’m not antivax” is akin to a racist’s “I’m not racist, but…” in which racist dog whistles follow the “but.” In this case, RFK Jr. repeats common antivax dog whistles that those not familiar with antivax rhetoric might find, if not reasonable, at least not unreasonable. Antivaxxers recognize them, though, as a parade of antivax “greatest hits.”

How to react to RFK Jr. and Joomi Kim.
Orac, upon hearing Joomi’s rationalizations about RFK Jr.

One of RFK Jr.’s antivax greatest hits is his claim that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 provided “blanket legal immunity to all vaccine companies.” This is a common antivax version of events, which leaves out what the bill really did. In the wake of claims that the DPT vaccine had caused neurologic injury to children, there were so many lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers that pharmaceutical companies were strongly considering leaving the US market due to increasing difficulties obtaining liability insurance, with only one manufacturer still making pertussis vaccine in 1985. The solution agreed upon by Congress and President Ronald Reagan and codified in the NCVIA of 1986 was to set up a special “no fault” compensation program for those injured by vaccines, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The law set up a special court with special expertise, commonly called the Vaccine Court, all funded by a tax on each vial of vaccine sold. Complainants denied compensation through the Vaccine Court still have access to federal courts; the law does, however, require that complainants use the Vaccine Court first. (I also can’t help but note that the law also resulted in the creation of the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, or VAERS, antivaxxers’ favorite database in which to dumpster dive and misrepresent ever adverse event reported as definitely having been due to vaccines, particularly since the pandemic hit.) Note also how RFK Jr. invokes a conspiracy theory to claim that the reason the childhood vaccine schedule expanded in the late 1980s-1990s was because of the NCVIA of 1986 while misrepresenting the Vaccine Court as not following procedures similar to those used by civil courts. I also like to point out that, not only does the Vaccine Court bend over backwards to be fair to complainants by allowing them to posit “theories of injury” that don’t pass the Daubert test for expert testimony, but it is a civil court, in which the preponderance of evidence—sometimes referred to as “50% and a feather”—wins. But that’s not all! The Vaccine Court pays the complainants’ attorney fees and reasonable expenses, too, win or lose!

RFK Jr. also loves to claim that he can’t possibly be antivax because all of his children were vaccinated according to the CDC recommended schedule. All one has to do is to look up how old his children are to realize that his children, spread between two marriages, were born between the years of 1984 and 2001, the youngest having been born four years before he “came out” as antivax. It does make me wonder whether he completed the vaccination schedule of his youngest child Aidan Caohman Vieques Kennedy. On the other hand, thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 2001. So who knows? In fairness, I will note that even Kim finds RFK Jr.’s bit about vaccinating his children a bit dicey, as she includes an addendum stating:

Speaking of changing minds: Kennedy has mentioned that he’s gotten all his kids vaccinated. Presumably this was all before he got interested in vaccines and learned of their safety issues. It’s possible that, given what he knows today, he would not vaccinate his kids, or at least limit the number of vaccines they got. It’s easy to imagine that this is something he’s changed his mind about.

Possible? It can never be proven definitively, but I’d bet money that if RFK Jr. were to have any more children he wouldn’t get any of them vaccinated against anything. His proudly trumpeting how he had gotten all his children—who range in age from 22 to 39—vaccinated is performative. It’s designed to fool people who don’t think too carefully about the claim.

Whether RFK Jr. got his children vaccinated or not doesn’t matter anyway in 2023, because RFK Jr.’s rhetoric and claims have been solidly antivaccine at least since 2005. Indeed, in that 2017 interview with Tucker Carlson he throws in more antivax dogwhistles, For example, that part at the end about his having only gotten three vaccines—having been born in 1954, I note, a period of time in which the polio vaccine was added to the childhood schedule—compared to the “69 doses of 16 vaccines” (clearly a variant of the antivax “too many too soon” gambit), complete with a dig at the hepatitis B vaccine birth dose (for which there are sound scientific reasons), is pure antivax dog whistle. Someone of RFK Jr.’s birth cohort would likely have received at least vaccines against diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), polio, and smallpox, because vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza type B (Hit), varicella, hepatitis B, etc., hadn’t been developed yet.

As is this quote from later in the interview:

I’m called anti-vax all the time because the pharmaceutical industry is so powerful… they give 5.4 billion dollars a year to the media, and… they’ve gotten to the lawyers so there’s no legal interest in those cases, and they really have controlled the debate and silenced people like me…

I do love it when antivaxxers claim to have been “silenced” on what was, prior to Carlson’s firing, a top-rated nightly cable news show. Can I say that, because I’ve never been on a cable news show to defend vaccines, I’ve been “silenced”? You’d laugh, and rightly so. You should also laugh at RFK Jr.’s risible claim, especially given that his being a member of the Kennedy clan has always opened doors closed to nearly everyone else, even after he had become toxically antivax.

But to Kim, because RFK Jr. admitted in 2015 that vaccines “save lives,” it must mean that he’s not antivax.

RFK Jr. is “fiercely pro-vaccine”? Nope.

Kim goes on to be unduly impressed by a passage from RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense website, included in a transcript of a video for his “Vaccine Safety Project”:

From the transcript:
I want to start by saying that I am fiercely pro-vaccine. I had all six of my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved millions of lives.
He goes on to say:
But I want vaccines that are as safe as possible, I want science that is robust and I want to make sure that we have a regulatory agency that has unquestioned integrity and freedom of conflicts of interest and we don’t have those things today.
This seems consistent with what he’s been saying in interviews.

Yes, and they are all antivax dog whistles. I will note that the first time I ever recall RFK Jr. describing himself as “fiercely pro-vaccine” was during a 2014 appearance on The Dr. Oz Show promoting his antivax book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: Mercury Toxicity in Vaccines and the Political, Regulatory, and Media Failures That Continue to Threaten Public Health, with functional medicine quack Dr. Mark Hyman, in which both trotted out standard antivax talking points. As you might expect, the two trotted out all the then-old canards about thimerosal and vaccines, as well as claims that vaccines are loaded with “toxins” that harm babies.

Kim then quotes Chapter 9 of RFK Jr.’s 2021 conspiracy book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, noting:

On the Children’s Health Defense site, Kennedy’s statement on vaccines says, “I believe that vaccines have saved millions of lives.”

There is some tension between this, and something he says in his book, The Real Anthony Fauci. In chapter 9 of his book, Kennedy says that the dogma that vaccines have saved millions of lives, is not true:

A doctrinal canon of germ theory credits vaccines for the dramatic declines of infectious disease mortalities in North America and Europe during the twentieth century. Anthony Fauci, for example, routinely proclaims that vaccines eliminated mortalities from the infectious diseases of the early twentieth century, saving millions of lives… Most Americans accept this claim as dogma. It will therefore come as a surprise to learn that it is simply untrue.

Science actually gives the honor of having vanquished infectious disease mortalities to nutrition and sanitation. A comprehensive study of this foundational assertion published in 2000 in the high-gravitas journal Pediatrics by CDC and Johns Hopkins scientists concluded, after reviewing a century of medical data, that “vaccination does not account for the impressive decline in mortality from infectious diseases… in the 20th century.”

He mentions another widely cited study which found that “all medical interventions including vaccines, surgeries, and antibiotics accounted for less than about 1 percent- and no more than 3.5 percent- of the dramatic mortality declines.”

So in this area, there is some tension between some of Kennedy’s statements.

Now, maybe he believes vaccines have saved “millions of lives,” but not as many as popularly thought. Or maybe he doesn’t really believe that vaccines have saved millions of lives. Or maybe he once believed this, but has since changed his mind.1

This is something that only Kennedy can answer.

“There is some tension between some of Kennedy’s statements”? How about this? Maybe, just maybe, RFK Jr. is lying on his website when he says that he believes that vaccines really did save millions of lives because he does not want to be so obviously antivaccine that even the average person who doesn’t pay much attention to these issues could recognize him as an antivaxxer? Seriously, right here Kim is so very, very close to recognizing RFK Jr.’s schtick about being “fiercely pro-vaccine” for what it is: Bullshit. Unfortunately for here, she’s so invested in believing RFK Jr.’s claim that he is “fiercely provaccine”—or at least in believing that he is “not antivaccine”—that she basically ignores RFK Jr.’s explicitly antivax claims, one of which is to question germ theory by questioning whether vaccines have saved millions of lives. It’s right there in black and white in his recently published book!

I also note that RFK Jr. did a frequent antivax trick and cherry-picked a favorite quote of antivaxxers from this article. Here is the quote in context, the cherry-picked part bolded by me. I note that he didn’t quote quote even his cherry-picked passage correctly as well, as the article states that these declines in mortality were in the first half of the 20th century, not just the “20th century”:

Vaccination, while first used in the 18th century, became more widely implemented in the middle part of the century. Vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis became available during the late 1920s but only widely used in routine pediatric practice after World War II. Thus vaccination does not account for the impressive declines in mortality seen in the first half of the century. The reductions in vaccine-preventable diseases, however, are impressive. In the early 1920s, diphtheria accounted for about 175 000 cases annually and pertussis for nearly 150 000 cases; measles accounted for about half a million annual cases before the introduction of vaccine in the 1960s. Deaths from these diseases have been virtually eliminated, as have deaths from Haemophilus influenzae, tetanus, and poliomyelitis.45

In other words, vaccines worked.

Note how the message, in context, is very different from how RFK Jr. represented it in the cherry-picked snippet from the article that he quoted in his book. This is commonly known as the “vaccines didn’t save us” gambit, in which antivaxxers point to the declines in mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases that had occurred, due to better medical care, before the introduction of vaccines in order to claim that vaccines really didn’t do us much good. It’s a deceptive antivax trope that I first addressed here in 2010.

So how should we think of RFK Jr?

Kim concludes her Substack with the question in the subheading above. My answer is simple: We should think of RFK Jr. as an antivax propagandist, because that’s what he is. His own words as quoted by Kim demonstrate that. Kim, however, tries to obfuscate. After noting that RFK Jr. has “explicitly said that he’s not ‘anti-vaccine'”; that “that he wants ‘safe vaccines'”; and that “he thinks vaccines should be subject to the same level of rigorous testing as other medications,” she writes:

At the very least, it seems clear from his statements that Kennedy isn’t against the idea of vaccines and believes that vaccines could be safe.

This is pretty weak sauce. It also ignores RFK Jr.’s history of setting the bar for “safe vaccines” so high that it can’t possibly be reached. Basically, he demands 100% safety, an impossible standard that even the safest existing vaccines can never meet.

Kim then adds:

When it comes to particular vaccines that are available to the public, it’s unclear which, if any, Kennedy would recommend, given that he thinks we don’t have a trustworthy regulatory system. Maybe he wouldn’t recommend any of them, or maybe he’d only recommend a few of them. Maybe he thinks that some of the earlier vaccines are safe, before vaccines were given a liability shield in the late 1980s. Again, only Kennedy can answer this.

Again, she is so very, very close to realizing that RFK Jr. is antivaccine. She just doesn’t want to admit it. She even invokes the question that I routinely ask antivaxxers who claim they’re “not antivaccine”: Which vaccines do you consider sufficiently safe and effective to recommend generally? Of course, she immediately makes excuses for the likely answer from RFK Jr., which is none. I keep hoping that one of the clueless reporters who grant RFK Jr. credulous interviews would become somewhat less clueless and explicitly ask him my favorite question for antivaxxers: “You state that you’re ‘fiercely pro-vaccine, yet are very critical of most vaccines. Given that you say you’re pro-vaccine, which vaccines do you consider sufficiently safe and effective that you generally recommend their use according to the CDC schedule?” A good reporter could then make RFK Jr. squirm as he tries to avoid a concrete answer, which he almost certainly would. Sadly, no reporter ever seems to ask him this question in this manner.

Finally, Kim implores her readers:

Regardless, I encourage you to judge him by his own words, instead of relying on what the media says about him.

I agree. I’ll also bring up a few more statements from RFK Jr. that Kim left out by which he should be judged “in his own words.” For example, in the midst of a deadly measles outbreak in Samoa that had killed over 70 children, RFK Jr. wrote a letter to the Samoan Prime Minister insinuating that the outbreak had been caused by a “defective measles vaccine.” He even falsely claimed that the Merck measles vaccine had “created a crisis where infants under the age of one are now highly vulnerable to these infections.” He even invoked “shedding”:

There is also the possibility that children who received the live measles virus during Samoa’s recent vaccination drive may have shed the virus and inadvertently infected vulnerable children. It is a regrettable possibility that these children are causalities of Merck’s vaccine. Alarmed CDC officials documented this emerging phenomenon during the measles outbreak in California in 2015. Federal epidemiological investigations found that at least 1/3 of Californian cases were vaccine strain.

This is a favorite antivax claim that even has nothing to do with thimerosal. There were no vaccine strain measles cases in the Disneyland outbreak. All measles cases in that outbreak were caused by wild-type measles. The claim that “vaccine shedding” can cause measles outbreaks is not scientifically supported. It is, in fact, utter nonsense. As I said at the time, either RFK Jr. was utterly clueless but didn’t care, or he knew and was lying. Take your pick.

I could go on and on and on, but I’ll finish with a couple of doozies from RFK Jr. I like to start with Dan Olmsted’s report on a talk given by RFK Jr. in 2013 about autism as “vaccine injury,” about which Olmsted wrote a post entitled RFK Jr., Nazi Death Camps and the Battle For Our Future. The link to the article is no longer there, but I did quote from it extensively, asking antivaccinationists if they could please knock it off with the autism-Holocaust analogies, already:

Each of us will have our highlights from last weekend’s extraordinary Autism One gathering in Chicago, but for me it was Bobby Kennedy Jr. saying, “To my mind this is like the Nazi death camps.” “This” is the imprisonment of so many of our children in the grip of autism. Talk about cutting through the neurodiverse claptrap! When Bobby Kennedy says something, it gives “cover,” in a sense, for others to use the same kind of language and frame the debate in the same kind of way. (Language that reminds me of David Kirby’s phrase, “the shuttered hell” of autism, in Evidence of Harm.) Those who can advocate for themselves should do so. Move right along, please. Those who cannot have advocates like their parents and RFK Jr. who are sick of mincing words.

RFK Jr. even “went there” a decade ago:

The enablers may not belong in Nuremburg, but they do belong in jail, Bobby said. “I would do a lot to see Paul Offit and all these good people behind bars,” he said, after listing Offit’s litany of lies and profit. Just to make sure people got the point, he returned to it in his speech. “Is it hyperbole to say they should be in jail? They should be in jail and the key should be thrown away.”

This is an early example of what has since the pandemic come to be known as “Nuremberg 2.0,” the antivax fantasy of justice retribution for vaccine proponents in a Nuremberg-like tribunal. Note how RFK Jr. reportedly openly fantasized about putting vaccine advocates like Dr. Paul Offit behind bars! In 2013! People who are truly pro-vaccine do not fire up an antivax conference by fantasizing about putting their provaccine shared enemies behind bars.

Amusingly, sometime soon after, Olmsted’s article disappeared from AoA, and the site’s file apparently was apparently modified so that the almighty Wayback Machine at could no longer keep the article archived after it had been deleted. It doesn’t matter, because, oops, he did it again in 2015:

But some parents fear information about the hazards of vaccines has been suppressed, largely because of what they call the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over health officials. Many parents believe their children have been damaged by vaccines. When Kennedy asked the crowd of a few hundred viewers how many parents had a child injured by vaccines, numerous hands went up. “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

I would gently suggest to Kim that someone who is provaccine will not compare vaccines and autism to the Holocaust, nor will he suggest that vaccine proponents like Dr. Offit should be behind bars for the “crime” of defending vaccines against antivax misinformation and promoting them as the best means of protecting children from deadly infectious diseases. Of course, the only difference between RFK Jr. in 2015 and RFK Jr. in 2023 is that in 2015 he still had enough shame to apologize after comparing “vaccine-induced autism” to the Holocaust, even if it was a “notpology.” In 2022, for instance, he gleefully invoked Anne Frank in attacking vaccine mandates and masks and never apologized.

Like Joomi Kim, I, too, encourage you to judge RFK Jr. “by his own words.” If you do, it will rapidly become obvious that he is fiercely antivaccine, not fiercely pro-vaccine. It’s not even close, his dog whistles and pathetic attempts to maintain plausible deniability notwithstanding.

I will conclude with a comment after Kim’s post:

We can only hope he (secretly already) is or quickly becomes fully anti-vax.

There is no need to hope. RFK Jr. is already fully antivax, and even his own family knows it. He has been fully antivax since at least 2005, and he’s never been particularly good at keeping his antivax beliefs secret, no matter how much supporters like Joomi Kim want to delude themselves otherwise by cherry picking quotes and making excuses for him.

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]

147 replies on “RFK Jr. “in his own words”: Fiercely antivax”

“I fought to get mercury out of fish for forty years and nobody called me anti-fish!”

with logic like that, he’s a shoe in to replace Trump.


Reading about the origins of vaccine court, I have to wonder, do today’s pro-health-freedom, pro-parental-rights crew respect the decision of parents who want to vaccinate our children? Because we almost lost it! And seeing what adenovirus and RSV can do, I wouldn’t mess with pertussis even if they’d reformulated the vaccine and even if my ADHD could be blamed on the old shot (and not genetics like my grandfather himself proposed when I was diagnosed. He was of the smallpox-only generations.)

Oops, I meant to say even if they hadn’t reformulated the pertussis vaccine.

I’ve had antivaxxers suggest that my dyslexia is caused by vaccines. Never mind that my father is dyslexic, HIS father is dyslexic, and possibly his father’s father, but they guy dropped out of school around age 10-12, so who knows.

People may wonder where ADHD, LDs, and low support needs autism were before vaccines, GMOs, wifi, or the alternative bugbear of the month. I think school dropouts were a pretty obvious place to find them. Perhaps also monasteries, convents, artists’ colonies (also where many closet LGBTQs and non-institutionalized mentally ill hid out in plain sight). The names and social relevance may have changed over time, but the genes and processes need not have done so significantly.

The term ‘dog whistle’ is a dog whistle for totalitarian BS. Vaccines have never been safe. Pharma lobbied as much to get the public to de-risk their vax business.

Thimerosal accumulates in the brain and we don’t know what affect this has on developing brains.
Same with aluminum.

After Covid I’d take a hard look before vaccinating any child of mine and feel like a chump for having done so.

Vaccines have never been safe.

Since that comment goes against decades of research and massive amounts of data, you’ve got a pretty steep hill to climb to prove your point. You do have more than a blatant assertion in your kit, right?

For your reference: did you click through to get the actual paper or did you just read the glitzy summary?

Robert Kennedy Jr sues them all the time, have you noticed ? Vaccine court actually pays compensation on temporal relationship, if
it is a table injury.

I don’t see any Pharma companies lobbying for the repeal of the national childhood vaccine injury act of 1986. Please cote your source that this is occurring.

So yeah, where’s the respect for my parental freedom to vaccinate my kid, when the LaBarges of the world want to be able to sue vaccine makers’ pants off if the kid has, oh noes, some kind of special need, or catches the flu or mono or something not long after the last pediatrician visit and it gets nasty, and the parent wants to blame it on the shot for a totally different germ?

NVCIP gives no fault compensation What is the issue with tha ?t

According to LaBarge, the no-fault aspect is exactly the problem. Compensation is fine in this view, but it should come directly from the corporation that made the imperfect product. Not from a government, which operates on tax money, and in the view of right-wingers of libertarian origin, can by definition never do anything right.

But once I saw Orac’s explanation that the government had to step in to protect parental rights to protect their children from nasty germs, because litigious jerks who don’t accept their kids for who they are wanted to bleed out the company that made the old pertussis vaccine, well…I lost respect for the “parental rights” viewpoint. It’s disingenuous.

Actually, the NVICP is financed from a 50 cent surcharge on the sale of each vaccine, so it’s not government money. If the companies had been responsible directly for claims, they would have added a surcharge on the price too.

“ Vaccines have never been safe.”

You’re so confident in this statement proving it should be easy. We’ll wait…

The burden of proof lies with the individual claiming “vaccines are safe”. It’s called the precautionary principle. In the case of the covid jab, this would take at decades of monitoring (we’re talking infinite boosters, right?) and the early results do not look good. We’ll wait.

I knew this would be your reply. Why? Because you’re FULL OF SHIT. You got nothing. You know the facts and reality are against you. You will never post anything that backs up your baloney. That’s why I asked.

You have NOTHING to back up your claims. NOTHING. You have a lying cheerleader in a YouTube video who was exposed as a fraud.

You have a person who has lost her medical license in four states and been fined by two others who jumps on ivermectin and January 6th.

You have an airhead singer with more Botox and filler than brain cells posting nonsense in broken English on Twitter about her cousin losing his testicles or something.

That’s what you have.

We have billions of covid vaccines administered with ZERO evidence of serious adverse effects and the end of a pandemic so you can take your mask off. You’re welcome you dolt.

Zero evidence? Really? No myocarditis, no pericarditis, no vitt and no clots? All made up in an anti-vax conspiracy?

Those are exceptionally rare and WORSE in actual covid cases. When they go happen? They’re transient and NOT SERIOUS. Kind of like you…

Clinical trial would actually test safety. Precautionary principle was used to remove thiomersal from vaccines. No effect to autism rate.

it wasn’t even precautionary safety why thimerosol was removed. it was specifically to try and appease antivaxxers. really. see how well it works when you attempt to do what they antivaxxers say they actually want?

it doesn’t. because they literally are insane.

Why would he need proof? He’s just writing fanfiction. What he says is true for the purpose of the story and bringing logic, facts and history into the discussion is just an attack on him because it’s all a story. That’s why he has an ever changing number of relatives, both young an old, acquaintances, coworkers, and knowledgeable sources that all perfectly fit what he believes – none of them are real, it’s all his writings.

He’d also need to provide a metric for his definition of “safe”, argue why it’s a meaningful metric, and then show how all vaccines [which seems to be what he’s railing about] fail to meet that metric.

Way to much trouble for john.

Especially since he considers death, no matter the cause or how remote from the initial injection a sign that vaccines are unsafe, then vaccines will never be safe to him. People die, that’s just a part of life, but the way some people talk you’d think that humans have the potential to live forever and it’s only vaccines and the medical industry that are stopping us from reaching that potential.

He is starting to remind me of Ron Roy with all his imaginary friends and relatives. Although, sadly for Ron a large number of his imaginary friends and relatives have been killed by the COVID-19 vaccines.

Do you know that thiomerosal has been removef from vaccines long since, without any effect into autism rate. (It was used in multidose vials)
Second paper is just handwaving. An actual experiment would be useful

It is interesting.
But only to those who care, and nothing I’ve seen from John would indicate that he cares…

John has been degenerating from the moment he first tried to pretend his objections were libertarian in nature. Now he’s just a guy who paddles at the shallow end of the swimming pool, drinking in the toddler piss, ignorant of the real work getting done at the deep end.

“After Covid I’d take a hard look before vaccinating any child of mine and feel like a chump for having done so.”

I do hope this means you do not have children to infect with your BS?

RFK Jr.’s Twitter handle says:

“As President, I will end the forever wars, clean up government…”

Donald Trump said regarding foreign policy: “We are ending the era of endless wars.” And his other big deal was about supposedly cleaning out the swamp.

RFK Jr. has just recycled Trump’s message for 2023, with an extra dose of crazy.

And his other big deal was about supposedly cleaning out the swamp.

Well, he did to some extent. It just was his swamp creatures who got purged or imprisoned. I thought his record was pretty good.

That’s a fairly insular statement. The usual ‘if it doesn’t include America, it doesn’t exist’ attitude.

How he can end wars started by Russia ? Are he running for the president of Russia ?

Well, I suppose his way to end this war just means playing Chamberlain. Giving Russia what they want, by dividing Ukraine and stop giving Ukraine weapons. What the Ukainian people think if this is not important.
Of course there are also several other wars going on, that are not that ‘easy’ to end, like the one in Sudan.

you are quite ignorant if you think Trump is actually antiwar. He set off so many bombs during his tenure it was insane. you just failed to take note of the results.
your ignorance is not an argument.

The ultimate test to determine if RFK, Jr. is “fiercely pro-vaccine” would be for him to show personal investment in a micro/small entity developing a vaccine(s).

@ RFK, Jr.

MJD suggests that you monetarily support vaccine research, and announce it, to clearly show you are “fiercely pro-vaccine.” Simple…

@ Orac’s minions,

Here’s an example of a micro entity exploring allergenic skin creams and allergenic vaccines to inhibit cancer.

Just going on your history of posting your woo-based personally-paid- for publications. But you’re saying your post that had nothing to do with the current topic wasn’t just trying to shill your crap? What was the purpose, if not a blatant cry for attention?

How much does RFK-jr have to pay to get your approval?
I couldn’t find anything on your website explaining your vaccine technology.

Thanks. The US patent application referenced was a little more specific, but seemed mostly theoretical. Do you have any actual results?
I was curious regarding the scientific rational. Do people with (rubber) allergies have lower rates of (skin?) cancer? Is the immune reaction local (such as specific to the skin), or general? Have any other topical vaccines been approved for clinical use?

This would indicate that the commonly used vaccines are specific, and don’t induce other allergies (such as food allergies).

Do you think that RFK-jr. would agree with your scientific premise? Or approve of your use of adjuvants?

David asks,

“Do you think that RFK-jr. would agree with your scientific premise? Or approve of your use of adjuvants?”

MJD says,

RFK, Jr. understands that sometimes medical science needs to artificially stimulate the immune system, with vaccines, to enhance one’s well-being. In such a scenario, he is “fiercely pro-vaccine.”

What do you base your concliyin? Because it seems to me like wishful thinking…

There is another way we can judge RFK jr’s status being pro-vaccine:
it’s about vaccines for adults-
he’s almost 70; since he became so partisan, there have been efforts to vaccinate adults/ adults over 50/ adults over 65 for influenza yearly, pneumonia, shingles, other illnesses and obviously, Covid.
He can’t argue that vaccines would damage developing immune systems or brains as he does for children, causing chronic conditions, cancer or autism.

I’ve never heard him discuss benefits of vaccines for adults of any age, in fact, recently, he said that he discussed Covid vaccines with his 93 year old mother. He didn’t say her response though. I’d be shocked if he admitted receiving any vaccines himself since 2000.

More evidence of anti-vax:
another recent quote from RFKjr:
he developed Spasmodic dysphonia soon after a flu shot
( both quotes are from interviews on his CHD website)

So Orac….given your distain of RFK….why don’t you step up to the Joe Rogan inspired debate challenge that the esteemed “provaxer” Hotez refused, which was to one debate with RFK on Rogen’s show. The pot for charity is now over 2 million bucks….and you would get to pick the charity(ies) to get the dough. Go to for details.

Provaxer Hotez refuses to debate. He claims he does “science” as an excuse..It appears, for reasons that escape me, he believes “science” is immune to, and precluded from, debate. And, absurdly, he gives the trope that debating an antivaxer legitimizes the false information (a claim that is unmitigated BS). Seems utterly ridiculous since who better to take on a real life fire breathing antivaxer than Hotez?

You Orac….that’s who. How about it? Over 2 million to charity of your choice…just contact Rogen. Or, will you cop out with a similar lame excuse, like Hortez did?

Orac or Dr Hotez publicly debating Joe Rogan about the validity of vaccination is like if I (or Narad or Palindrom) were to publicly debate Ginny Stoner publicly about the existence of the Hubble Space Telescope. Except with a bit more social media presence.

That is not scientific debate. True scientific debate involves scientists in a shared field discussing evidence at conferences and/or via evidence in peer-reviewed papers, like astronomers who debate each other over the existence of dark matter and dark energy (and that’s just within bounds, since the evidence for them is substantial, and most of the evidence against then is lack of less obscure evidence for them plus a few problems that are hard to solve with or without them.)

Rogan isn’t calling for Hotez to debate him, but to debate RFKj. Not just Kirsch but Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey are joining the ‘debate him! or just admit you’re wrong, chicken’ chorus. The only question in my mind is just how much Steve Bannon is calling the shots for these guys, as this is all in line with “chaos agent” scheme for the RFKj candidacy. There’s actual muscle and money backing this, e.g. I’d bet dollars to donuts there’s an organized astroturf operation behind RFKj’s favorability ratings in polls (see e.g. Phillip Bump’s breakdown in WaPo…).

Oh, I’m sure this is all being orchestrated after Dr. Hotez provided a convenient opening by saying on Twitter that RFK Jr. spreads antivax misinformation.

So it’s a publicity stunt for a plan to make Republicans great again by making Democrats just as crummy? Or whatever. Either way, it’s as absurd and pointless as debating Stoner about HST.

Rogan and RFK are Democrats. But don’t let that get in the way of your ‘dog whistle’.

I’ve seen a couple good videos about the Rogan-RFK,Jr-Hotez thing. This one is especially nice because it shows video of Rogan interviewing Hotez in early 2020 and supporting his views. They were even friends of a sort. But in late 2020/early 2021 (about the time he got the big Spotify contract) he stopped responding to Hotez’ emails and ran interviews with a lot of anti-public health figures. I remember doing a quick survey of whom he was interviewing back then.

There are also some good bits with Michael Osterholm.

Especially listen to Rogan’s statement at about 14:00.

As Doel says, “Rogan is the perfect example of why you do not give a platform to lunatics”.

Do a YouTube search for “‘Pharma Skeptics’ Fail To Question Big Pharma’s Structure” to hear another good discussion of this.

I should note that I’m neither an astronomer nor an astrophysicist; I just edited the manuscripts.

Is the truth permitted to avoid wasting its time by engaging with those who have no interest in it?

“The truth need not run.”

Did that come with a party hat and a small plastic toy?

As an ex member of the legal profession you are surprisingly naive.

PS as an ex-member of the legal profession, have you worked out how you would fair in legal proceedings against the extremely wealthy and scientifically literate pharmaceutical companies?

“Truth” can debate here. But there will be fact checks, which “truth” cannot answer.

@ Portnoy Bliss

Any intelligent person knows that debates are often won, not by the facts; but who has more charisma. Ever watch Nobel Prizes? Even some of world’s most brilliant scientists have poor charisma. And debates usually limit time; e.g., 5 minute presentation, 2 minute rebutting, etc. Not how one explains complicated scientific issues

At scientific conferences presentations can be half hour or more, followed often with question.

I actually read RFK’s book “The Real Anthony Fauci.” In a major portion he claims he has not formulated any hypothesis whether HIV causes AIDS or not. Bull Shit. For example, no where does he even mention that electron microscopy, two decades before book, displayed images of HIV, HIV entering specific CD4 T-cells. No where does he mention that the HIV genome was sequenced and which sections controlled which aspects deciphered. And he claims AZT doesn’t work, based mainly on case studies, case series. Well, AZT is a nucleotide analogue. As HIV replicating, the analogue fits in place; but doesn’t allow finishing product. However, research found the rapid mutation of HIV led to AZT eventually NOT working. I guess, using same approach, cancer chemotherapies that prolong life; but don’t cure, should be rejected? And he doesn’t mention that AZT, when combined with protease inhibitors significantly prolonged life.

He also cites early studies on ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Only problem is overwhelming majority of COVID patients survive regardless. If only, say 2% die; but early researchers don’t know this, they might believe the aforementioned work; but RFK doesn’t include any placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials, which found they DON’T work.

He also cites someone who doesn’t even believe in the germ theory and another known as a radical conspiracy theorists.

So, besides what I said above about debates NOT means of conveying science; but why should a well-respected Professor of Medicine with a PhD in cell physiology, over 60 peer-reviewed medical journal articles and millions of dollars in research grants want to occupy a stage with someone who doesn’t understand science and wrote such an extremely one-sided dishonest book?

By the way, besides having an MD, Anthony Fauci is a Board Certified Immunologist. I have followed his career and have immense respect for him.

By the way, what are your credentials???

@ space_upstairs and @joel harrison:

My question about debate wasn’t a debate with Rogan–that would be a waste of time. It is a debate with one of the biggest “anti-vaxers” there is–RFK.

I am quite skeptical/cynical of RFK: I am in process of reading his current Fauci book, and, unlike most readers, I am literally following every supporting citation in his book. I have big issues with the honesty, integrity, validity and truth of the vast majority of his assertions. Which is exactly why seeing him challenged, with facts, would, imo, be quite interesting.

@ joel harrision: you assert: “RFK doesn’t include any placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials, which found they DON’T work.” My understanding, having read the book, and done extensive research, based on RFK’s links, is, no such placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials were ever done for ivermectin of hydroxychloroquine–and, in fact, the lack of such studies was a key reason Fauci said there wasn’t adequate evidence to allow the use of those drugs. If you have links to such studies, please provide–i have yet to see any (I see plenty of studies–but no placebo controlled randomized type).

As for why an esteemed MD or other expert should debate–there are plenty of reasons. First, getting over 2 million for a pet charity is a good motive–I suppose if one’s pride is too fragile, then it’s a pass. But still, 2+ million isn’t exactly achieving nothing.

Another reason, if not “the” reason is, that it is reasonable for the “expert” to require specific parameters for the debate with RFK. For example, limit the debate to only a few topics–like the efficacy of Ivermectin/hydroxychloroquine, and whether the mRNA vaccines were adequately tested. Limiting the scope of the debate could go a long way to blocking the kind of “free wheeling”/charisma tactic that could distract from fact .

Another reason to engage is this: the folks on this board and Orac seem to think that they are “right”. That’s fair. But, if one has an open mind–and reads all one can –in this case regarding RFK and the covid response, it is blatantly obvious to any intelligent person that there are many,, many, many, open questions about the vaccines, about covid, and about whether the response was the correct response. The clearest and most central fact about all things covid is how highly politicized everything about covid is. Forget left/right–the overwhelming, inescapable take away from the pandemic is that the politicization of all sides did not serve the American people well.

So, each political tribe can sit in their respective echo chambers and be “right”. Or, they can actually debate, and prove to the public their assertions have merit. If the response is, one can’t do that in a debate, then, I guess we end up with echo chambers like this one, where all the participants shake their head affirmatively in righteousness.

And the American people remain screwed.

My credentials are aerospace/software engineer.

The debate about HCQ or IVM would be over in three minutes if it included any of us with real world frontline clinical pandemic experience. Search my previous posts.

I think politicians were really stuck between a rock and a hard place with this one. Whatever was done, there was going to be damage to the economy and to people. There was going to be conspiracy theorizing because there always is about these kinds of things. If more powerful Western countries went closer to the Brazil or Sweden routes, someone would have suggested being more like New Zealand or South Korea instead. If they didn’t try to make a shot because none ever was good enough to market for a coronavirus, people would be protesting for one. And those against them would find any excuse to be against them whatever the tech or the manufacturer. Nobody was going to get out of this easy.

Participating in a cheap publicity stunt would not change anything for the better. It would neither bring back the dead nor the lost jobs. (When jobs do come back after a downturn, they seem to often come back with lower inflation-adjusted wages and/or fewer benefits, zombies of their former selves.) And tough luck to us STEMmy types, people aren’t rational. If attention is the most valuable asset of the land right now as some if your fellow techies say, perhaps we should spend less of it mulling over the past and on absurdities and more of it on seeking a way to deal with the current aftermath and do this better next time. Because there will be a next time. Maybe in 100 years, and our great-grandkids and great-great nieces and nephews will make the same damn mistakes due to loss of living memory (see Spanish flu)…but if it’s sooner, which many think likely, let’s not repeat too many of ours.

@ Portnoy Bliss

Type the following in Google: “placebo controlled trial ivermectin covid” You will find several. Then just change ivermectin to hydroxychloroquine

You could have done the above yourself, just tells me how dishonest you are.

As for your credentials aerospace/software engineer.

So, maybe I should start commenting on aerospace/software engineering, seeing I know absolutely nothing about it?

And in a comment above I discussed in detail why science not based on debates and why RFK’s book on Fauci is one sick dishonest piece of shit

I guess you didn’t read my comments, too stupid to understand, or just plain dishonest, ignoring validity of my comments.

And I watched on YouTube the so-called debate between RFK and Alan Dershowitz. Not a debate, Dershowitz just basically supported RFK, making sure he controlled the floor. Doesn’t surprise me given Dershowitz dishonest book on Israel that has been torn to shreds, basically one lie after another. Yep, I read it, so perfect partner for RFK

Do Googl Scholr search with placebo controlled trial ivermectin. You get many papers

“My credentials are aerospace/software engineer.”

reading a basic virology textbook would be a far more fruitful way to spent your time at this point.

there are HUGE gaps in your understanding that a public debate will most certainly do nothing to alleviate.

Science is not immune to debate. But what RFK-jr is purposing is political, not scientific. Nothing scientific will be learned from any debate with RFK-jr (or Kirsch, etc.).
A scientific debate includes conducting experiments and publishing the results. And then repeating this process as many times as needed tell the issues are understood (if ever). It may have elided you, but the scientific debate regarding vaccination has been going on for as long as vaccines have been around. The fact that many have ignored this, or are unhappy with the results of this ‘debate’, says more about them than about the scientific process.

The only way that we will learn more about the potential dangers of vaccination is by conducting more, and better, studies, not by rehashing old ones.
So, if RFK-jr wants to conduct a proper scientific debate, I’m sure the he could raise the necessary funding to conduct more research, and find numerous journals that would publish the results of his studies.

public debates do not solve issues. they make people who took sides to begin with feel better about themselves. that’s it. it is a sociological phenomenon, nothing more.
your entire post is cheese bait. anybody with half a brain sees right through you.
run along now.

RFK Jr. sees himself as the jurisprudence reincarnation of Francis of Assisi. Ironically, his emphasis on purity (blood purity or pure blood?) has polluted his mind to the point where preventive medicine becomes the equivalent of all things artificial (aka ecologically insidious). This is where the slippery slope into chemtrail territory becomes not only more slippery than we suppose, but it becomes more slippery than we can suppose.

You want to judge RFK Jr. by his own words and actions?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s group Children’s Health Defense sought support from users of the far-right social media platform Gab in 2021, including white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and an open neo-Nazi.
. . .
Children’s Health Defense has been using Gab to recruit followers since January 2021. Its profile says it is part of Gab Pro, which is a subscription-based program. CHD has posted to the site over 1,500 times and has touted its account as a way to “fight censorship.”

And he asked Andrew Torba,/a> to “follow + support” Kennedy and CHD.

Maybe RFJ Jr. is not a fascist**. It’s possible he’s merely a political rent boy. Either way, he’s a shame and a disgrace.

**Real fascist, not JLB version of fascist.

@ johnlabarge

You write: “Vaccines have never been safe. Pharma lobbied as much to get the public to de-risk their vax business.”

Orac, myself and others have over and over pointed out that the total profit from vaccines is less than 5% of their profits. The meds, etc. just for COVID, home sick, emergency room visits, actual intensive care, etc much much more profitable. And they make most profit on drugs for chronic conditions; e.g., diabetes, prolonging cancer patients lives, asthma, drugs that must be used for extended periods of time.

And, despite what you stupidly claim, we have 100s of thousands of papers showing vaccines safe. 100%, nope; but compared to risks from diseases they prevent, not even close.

As for thimerosal, you found one opinion piece, I have dozens of peer-reviewed papers. And thimerosal NEVER in live attenuated vaccines; e.g., measles, mumps, rubella and, in US, not in any childhood vaccines since turn of century. And the amount of aluminum in vaccines is minuscule compared to amount each and every American, including children absorb in body every single day; e.g., in air we breath, in food we eat, in water we drink, etc. And we have been using aluminum in vaccines since 1930s with tons of research:

“Aluminum salts -Many vaccines contain aluminum salts to boost the response to the vaccine. When aluminum salts enter the bloodstream, most are bound by a protein, called transferrin, and filtered out of the body by the kidneys. While more than half of the quantity of aluminum that enters the body is removed within 24 hours of injection, and 75% within two weeks, small amounts of aluminum, introduced either through vaccination or through the diet, may remain in the body. Most of this aluminum accumulates in the bones, but about 1% of residual aluminum is estimated to accumulate in the brain. Most often, health issues that involve aluminum are experienced by people whose kidneys are not working well or not working at all AND who have been exposed to high levels of aluminum over a long period of time.” So, the amount entering the brain, if any, is minuscule compared to amount entering from environment. [Paul Offit (2020 Oct 28). Blood-brain Barrier and Vaccines. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia]

You have been posting bull shit on this website for a long time; but when I asked your credential, no response.

@ Joel, PhD, MPH:

johnlabarge’s second reference is flagged as ” NLM is not in agreement…”
that article cites Schoenfeld, Lee, Exley, Tomljenovic, Shaw; Dwoskin Foundation coi
flaming red flags of anti-vax pseudoscience writ large. Orac discussed all in detail.

@ johnlabarge

I just ran a search of National Library of Medicine’s online database PubMed. Typed in search box: Vaccine Safety

34,589 results

And using Google can find many more papers, etc from conferences, various nations health authority websites, etc.

RFK Jr. is for safe vaccines. Sorry that is a difficult concept for you to grasp.

So he says.

The problem is that there will never be, in the history of the world, a vaccine that will meet RFK, Jr.’s definition of safe.

The problem is that there will never be, in the history of the world, a vaccine that will meet RFK, Jr.’s definition of safe.

One problem is that safe makes sense only in comparison to an alternative. He (and labarge, who repeatedly uses language to mislead rather than inform) doesn’t, as far as I know, explain “safe compared to XXX”.

The implication is that as long as there is any risk there is a problem — the only safe vaccine is one that has zero risk at all. And, of course, nothing has zero risk, the whole game is aimed at the goal of reducing the risk of serious harm from the illness and it’s consequences.

He and labarge (and others of their ilk) could say “drinking water isn’t safe” and that would be the same level of crap.

Making scary-sounding pronouncements in short, simple sentences, works on the audiences they court.

It is. They don’t like accountability. They don’t like questioning and don’t care to bother about the ‘rare’ safety hazard. They are above all that. They anre authoritarian and Totalitarian and your government has empowered them.

“They don’t like questioning”

Apparently, neither do anti-vaxxers. Being asked to present evidence that stands up to scientific scrutiny is some kind of censorship, so they say.

Orac: “Along the way, his claims to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” notwithstanding, RFK Jr. demonstrated himself to be, in reality, fiercely antivaccine”.

Antivaxers’ insistence on posturing as pro-vaccine plumbs ridiculous depths in RFK Jr.’s book “Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak”*, where several of his co-antivaxers present themselves in forewords as “resolutely” or “aggressively” pro-vaccine. The level of pretense is amazing.

Chaos Infusion probably identifies as madly and hysterically pro-vaccine.

*the book, as you’d expect, is devoted to muzzling and shouting down science, rather than letting it speak.

@ Everyone

In today’s paper: “New research shows that we may be breathing in 16 bits of micro plastic pollution every hour, equivalent to the plastic in a credit card being inhaled within a week. Medical experts warn that such tiny particles pose a significant health risk to humans and wildlife as they contain chemicals and toxic pollutants. For the first time, in 2022, studies found micro plastics deep in human airways, which raises concern of serious respiratory health hazards.”

So, besides global warming and the toxins from fossil fuels responsible for over 100,000 premature deaths in US, plastics are also contributing to shorter lower quality lives for especially future generations.

It is always more important to judge people on what they do, rather than what they say about themselves. RFK, Jr. has consistently campaigned against vaccines, has spread FUD about vaccines, created a website and organisation solely devoted to spreading FUD about vaccines, associates with anti-vaccine luminaries, appears on the same platforms as them, and the list goes on. What RFK, Jr. has not done is point out anywhere that any of the other anti-vaccine luminaries is wrong about vaccines.

RFK, Jr. is anti-vaccine. All his claims to the contrary are simply posturing.

why ORAC continues to let John even post here boggles my mind. he’s clearly insane. not worth debating. brings absolutely nothing to the table, and just acts as a recurring distraction… like a bird repeatedly shitting on your shoulder when you are trying to eat lunch.

There is of course no lack of lia. Robrt Kennedy Jr sues vaccine mmanufacurers all the time.

Is a tetanus vaccine effective if you get it post exposure without being vaccinated previously? Or is it like rabies?

It won’t stop the infection; they need antitoxin and, often, debridement. We always give them the vaccine too because the infection itself doesn’t confer immunity if memory serves

@ Chaos Infusion

First, we have solid data from numerous nations that those given the mRNA vaccine were protected against severity, hospitalization, and death. Not 100% protected but much much better off than unvaccinated. And this data covers well over two years. Second, despite your ignorance, we have over 200,000 papers on mRNA since it first discovered in 1960s. We also have numerous papers on developing of mRNA vaccines since latter 1980s, including one for SARS which did great in Phase 1 and Phase 2; but since SARS died out, couldn’t test in Phase 3; but, gave to various monkeys, then infused them with enormous doses of SARS and they all did quite well.

We also have a huge understanding of how our immune systems work and how a vaccine simply elicits the same memory immune cells as from an actual infection; but if infected, it takes 7 – 10 days to rev up immune system and also create memory immune cells to protect against subsequent infection. Immune memory cells recognize an infection super fast and rev up, usually blocking completely or reducing seriousness and duration, etc, which is why we vaccinate

You keep posting comments based on your total ignorance of immunology, mRNA, etc. Just one more ignorant stupidly biased antivaxxer.

Perhaps, what you call yourself implies that you actually desire people to suffer???

I don’t like the title but the article goes into some detail about how the far right (far wrong) is behind his campaign. She is an icon of a lot of liberal groups and having Junior’s connections to Steve Bannon, et al. detailed might immunize a lot of liberals from taking his weird campaign seriously.

I take it you didn’t read the article. It’s quite good (thanks for the link, Mark). The clickbaity headline is vague: Who’s “ignoring RFKj” per author Naomi Klein, is not e.g. the press, but the Democratic party establishment (she names a couple names as exemplars) who she thinks should be pushing back against RFKj, rather than dismissing him as a “laughingstock”, or “gnat”. I.e., her argument parallels what Dr. Solenkova would have written about the Biden administration ignoring COVID disinformation in her recent SBM piece, had Solenkova understood anything about politics (rather than launching an ad hominem attack on Ashish Jha’s personal chartacter).

Klein deconstructs how RFKj may appeal to progressives disenchanted with Biden by virtue of narratives and emotions his performance/propaganda taps… falsely, of course. (Note to Silex: I think this is right down your alley) Then, in contrast to ‘ignoring’ she says “what is needed instead is a serious engagement with the myths that underlie the Kennedy performance and that are key to his progressive appeal.”, listing and countering four such myths: He would be a climate champion; He’s not that anti-vax; He is anti-war and pro-human rights; He is a populist. (This last using “populist” not as a euphemism for fascism, but the old lefty sense of “tax the rich and give poor and working-class people more money and supports”.)

Klein isn’t exactly clear on specifics of what sort of engagement with RFKj’s appeal she’d like to see from the Democratic establishment. She’s a genuine lefty, so I think ultimately what she’d like to see is a Democratic party more committed to progressive policies such that the cracks RFKj campaign (or perhaps, I’d add, puppetmaster Bannon) is exploiting.

I’m sympathetic, fwiw, as Bidenite centrism does often sacrifice “something that feels close enough to courage, truth, and justice” (Klein) for the sake of a pragmatic strategy of dealing with right-wing crazies by “lowering the temperature” enough to get some tangible things done, and not risking push-back that might feed an amplification of conflict toward another J6 or worse conflagration. I’ve called this strategy “don’t poke the bear”, but as much as it irks me (which is ‘a lot’) I’m not sure it’s unwise in the long run.

Klein isn’t exactly clear on specifics of what sort of engagement with RFKj’s appeal she’d like to see from the Democratic establishment.

They never are, sadmar. They almost never are.

““don’t poke the bear”, but as much as it irks me (which is ‘a lot’) I’m not sure it’s unwise in the long run.”

it’s the refuge of cowards. all you are doing is putting off the inevitable fight with authoritarian morons that IS coming. meanwhile, letting your enemy, and make no mistake, they ARE enemies, get stronger. they will not change their minds. ever.

anybody that has lived long enough already knows this and has been in fight or flight mode for the last 20 years.

open your eyes, you will see it too. You cannot fight irrationality with reason. it has never worked. not. ever.

It’s well past time to circle the wagons, as it were.
One very simple thing you can do is to just connect with your neighbors and make sure nobody is isolated. Isolation breeds contempt, and that contempt will inevitably be based on ignorance. It’s the only simple, effective, tool we all have.
Public debates will NOT work, but sometimes sitting, face to face, with the people living around us will allow communication that otherwise would fail.
At worst, it lets everybody know where the faults lie in your own community and to be prepared. At best, it at least gives some chance that those going down the rabbit hole can be stopped from doing so. But again, that’s a very small chance (about 5%, sadly).
…but doing nothing, and waiting on “public debate” is only going to make things WORSE, not better. Demagoguery works much better in the field of public debate than reason. It always has. It always will.

June 19, 2023 at 7:14 pm
If they don’t want to be liable for safety issues they aren’t safe.

As an extreme example, 1 or 2 per million who received smallpox vaccine died from it; but without vaccine ca 250,000 would have died based on enormous historical records and fact that ca 300 million died from it in 20th Century prior to WHO smallpox vaccine campaign. Given how our courts work, if families of those 1 or 2 sued, the companies would have gone out of business, then no vaccine and back to 100s of thousands of deaths.

So, Federal government passed law/regulations that if vaccines held to strict production guidelines, then companies not liable; but Vaccine Court would reimburse the few. However, the companies are NOT protected if it is found that they deviated from the approved production process.

It is your absolute STUPIDITY that doesn’t want to understand the above

Read just one Wikipedia article. History of smallpox

But to those against vaccines that handful of deaths proves that vaccines are unsafe and need to be taken off the market. The hundreds or thousands dead from disease can be brushed aside, especially when you start to question the existence of diseases in the first place, as a number of people against vaccines seem to be getting increasingly comfortable with doing.

It proves they aren’t safe. I never said that there can’t be risk benefit on a case by case basis or that they are not safe means they should all be taken off the market. But if vaccines were safe, liability protections wouldn’t be deemed necessary. The problem we are dealing with now is force + liability protections + captured media + censorship of negative information and captured science – very little if any negative side effects studied. This means that there is no accountability to the makers and hence it’s impossible to evaluate the vaccines on a case-by-case basis. Hence for something like covid or flu and many others vaccines can’t be trusted. It’s the industry that broke the public trust.

@ John La Barge

You just continue to ignore what I wrote because like Ginny Stoner you are a dishonest ASSHOLE.

I repeat, nothing in this world is 100% safe. so if only one child out of 10 million had a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine, given history of jury rewards, the company could be put out of business and anyone who actually understands vaccines will understand that the result could be masses of kids harmed from the actual microbes.


If the industry broke public trust, why did almost 70% of parents still give their kids the full infant-toddler vaccine schedule just before the pandemic? I suppose one possible answer is “they needed to send their kids to school to keep their jobs,” but if public trust were really that broken, wouldn’t they, I don’t know, make some more massive protest against it? Elect antivax candidates to repeal the 1986 law and expand personal belief exemptions?

Almost 70% would be a landslide if it were an election result.

But some of the safest, most effective, vaccines are the reason we have such protections! Without those ‘unnecessary’ protections thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people would be dying of vaccine preventable illnesses. So in the end your would be arguing that those deaths would be a necessary loss to keep us safe from a far smaller number of deaths and illnesses due to vaccines.

LaBarge claims vaccines are unsafe because you can’t sue the companies directly unless there was a production error. But it’s not like you can sue viruses for their mutations either.

LaBarge claims vaccines are unsafe because you can’t sue the companies directly unless there was a production error.

Which, as it happens, is false – one just has to exhaust the options provided by the NCVIA.

egads John. Have you ever considered you might be having some sort of mental break? because as is often said, one definition of insanity is… doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results.

you come here, and lie EVERY DAY, somehow expecting somebody is going to agree with you, but they don’t. doesn’t that tell you SOMETHING?

One of the anti-vaxxers I know claimed “smallpoxes aren’t viruses” when I pointed out to him that vaccines eradicated that scourge. I asked him where he “learned” this from and he clammed up, perhaps realizing that he didn’t really know what he was talking about (despite his paranoid approach to medicine). I do know he is a reader of Sayer Ji, who is a flagrant virus denier, which is the equivalent of supporting flat Earth regarding astronomy.

A jury verdict is not a guarantee of accuracy, unfortunately. That is the truth that Mr. Andrew Wakefield and his attorney friend were going after to shake down vaccine manufacturers for money. Given how most jurors (or most citizens) are not scientifically literate, a verdict may be the result of whichever lawyer tells a better story, not who is correct. This is yet another reason why sensationalized “debates” are theater, not a means of determining truths …

It’s like harping upon the likelihood of dying in a plane crash** while ignoring the thousands of safe landings every day, all over the world, for decades.

Both plane and vaccine fears involve situations that aren’t average daily life as a person hands over control to other people. Vaccines involve injection a substance directly into the skin and flying takes you far away from the safety of the earth.

Lots of things seem unsafe if you perseverate about them:
stone fruits have cyanide that can kill you ( if you eat crushed pits)
rice has arsenic
people die in car crashes and are struck by lightning.

Anti-vaxxers encourage imagining fearful outcomes that not very likely:
–vaccine manufacturers list events that may have been caused by vaccines such as myocarditis and a blood clotting disorder which followed vaccination with mRNA and J&J/ AZ, respectively, in certain populations
–an H1N1 vaccine was followed by narcolepsy in a specific population
we can list how frequently these events occur and how they compare to outcomes from the illness itself

I dare anti-vaxxers to look and find how often these adverse events happen.

Anti-vaxxers spin horror stories not based on fact.

** one in 11 million

Re blanket legal immunity: this is a reminder that RFK Jr. is one of the lawyers involved in bringing tens of cases against Merck about their Gardasil vaccine right now.

So when he’s saying manufacturers were given blanket legal immunity, he is not just wrong. He is knowingly lying. Because if there as blanket legal immunity, how could he be suing them?

As you also point out, vaccines are subject to more legal requirements than other drugs, not less. They are subject to two legal frameworks – under the Public Health Service Act as biologics, and by FDA regulation to all the requirements under the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

And I don’t buy that Kennedy does not know this.

@ John La Barge

The other thing that you stupidly ignore is that before receiving any vaccination, child or adult, one is given Vaccine Information Sheet which includes explanation of disease protects against and accurate description of rare serious adverse events. If child, parent is required to read and sign consent. Just go to CDC

Read any and all vaccine information statements. From the MMR Vaccine Information Statement:

Risks of a vaccine reaction
Sore arm from the injection or redness where the shot is given, fever, and a mild rash can happen after MMR vaccination.
Swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck or temporary pain and stiffness in the joints (mostly in teenage or adult women) sometimes occur after MMR vaccination.
More serious reactions happen rarely. These can include seizures (often associated with fever) or temporary low platelet count that can cause unusual bleeding or bruising.
In people with serious immune system problems, this vaccine may cause an infection that may be life-threatening. People with serious immune system problems should not get MMR vaccine.
People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.

As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.


like Ginny, John is BLATANTLY ignorant and dishonest. Everybody here can see this. Don’t get upset at them, do not let them work you up so much. Just have fun poking at them until Orac finally gets tired of having them here.

Pretend they are monkeys in a cage, flinging poo. because that is exactly what they are.

don’t waste energy on them. pearls before swine and all that.

…or you will burn yourself out on them, and probably fail to respond to a genuine question some passerby has. You have a lot of good information at hand, personally. don’t let these chuckleheads burn you out on sharing it, ok?

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