Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine

Deluded tech bro Steve Kirsch claims COVID vaccines have killed 3.5X more people than COVID-19

I thought that Prof. Skidmore’s survey, from which he extrapolated an estimate of 278K killed by COVID-19 vaccines was the worst survey ever. I was wrong. Steve Kirsch has Skidmore beat by a country mile.

Last weekend, I noted a disturbance in the antivax crankosphere. Apparently, once again, a horrible antivax “study” that was ultimately retracted had been resurrected, as we have seen more times than I can remember going back to the very beginnings of this blog in 2005. I’m referring to a study published in BMC Infectious Diseases in January with a single author, Michigan State University economics professor Mark Skidmore, who used an anonymized survey that actually had some interesting findings that made a fair amount of sense, such as the observation that political orientation and antivax beliefs influence people’s perception of whether health problems in their social circle were caused by COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines. If Prof. Skidmore had stuck with those modest findings, there would have been little to complain about, but he didn’t. Instead, he used the results of his survey to extrapolate an estimate as high as 278,000 people “killed” by COVID-19 vaccines. I applied some much deserved not-so-Respectful Insolence to the study in January, and by April it was retracted, a fate that it richly also richly deserved. Although there also remained a question of whether, in using survey results to make an estimate of a health outcome in the US population, Prof. Skidmore had gone beyond the protocol that MSU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) had deemed exempt (because it was an anonymized survey). I moved on, only mentioning Skidmore’s execrable “science” one more time in the context of its being an example of retracted studies that remain far more influential than they deserve. Then came Steve Kirsch.

A week ago, deluded tech bro turned rabid antivax and COVID-19 pseudoscience and conspiracy mongerer Steve Kirsch posted an article on his Substack entitled MSU Professor Mark Skidmore was exonerated by MSU; his landmark paper showing over 250,000 killed by the COVID vaccine is now back in the peer-reviewed literature:

Mark Skidmore wrote a paper that showed that 217,000 Americans were killed in 2021 by the COVID vaccine. 

The journal retracted the article and Mark’s university commenced a 7-month investigation into unethical behavior by Professor Skidmore.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Professor Skidmore has been exonerated on all charges and his paper, with some helpful additions suggested by Dr. Susan Oliver (and her dog, Cindy), has now been published in another peer-reviewed journal.

This is the usual sort of blather that I’ve come to expect from Steve Kirsch, who wouldn’t know good science from bad if it bit him on the posterior. (As a reminder, Susan Oliver did an excellent video deconstruction of Mark Skidmore’s dreck as well that is very much worth watching.) This post isn’t really so much to rehash what was so awful about Prof. Skidmore’s paper (and there were many, many awful things about it), but rather to discuss Mr. Kirsch’s hilariously ridiculously incompetent survey. I will, however, give my readers a heads up to mention that I did write an update for my not-so-secret other blog describing how the new version of Prof. Skidmore’s paper has been only slightly modified and still has all the problems that I discussed, what those problems are, and what a humiliation it must be for him to have been forced to republish his retracted paper in a crank antivax journal, Science, Public Health Policy & the Law, published by antivax scientist James Lyons-Weiler‘s Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK) and having been represented by the Christian dominionist, antivaccine, and rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ legal group, the Liberty Counsel. It will be published on Monday at the latest.

In the meantime, let me just say that Prof. Skidmore’s “estimate” for how many deaths COVID-19 vaccines “might have caused” is not really an estimate of what he claims, but rather an estimate based on an extrapolation of how many people perceived that someone in their social circles had died as a result of the vaccines. That’s it. His estimate has no epidemiological validity whatsoever and is only interesting as a result showing how successful antivaxxers have been at feeding the perception that the vaccines are dangerous.

Another issue is that apparently the MSU IRB found that Prof. Skidmore had committed no violations of regulations governing human subjects research protections. I’ll say here as I wrote in my more lengthy explanation to be published Monday: It’s not really the job of the IRB to determine if the science is good or bad (although often the IRB will do that if it comes to the conclusion that bad scientific design can cause potential harm to human subjects in a study), but rather if human subjects protections have been followed. Since Prof. Skidmore’s study was an anonymized study, the potential for harm for the human subjects who responded to the survey was deemed small, hence the finding that the study was “exempt” from detailed IRB oversight. Sadly, the MSU IRB doesn’t consider whether Prof. Skidmore’s study would be harmful to society at large, which it most definitely was, becoming one of the top 5% studies shared on social media.

Of course, Steve Kirsch, being Steve Kirsch and thus utterly full of the arrogance of extreme ignorance, decided that he would try to replicate Prof. Skidmore’s results, which led to an article on his Substack the other day entitled “Vaccine” killed 3.5X more Americans than COVID virus. To this, Mr. Kirsch added this challenges:

The data is clear and consistent. I challenge any qualified scientist to challenge this data in an open public debate.

Consider your challenge partially accepted, Mr. Kirsch. I will gladly challenge your “data” here, publicly, on my blog, but given your history of “Debate me, bro!” nonsensical unwinnable “debate” challenges, I will limit my not-so-Respectful Insolence to my blog. If you want to publicly debate, you are more than welcome either to comment below or to post a response on your monetized Substack for clicks and cash.

So let’s take a look at Mr. Kirsch’s “results”—in which he claims that his survey shows that COVID-19 vaccine killed 3.5x more people than COVID-19—such as they are:

The irresponsible attacks by an LA Times journalist Michael Hiltzik on MSU Professor Mark Skidmore’s paper motivated me to run my own survey of my readers to see what the actual harm numbers really are. 

Over 10,000 readers responded. 

The survey clearly showed that the COVID vaccines have killed 3.5 times as many people as COVID. This is a disaster.

I’ve had expert statisticians and epidemiologists review the survey, the methodology, and the results. None could find any errors.

Who are these “expert statisticians and epidemiologists”? Inquiring minds want to know!

I laughed out loud at this part. (I will also note that Michael Hitlzik’s article about the Skidmore fiasco is quite good and you should read it if you can get past the paywall.) Once again, Mr. Kirsch thinks that an Internet poll can give anything resembling an epidemiologically valid estimate of any health condition in a population. Hell, Mr. Kirsch still thinks that amateurish Internet polls can provide an accurate estimate of any public opinion. They don’t, given how easily they are gamed. More importantly, even if they aren’t gamed such polls do not attract a representative sampling of the population. The people who read and subscribe to Mr. Kirsch’s Substack tend overwhelmingly to be antivax and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists. If you don’t believe me, just peruse the comments after any of his posts.

What made me laugh the hardest at Mr. Kirsch as I read this incredible pile of stinking fetid dingos’ kidneys was this passage in which he tries to defend the validity of his methodology, such as it is (or if you can even call it methodology in the scientific or even survey sense):

When I called Professor Norman Fenton and informed him of the 3.5X figure he calmly replied “I’m not surprised.”

The results of this survey are entirely consistent with the surveys by others as well as individual anecdotes that would have been very unlikely for me to have located if the vaccine didn’t kill at least 3.5X more people than the virus.

Norman Fenton? Hilarious!

I note that Norman Fenton isn’t exactly a great person to go to to validate your awful methodology, given that he himself has engaged in a bit of data dredging in the cause of antivax narratives and appears unable to recognize that deaths due to secondary bacterial pneumonias due to COVID-19 are COVID-19 deaths. So of course he’s “not surprised” that Steve Kirsch’s silly survey found that 3.5x more people died due to COVID-19 vaccine complications than due to COVID-19 itself:

As always, antivaxxers value “anecdotal personal observations” over actual systematically collected evidence from rigorously designed studies, which Mr. Kirsch is incapable of doing.

Even more hilarious is how, before he lays out his “data,” Mr. Kirsch shifts the burden of evidence:

Therefore accusations of “the survey was biased” are simply “hand-waving” arguments with absolutely no evidentiary basis of support. Could there be bias? Of course. Is the bias significant is the question! Since these people are anti-vaxxers, they are simply less likely to vaccinate and so the number of vaccine injuries will be LOWER than an unbiased group who vaccinates. So yes, there may be bias, but if anything the bias suggests that the actual ratio is higher than 3.5. I’m happy to have that discussion. Bring it on.

The best way to challenge these results is to show data that is 100% independently verifiable (which government statistics are not). So they will have to show us their survey and their verifiable anecdotes supporting their hypothesis. No one has any interest in doing that for some reason. These people are all perfectly content with having the number be “unknown.” I have a big problem with that.

No, this isn’t how science works. It’s not the duel between anecdotes, which is what Mr. Kirsch seems to think that it is. Moreover, it is not up to those challenging a claim to prove that Mr. Kirsch’s survey sample is not representative of the general population, although that is very easy to do just by pointing out that it’s an Internet survey that anyone can answer whose links were posted on the substack of a raving antivax conspiracy theorist.(Seriously, Mr. Kirsch, pollsters have standards in methodology to try to assure that their samples are as representative of the population being studied as is feasible, and even those sometimes fall short.) It’s not up to those criticizing Mr. Kirsch’s study to show that his survey questions can’t answer the question that he is claiming to answer. It’s up to him to show that they are valid according to standard polling methodology. (They’re not, obviously.) It’s not up to critics to show that his statistical methodology is incorrect and inappropriate for the survey design and sample chosen. It’s up to him to show that they are. One way that he could do that would be to subject his work to peer review in a journal of epidemiology. He won’t, because peer reviewers other than Norman Fenton and other antivaxxers would likely laugh out loud at his manuscript.

I do like Mr. Kirsch’s attempt to claim that, if anything, he’s underestimating the number of deaths due to COVID-19 vaccines because his audience is all antivaxxers and therefore there should be fewer vaccine injuries. This is one of the most incredibly ridiculous arguments I’ve ever seen from an antivaxxer, and I’ve been at this blogging thing for nearly 19 years now. What he ignores is that, if his audience is made up mainly of antivaxxers, then one would expect that respondents would massively misattribute health problems in their family and extended social circle to vaccines. He also neglects to note that antivaxxers who think that one of their extended family members was injured or killed by COVID-19 vaccines would be far more likely to respond to his poll than an average person in the population who might see this survey.

Also, just look at the survey! First of all, Mr. Kirsch wants names, email addresses, and phone numbers for “verification.” Even Prof. Skidmore’s survey, as misused and incompetently designed as it was, anonymized the respondents’ personal data through a third party, the company from which he accessed a supposedly “representative” sample of the US population. Who on earth would be foolish enough to give Mr. Kirsch that personal information? Mr. Kirsch waves away such concerns in the comments of his announcement for his survey:

READ THIS FIRST: I have never sold a phone number or contact info for anyone ever in my life.

The phone number is for verification. I call people on their responses at random. Live validation is much better than email. Jay Bonnar’s story for example, was because he filled out a survey and it looked odd and I called him.

The name, phone, and emails are for my use only and are never disclosed externally to anyone (including “fact checkers”) without getting your express permission.

And no, for this survey, I do not need to collect demographics. The signals here are incredibly strong and random draws of 10% of the samples show the values are very consistent.

“Demographics? I don’t need no stinking demographics!”

Seriously, who would be stupid enough to believe this and trust Mr, Kirsch with their phone number particularly if they are not antivax and wanted to answer the questions truthfully in a way that goes against his obvious preexisting belief that the vaccines are deadly? I thought about answering, but then saw that he wanted a phone number and said not just “No!” but “Oh, hell no!” True, I could have used the same solution to the issue of providing a phone number that the Blues Brothers famously used when providing a mailing address for registering the Bluesmobile. (It came in quite handy, you might remember, for avoiding Illinois Nazis.) Sure, I could provide my work address and email, which are on public websites, but why would I give a litigious bully and social media harasser like Mr. Kirsch an excuse accuse me of trying to sabotage one of his silly surveys and, more importantly, to possibly bother the people at my cancer center who answer the phones?

I’ll just recount Mr. Kirsch’s results, even though his methodology and sample render them utterly meaningless and uninterpretable:

Analysis of the first 9,620 found 804 deaths from COVID and 2,830 deaths from the COVID vaccine. Those results were generated from a minimum of 108,000 people covered by the survey (some extended families were over 25 people and the survey didn’t track this so the number of total family members covered by the survey is a lower bound). We also didn’t ask about the age of each family member as this would have made the survey unmanageable.

Seriously? Mr. Kirsch didn’t even track the number of extended family members? He didn’t ask about age? After all, age is a very major contributor to the probability of someone dying if they get COVID-19! So basically he utterly ignored one potential contributory factor to deaths because…reasons.


We were primarily interested in simply the ratio of COVID deaths to vaccine deaths in the extended family (excluding the immediate household). The reason for excluding the immediate household is to reduce the bias effect since most of the respondents didn’t vaccinate themselves or their household. This is reflected in the lower ratio for the household statistics (and even then, the vaccines killed more people than COVID which is astonishing).

No, it’s not at all “astonishing” given the population from which the sample was drawn, readers of Steve Kirsch’s Substack who not only were willing to take the time to answer his survey but were willing to trust him with their phone numbers.These are likely hardcore antivaxxers who like Mr. Kirsch so much that they are willing to trust him with their names, email addresses, and phone numbers, which most people would wisely decline to do.

You know what? Remember how hard I said I laughed at Mr. Kirsch’s bit about having had epidemiologists and statisticians evaluate his methodology? I laughed even harder at this part, where Mr. Kirsch tries to defend against the charge that his respondents misattributed the causes of their family members’ deaths to COVID-19 vaccines:

At first, you may think “3.5X… that’s way too high. Surely these anti-vaxxers are misclassifying normal deaths as “vaccine deaths.”

There are 10,000 different people making these assessments. We can randomly draw 20 names and check on the details of each death to assess whether this is the case.

But there is a much easier method to validate that the 3.5X number is sane: a single anecdote that is 100% verifiable.

I reported earlier on a high tech sales executive Jay Bonnar who told me 15 of his friends “died suddenly” after getting the vax. His life experience otherwise is devoid of deaths. The stories are all in the public domain and are verifiable. They were all his friends; they all died suddenly after the vaccine. Jay also had 1 friend who died in the hospital from COVID after receiving Remdesivir (which is probably what really killed his friend, but let’s just give the COVID virus a death). 

Jay’s observations are all objective counts of deaths. He did not make any subjective assessment as to cause. In the 10 years prior to the vaccine rollout, he had lost only 1 friend. Post vaccine he lost 15 friends, several of whom died within 1 week of being vaccinated. There’s a big signal there.

So if Jay saw one COVID death, with a 3.5 multiple, Jay should have seen 3.5 vaccine deaths. But he saw 15. The probability of that happening is 4.26e-6 which means that only 1 person in 234,515 would have observed a story like Jay’s.

There is no facepalm epic enough for this. Even the Godzilla facepalm is not large enough, but it is the largest that I have; so I’ll use it:

Godzilla facepalm
Seriously, Mr. Kirsch. You give Godzilla a headache with your nonsense.

As for misattribution bias, let’s just say that Mr. Kirsch has rather odd ideas—from a scientific standpoint—on how to adjudicate such bias:

But there might also be a bias in assessing a death to be from the vaccine when it wasn’t caused by the vaccine. Experts can adjudicate these deaths and we can apply a correction factor that might correct in either direction. Here’s the interesting thing about this bias: I don’t think anyone knows which direction this bias is! I don’t. Do you? Were my readers more astute than trained professionals in assessing vaccine deaths? Or less astute? We can adjust for this bias, but the problem will be: who do you trust to make the professional assessments of the death? Any medical expert I suggest who I think is astute can be accused of being biased. So the bias accusation can always be made.

The simplest approach is the Occam’s razor method and assume that the assessments are “close” and consider this as one experiment that generates a value.

Again, no, Mr. Kirsch. That’s not how science works at all! He is correct about one thing, though. Antivaxxers like him never trust medical professionals who haven’t drunk the antivax Kool-Aid, whom they reject as “biased” or “pharma shills.”

Then he’ll cite nonsense like Ed Dowd’s book Cause Unknown:

It lists 550 cases of people who died suddenly. That was the only criteria. He never researched vaccination status for any of these cases.

Only one person was found to be not vaccinated on the list. The AP fact checkers didn’t find any unvaccinated people on the list.

If the vaccine doesn’t kill anyone, around 25% of the people would have been unvaccinated. 

If the vaccine didn’t cause these deaths, then how do you explain the correlation?

Notice the assumption made without evidence, namely that the vaccine caused all those sudden deaths. This is what lawyers would refer to as “assuming facts not in evidence,” one of the few legal principles that works pretty well in science too. Again, sudden cardiac deaths are nothing new. Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) was first described over 50 years ago, and we know many of the conditions that predispose to it, such as gene mutations and undetected congenital heart abnormalities. Moreover, there is no evidence that the incidence of SADS has been increasing since the vaccines rolled out. Just because antivaxxers didn’t know about SADS before the pandemic does not mean that physicians and nurses didn’t. The existence of SADS has been the reason for sports physicals in school, where the physician or nurse practitioner will screen for conditions and history that suggest a predisposition to SADS. It’s why there has been a push to make public access automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) more ubiquitous in public places going back at least a decade. Even leaving aside SADS, approximately 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) have been reported annually in the United States, with an estimated 70% to 90% of people experiencing OHCA dying before reaching the hospital. Again, just because antivaxxers did not (and, apparently still do not) know this simple fact does not mean that the medical profession didn’t and doesn’t.

Mr. Kirsch keeps going on and on about his “survey” results, including “serious injuries” from vaccines, seemingly without understanding that if your sample, questions, and methods are crap, no matter how you spin it, your results are utter crap, challenges to vaccine advocates to produce data notwithstanding. I also note that vaccine advocates do provide data and studies. Mr. Kirsch always finds a reason to reject them. So why bother to try to school him with actual science and data again? He’ll only misrepresent it again, and then reverse the burden of proof again, the way he does near the end of his long post:

It’s time for the vaccine advocates to put up or shut up. Show me your numbers, show me at least 6 independent ways you validated it, and show me the similar extreme anecdotes showing that your number must be right and mine is wrong (like show me the guy who knows 30 people who died from COVID and only 1 person who died from the vaccine), and let’s get to the bottom of this and find out the correct number. Or is it better not to look and not to discuss it? Will that save more lives?

Not showing up with any data or any willingness to resolve this issue is unacceptable.

Even less acceptable is basically pulling bad data out of your nether regions, which is what Mr. Kirsch’s “survey” results in him doing. Let me suggest another alternative to Mr. Kirsch. Perhaps he should submit his results to a decent epidemiology journal, such as the American Journal of Epidemiology, Epidemiology, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, or even the European Journal of Epidemiology, the one most likely to be sympathetic to antivax ideas given that it’s let John Ioannidis use it as a venue to attack and trash his enemies. Put up, or shut up, Mr. Kirsch. Prove that your results stand up to peer review.

No doubt Mr. Kirsch will demur, claiming that all these epidemiologists are hopelessly “biased.” Same as it ever was.

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]

55 replies on “Deluded tech bro Steve Kirsch claims COVID vaccines have killed 3.5X more people than COVID-19”

A. Re the attribution: connecting it to your point, the people willing to answer his survey and give him their phone numbers have a known bias. They are anti-vaccine and are likely to attribute anything to vaccines, as you point out. So no, it’s not unknown.

B. Re the AP article: he’s referring to this article, I think:

That does not mean only one person in the book was unvaccinated. The article is not a fact-checking of the book. It’s an article about the harm anti-vaccine efforts cause others. The opening example is glaring because this unvaccinated boy’s death was misused to allege a vaccine death, but that says nothing about the other cases in the book. I ran a check, and there is no general AP fact check on the book, as far as I saw, so I do think he’s referring to this article. I haven’t seen a link in his article to any AP article.

Regarding point A, I saw an interview by the person who “published” that ridiculous “The Control Group” study. She stated she was worried that provaxers would jump into the surveys and bias the results towards vaccines not being harmful. Of course she ignored the fact that because they only elicited survey respondents at anti-vaccine events that all of their respondents 100% biased the results to what she wanted to show from an anti-vax perspective. I will also point out that I never saw on any of my search lists or feeds a request for this survey. I think this survey was done very quietly instead and it only was 1500 people and only about 300 for adults. But yet just like Steve kersh does they do insane extrapolations to the whole US population.

AND if a vaccine supporter asked a similar question on their Substack, they would get the opposite resul..
NO WAIT! : vaccine supporters usually know that surveys like this are meaningless so they wouldn’t bother.

Just wondering aloud:
which are worse, Kirsch’s anti-vax/ Covid musings or the entire oeuvre of Naomi Wolf ( Substack, Daily Clout, The War Room) where she and her coterie of 3500 “experts” examine Pfizer documents that illustrate GENOCIDE ( May 2022)
-btw- Fact Check USA TODAY Sept 2022 also Reuters, AP call mis-interpretation of data about miscarriage

She claims adverse events, deaths, LNPs, clots, miscarriages, menstrual issues etc.

And assuming that anti-vax runs in families and communities, how did he avoid double-counting the same deaths?

“I do like Mr. Kirsch’s attempt to claim that, if anything, he’s underestimating the number of deaths due to COVID-19 vaccines because his audience is all antivaxxers and therefore there should be fewer vaccine injuries”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Mr K has now become a caricature of himself. It’s like asking a crowd of ancient aliens fans if they’ve ever seen a flying saucer.

Particularly funny since the primary responder antivaxxers are hardly likely to be reporting their own deaths.

Steve’s latest outrage: getting a community note on Twitter explaining why one of his polls is full of shit. This can hardly be a new experience for him, but Steve is so worked up that he’s asked his fans to downvote the note, a plea that might just backfire. 🙂

Humans truly are herd animals. They fawn over these “alpha” males and follow them though all their mindless bloviation. They can never admit they’re wrong about anything, and double down when challenged by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

I reported earlier on a high tech sales executive Jay Bonnar who told me 15 of his friends “died suddenly” after getting the vax.

Gee, this Mr. Bonnar must have thousands upon thousands of ‘friends’ – extremely frail, elderly friends at that – to reach a death count like this, even completely disregarding COVID and vaccines.

His life experience otherwise is devoid of deaths.

But full of lies, by the look of it.

The stories are all in the public domain and are verifiable.

Um, no. This story (singular) is just one completely unverifiable allegation from one antivaccine person, completely unsupported by any independent evidence.

Jay Bonnar is not alone.

Peter Hotez also reports that many of his friends, tireless public health champions, have died in the last three years. Prof. Hotez is not sure whether the cause is “overwork” or “exhaustion”.

I personally blame climate change!

In just the last 3 years, I’ve lost close colleagues and friends, each a champion of global health, each between the ages of 58-71 and still active when they passed: Drs. Paul Farmer, Mwele Malacela, Don McManus, and now Rodrigo. Overwork? Exhaustion? Please take care my friends

That was so vile that I am now seriously wondering why I tolerate your continued presence in my comment section. It might be time for me to reassess my tolerance.

It’s not just vile, it’s pathetic. Dr. Hotez expressed concern about four people who worked very hard to protect others and died.

Anti-vaccine activist: It’s just like this guy who talked to this extreme anti-vaccine activist and blamed a lot of harms on vaccines (without any evidence)! It must be the vaccines, and Dr. Hotez has just joined our ranks (something anyone can see Dr. Hotez did not).

They really, really have nothing, if this is where they need to go dig for scraps.

Indeed. And I see that Steve Kirsch is amplifying Chudov’s post about it. If Kirsch is approvingly amplifying your bullshit, you really are a piece of work.

Not a genuine apology, since the crap about Hotez is still up on your Substack.

I knew a doctor who contracted Covid while caring for elderly and surgical hospital patients who died in Spring 2020. He assisted a small city plan services- basically for free- and ran both a medical office and a trendy restaurant.
My SO’s mechanic closed his shop to care for his father who had Covid and lived 50 miles away. Both died.
Also, his friend’s brother, a working artisan, died alone in Spain.

Covid denialists say that these people were already at death’s door.

As I’ve posted previously, there were three deaths in patients under 50 that I took care of and countless floor/icu stays. I’m just one doctor. These people really are disturbed and pathetic. Now they’re blaming the vaccine for Matthew Perry’s death.

Bonnar’s thousands upon thousands of friends* don’t have to be elderly and in bad health.

He and many other antivaxers whose friends and acquaintances are keeling over right and left must be shedding toxic death particles to cause such mortality, which affect younger, healthy people too. Get within a hundred yards of Bonnar and his cohorts and you’re asking for trouble.

*imaginary for the most part.

Even though I usually ignore Kirsch’s habitual torturing of innocent numbers, I still wondered about the actual statistics. So I looked up the numbers at , and found that at e.g. age 35, people have a ~0.2% average probability of dying within a year (M/F averaged).
Which (and correct me if I’m wrong) translates to about 200 deaths per 100,000 per year among 35 year-olds. Which in turn means that you already get this ‘statistically impossible’ (in the words of Kirsch) death count of 15 friends within a year when you have 7500 friends age 35.
Which is exactly the number claimed by this Jay Bonnar guy.

The only implausible thing here is the number of ‘friends’. No-one has 7500 friends – the population of quite a large village. And of course the close temporal link with vaccination is probably made up rather than actually observed.

So there’s nothing special with these numbers. People live, people die. But almost never from vaccination, as far as we can tell.

I’m sure those numbers are from all causes, so would include accidents and other cases of death from non-medical causes. Which makes a quack’s numbers even worse.

@Matt G
It is actually quite hilarious: what Kirsch calls ‘statistically impossible’ is in fact exactly the annual number of deaths one would expect in the population that Bonnar describes (7500 people around age 35), and that he claims never saw a single death over all previous years(*). Once again, Kirsch exhibits utter incompetence with numbers.

Also note that Bonnar says that those 15 deaths occurred since the introduction of COVID vaccines, so over almost 2 years. In which time frame, one would statistically expect 30 deaths, not just 15. So maybe we can convince Bonnar and Kirsch that the vaccines in fact decreased all-cause mortality?

I think Bonnar simply fell victim to the frequency illusion after noticing one or two deaths, and then proceeded to make up details in line with his antivaccine bias, about all those people ‘dying suddenly’ and ‘within 24 hours of vaccination’, and that all those 7500 people were friends he knows etcetera.

The sad thing is that most likely, Kirsch will never correct this SNAFU, or even admit he and Bonnar completely messed up.

*: Which in fact is statistically (almost) impossible.

I think you have missed the most likely explanation here. Jay Bonnar has simply made the numbers up.

The newer COVID anti-vaxxers are now being forced to do Mawson-level fake epidemiology in their desperate efforts to stay relevant and popular. I’m noticing a lot of these health freedom events are suddenly cutting prices quite a lot for tickets to Fall events to try and get people in the door. Mind you, some of these events have raised their ticket prices up into the hundreds of dollars, a person which could be part of the issue. Next weekend there are two big events. One is here in Scottsdale, Arizona and the other is the CHD annual meeting in Georgia. The Scottsdale event is run by two very anti-vaccine so-called pediatric chiropractors who are two of the most miserable excuses for quacks I’ve ever seen. I’d like to attend but shelling out 400 bucks is ridiculous. The Scottsdale group must be a little bit upset because clearly CHD got the higher tier anti-vax speakers whereas Scottsdale was left with people like the “Drs. Wolfson” who have been hiding out in Colorado after they made the mistake of mocking Brian Hooker’s special needs son at Cal Jam run by the most psychotic of all chiropractors Billy DeMoss.

I remember a pet chiropractor video that showed up on my FB. I never turn the sound on, so I had the dubious pleasure of watching him make a crippled dog worse in silence, whilst the owner looked on. She then thanked him emotionally before leaving. When the dog arrived it couldn’t move it’s back legs. When it left if couldn’t move it’s back legs and now had a gaping mouth and uncontrolled tongue after one particular ‘adjustment ‘.

The idea of letting one loose on a human child should be classified as abuse.

I had a lactation consultant suggest taking my baby (not yet a month old!) to a chiro to improve his latch (after he had his tongue tie snipped by his actual doctor).
She also recommended Cranio-something therapy (more quackery) and a laundry service.

My husband said it was a good thing I was wearing a mask so the LC couldn’t see the face I was making at those suggestions.
And this was an LC out of the specialty infant center in the hospital!

We did not go back and the next LC I saw was someone who did home visits and had actionable, non-quack advice.

The idea that 1) a chiropractor would thing that they have anything useful for someone’s mouth and 2) they would touch a baby that young is very concerning.

“Cranio-something therapy”

Cranio sacral, or what I call a homeopathic head massage.

It is pushed to families with autistic, cerepalsy, etc kids. I was at some kind workshop and during lunch a woman who claimed to work in neurology made the mistake of suggesting it to me for my autistic kid. I almost choked on my peach, but told her that a homeopathic head massage would fix neither Broca’s nor Wernicke’s areas, since they are in the brain and there is a scull in the way.

She left quickly. She was obviously a chiropractor who claimed to be a neurologist.

Steve didn’t sell Dr Canuck’s phone number and contact information, he gave it away for free.

What I’d be interested in pulling from the number of deaths is if there were any that were determined to be from neither covid nor the vaccine. Because if there aren’t any then the most interesting aspect of those numbers isn’t being discussed – that if you’re opposed to vaccines people you know are impossible to kill by normal means.

Kirsch’s big claim is that sales executive Jay Bonnar lost 15 friends from the COVID vaccine.

But … does Jay Bonnar really exist? My cursory Google search of the name didn’t reveal any sales execs with that name, and my reverse Google image search (from the photo in Kirsch’s article) didn’t reveal it belonging to Jay Bonnar.

One would think that a person with 7500(!) direct friends (according to Kirsch) would have a sizable internet presence.

Seeing nothing about sales exec Jay Bonnar online is a bit suspicious.

-K Smith

Somewhat OT: Today I learned that there is a “medical” clinic in Venice, FL whose staff have all been fired from their previous positions because of their opposition to covid 19 vaccines and protocols. We the People Health and Wellness Center is a membership only clinic that bypasses insurance and provides “freedom based healthcare”. I read about it at the Daily Beast (paywall). I would guess that if I clicked on their site I would recognize the names of some of the providers, from following Respectful Insolence.

And before you know it, they’ll be blaming the death of ice hockey player Adam Johnson in Sheffield on the vaccine, too.

It was a very bad weekend for Steve Kirsch.

First he got taken in by a mock Twitter poll designed to make fun of his own inane polls, attacking its design without realizing the joke was on him. After being laughed at, Kirsch claimed he doesn’t take Internet surveys seriously (!), although he had just trumpeted the results of his own poll (alleging 3.5X deaths among Covid-vacinated compared to those with disease) as definitive science. 😉

As a result of that embarrassment (and probably in response to the latest fact-check taking down another of his inane claims*), Steve went on a Twitter blocking spree in an attempt to protect his nonsensical ravings from gleeful critics. But there’s plenty of Kirsch nuttery on other platforms that continues to be available for debunking.

**the best Twitter poll yet asked respondents whether they had been killed by Covid vaccines. Poll choices were “Yes”, “No” and “Not Sure”.

I doubt any respondent would have answered ‘Yes’ on the poll about wether they have been killed by the covid vaccine. And if someone answered ‘Yes’ they were defenitly lying. Or does mr. Kirsch think they can answer a poll from the grave?

I think that the “have you been killed by the COVID vaccine?” poll is one of the polls that Dangerous Bacon is saying were made to mock Kirsch’s poll.

Denise asked whether Kirsch or Wolf was worse. I’m only moderately disturbed by either, as both have little legitimacy outside the crankosphere. So my vote for anti-science WTF of the month goes to Mike Johnson. You see, the person now second on line for POTUS succession thinks the way to prevent mass shootings is to stop teaching evolution in schools.

He and his wife both seem to be way over on the “terrible person” scale.


That headline:

Kelly Johnson, who is married to House Speaker Mike Johnson, practices a form of Christian counseling that classifies people into ‘choleric’, ‘phlegmatic,’ and other ancient personality types purportedly ordained by God


That headline

Mike Johnson’s Wife Runs Counseling Service That Compares Being Gay To Bestiality, Incest

Where we are is that not just climate change denialism, but advocacy of extracting and burning as much fossil furl as possible is do entrenched it barely rates a mention.

Did you know Johnson was the attorney for Noah’s Ark, and the fundie organization associated with Ken Ham?

This isn’t really entirely new for the GOP, just elevated with Johnson becoming speaker. I’ll never get over the fact that in 2008, the GOP (under majority leader John Boehner) placed young earth creationist Paul Broun (M.D.) — “evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.” — on the House Science Committee…

I’ll never get over the fact that in 2008

It’s worth remembering that there never was a “sane” Republican party, just one that was less authoritarian than today’s. They took a very hard public turn toward racism after the Voting and Civil Rights bills were passed, got worse when Nixon’s team corrupted the Paris Peace talks to get Nixon into office, and then really went dark with trump model1, otherwise known as ronald reagan. Reagan was essentially given a free pass by the media at the time, and that allowed him to take the country to the crapper: imagine if he’d had the constant promotion social media gave trump.

Yes, the problem goes way back. Chris Mooney’s 2006 book The Republican War on Science recounted how long this rot has infested the party. It had already gotten really bad over the two or three decades before he wrote that book—17 years ago. Today, it’s gotten way, way worse. (I mean, as recently as a decade ago, or even a bit less, there were still some Republicans who would admit to the science of human-induced climate change.) I must admit that back in 2006 I didn’t think it possible to get so much worse, but it has. I guess I was a bit naive.

I think the biggest part of the problem here is that most people (including me) really have no idea how vaccines are made and tested, and most people (not including me) have no idea how they work. So when someone comes along to ‘prove’ that vaccines are more harmful than helpful (rather than the other way around, as the truth is), anecdotal evidence wins out over substantial evidence every time because it’s more accessible to the ordinary punter. I say this as someone whose grown up studying other human beings.

[…] Unfortunately, the power of crank journals like IPAK’s resurrected the rotting corpse of Prof. Skidmore’s antivax “study,” and Skidmore was all too willing to let the dark necromancy do its dirty work. On Halloween, Prof. Skidmore’s zombie antivax pseudoscience is back from the grave and ready to party with COVID-19. Worse, it’s already bitten Steve Kirsch, who, infected by the zombie virus of bad science, is no longer content just to promote Prof. Skidmore’s incompetent survey but rather needs to one-up him with an even worse antivax survey. […]

OT but are vast assemblies of anti-vaxxers/ denialists signing free speech declarations ever truly OT at RI?

Martin Kulldorf and other luminaries are involved

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