Lessons from COVID-19 for the “vaccine skeptic” community.

13 Mar

Allow me to start with a litmus test, if you will. Many, perhaps most, of you who call yourselves “vaccine skeptics”, or “vaccine risk aware”, or “vaccine safety advocates” are actually anti-vaccine. If my telling you this makes you immediately discount what I’m about to say–you are a coward and you would never face the facts anyway. It takes guts to question your beliefs, and I’ve seen little of that in your community. So feel free to move along.

That said, in the past few years the leaders in your community have been telling you things that are flat out wrong. Lies if you will. (does that make you too uncomfortable to keep reading? Read the above, re: cowardice). Here are a few of those lies:

Diseases can be deadly
The human immune system can not fight off any an all diseases. I’ve heard people like Del Bigtree claim that somehow our immune system is “divinely” endowed or designed, and we should be able withstand diseases. We can debate theology elsewhere. But this is just a lie. People of all faiths have died from diseases throughout history.

People don’t want “natural immunity” at the risk of death
There’s a strange argument that fighting off an actual disease is good for a person. That “natural immunity” (derived from actually being sick) is a good thing, and immunity from vaccines is bad.

Guess what. Most people don’t believe that. Why? Because it’s a lie. But leave out the lie part: the public isn’t with you on this. People want to not risk death in order to get some “natural immunity”.

Better sanitation and alt-med don’t protect
There is a strong alliance between the alternative medical community and the anti-vaccine community. Alt-med practitioners make more money when people are scared of actual medical practitioners.

Let me put it more simply and direct–there is a huge conflict of interest at play here. Alt-med people profit from the fear they produce attacking vaccines. Does that make you too uncomfortable to consider what I’m writing? That’s a sign of cowardice. Sorry to keep hammering this, but all too often I read “Look at so and so calling us anti-vaccine! They are just persecuting us! Don’t consider what they are saying!” Every time I read those comments or blog posts, I just think, “you are such a coward”.

That all said, COVID-19 is killing people across the globe. People in developed countries are dying. People die more often when the medical system is overwhelmed. Which means that actual medicine, not alt-med, is keeping people alive.

Other diseases are deadly too
COVID-19 is causing huge problems in part because it’s new. We are a virgin population without immunity. That’s why the death counts are so high. But other diseases also kill. And they kill in developed countries with good medical care. Example–people die in France from the measles. Yeah, measles kills. We have been lucky here in the US, precisely because vaccines have kept the infection rate down.

While we don’t have the experience of our parents and grandparents, who saw these diseases sweep the country repeatedly in their youth, most of us understand that diseases kill. They maim.

Consider the classic fake risk/reward argument offered by the anti-vaccine community: “vaccines are dangerous! Diseases are not! Natural immunity is good!”.

The public knows you are lying. You may believe this argument, but that just makes it a different kind of lie. That’s what “spreading misinformation” means. It’s a polite way of saying, “they believe this, but they are wrong, and there’s enough evidence to prove them wrong that it’s a lie”.

There isn’t a huge population waiting for you to lead them
In my years watching the anti-vaccine community I’ve often seen the theme that the public secretly accepts their messages.

We don’t.

Look what happens when measles breaks out. The public doesn’t want your message. The public doesn’t want to be led to a world where diseases run free.

The public isn’t ignorant
I often read how the anti-vaccine community thinks that they are educated and the public is ignorant.

The basics of vaccine science are simple. Basic germ theory. Most people get it.

The basics of disease are simple. People suffer and die because of diseases. They die. Just because you may, and your leaders certain do, deny that fact doesn’t make it not true.

And when people forget, there are groups that are willing to give out good, accurate information.

I could go on and on. But here’s the thing–your community is dangerous. Your logic is flawed. Your conclusions are wrong. These aren’t opinions. These are facts.

I’m encouraging you to take stock of your messages and your logic. I doubt you will. I know few of you will read this, and very few would get past the first paragraph. But, please, take a look at the world around you. Question your beliefs.

By Matt Carey

8 Responses to “Lessons from COVID-19 for the “vaccine skeptic” community.”

  1. Broken Link March 13, 2020 at 17:25 #

    You are right, Matt. But I also wonder if the anti-vax community might not be the first in line to get the corona virus vaccine once it is available. So much will depend on the spread and the death rates.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 13, 2020 at 17:27 #

      Sadly, time and again I’ve seen this to not be true.

      How many stories have we seen over the year of, “My kid is really sick but I’ve been told to distrust medical professionals. What should I do?”

      Including those that have ended in the death of a child?

      Far too many. One is far too many, but it happens over and over.

      • doritmi March 13, 2020 at 17:37 #

        I agree with both of you, but unfortunately, it will be a while before we get to test this, because it will be a while before we have any vaccine for them to refuse.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 13, 2020 at 17:43 #

        by the time a vaccine is ready, a few things will have changed.

        Likely most of the population will have been exposed/sickened by the virus. Herd immunity will be in place. It will be like the old days where larger outbreaks happened every few years, as the pool of vulnerable people built up.

        Most of the vulnerable will be children, and the message will get out that “this is just another harmless childhood disease. Vaccines only put off infection until one is older and more at risk”

        And the anti-vaccine community will refuse it.

        Thinking like them is easy.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 13, 2020 at 17:53 #

        the above anti-vaccine logic is clearly faulty.

        First off, not all the vulnerable will be children. So older people, missed by previous outbreaks, will get sick in future outbreaks. Vaccinating children will prevent/reduce this risk.

        Second, we don’t know that children are immune from death and permanent injury. We just know that the death rate so far is lower.

        Third, we don’t know of COVID-19 will mutate into a form that is more dangerous to children.

        Fourth, we don’t know about vulnerable subpopulations of children. We know that the developmentally disable tend to suffer more from many other diseases. Will autistics or people with epilepsy be at risk? I.e. will the anti-vaccine community once again be putting the autism community at greater risk to serve their purposes?

  2. Tom Perry March 26, 2020 at 15:14 #

    According to recent statistics[snip]

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 28, 2020 at 18:04 #

      you won’t learn from current events.

      And you don’t know probability worth a damn


  1. More on the AV Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic – Start Mandatory Vaccine - March 27, 2020

    […] Lessons from COVID-19 for the “vaccine skeptic” community. […]

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