Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is both a blessing and a curse to antivaccine activists. The curse comes from the knowledge that we are unlikely to be able to go back to a truly normal existence until an effective vaccine is developed and that people will be eagerly lining up for that vaccine when it is finally developed. On the other hand, the pandemic is a golden opportunity to gin up conspiracy theories about how Bill Gates, the World Health Organization, the CDC, and, well, just about everyone will use the pandemic as a pretext to institute forced vaccination, not just against COVID-19 whenever a vaccine becomes available, but against every disease for which routine vaccination is recommended, such as measles. Then, of course, there are the conspiracy theories, some quite ridiculous, that seek a way to blame vaccines themselves for the pandemic. Meanwhile, it amuses me to see antivaxxers fall all over themselves to tout an unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine, as the “cure” for COVID-19. They routinely falsely complain that vaccines are inadequately tested for safety and efficacy; yet now they’re willing to promote a pharmaceutical drug with very real and very significant side effects as a treatment for COVID-19, even though there is, in essence, no good evidence that it works? Of course, if I want a hot take that’s among the dumbest of the hot takes, there is one question I always ask: Has Levi Quackenboss chimed in about the pandemic yet? I think you know the answer to that one.
Now that Levi Quackenboss has gone to a Patreon model of antivaccine grift, I haven’t paid nearly as much attention to her because her public posts that can be accessed without a membership have been much fewer in number. However, she did grace us with a couple of doozies over the last few weeks, including one last night, entitled Seven Silver Linings of the Pandemic. Let’s just say that Ms. Quackenboss’ talent for antivaccine conspiracy mongering is undiminished during the pandemic. First, I can’t help but note her privilege, which is a hallmark of many in the antivaccine “intelligentsia”:
Then homeschooling and homebirth came to the masses; both significant sub-movements of the health freedom and parental rights movement. As long as one has money to put food on the table, it’s lovely being home in the evening to go on a sunset walk and read books to your kids and tuck them into bed.
Yes, it is nice to have enough money to be able to shelter in place during the pandemic. I understand that too, as someone who can do the same for now. True, I still physically have to go to work two or at most three days a week because of clinical responsibilities, but because of the pandemic our patient load of non-COVID-19 patients has plummeted and all non-urgent surgeries have been postponed for at least several weeks until—hopefully—sometime after the surge in cases crests in the hospital where I operate I can work at home most days. Granted, that causes its own problems. My lab is shut down, and I have a grant deadline in early June. The shutdown means, unfortunately, that I can’t generate needed preliminary data to support the grant application, which makes me wonder if I will be able to submit this cycle. My problems (and Quackenboss’ problems, likely) pale in comparison to healthcare workers risking infection every day to take care of huge numbers of patients and of low paid grocery store and other “essential” workers also risking themselves, sometimes without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Oddly enough, I volunteered to help take care of COVID-19 patients at one of the hospitals where I have privileges but have heard nothing back in nearly a week, which tells me that either things haven’t gotten that bad yet at my hospital or my skills are less in demand that I had expected.
But I digress.
Quackenboss is, unsurprisingly, gloating in silver lining #1:
This massive pandemic win is only in the beginning stages of unfolding this week and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Today the President announced that the U.S. would be withholding funding from the W.H.O. because not only did their incompetence bungle the initial response to COVID-19, but they assisted China in covering it up while inexplicably praising China’s actions and alleged “transparency.”
Senator Graham echoed the same defunding message this afternoon and assured Americans that there would be no W.H.O. funding in the next Appropriations Committee hearing. Last year the U.S. gave a total of $500M to the W.H.O., so this is no small potatoes.
For those of you who don’t know, leading up to 2017, the Gates Foundation and China rallied hard for an Ethiopian warlord named Tedros Adhanom to become the W.H.O. Director despite his crimes against humanity, and despite the fact he is not a medical doctor. He defers completely to China, going so far as nominating a fellow Zimbabwean warlord as a Goodwill Ambassador to the W.H.O. at China’s request, because the guy allowed China to rape Zimbabwe of its natural resources with impunity. Here is an absolutely outstanding roundup of this madman’s resume.
Yesterday a few U.S. Senators began calling for the W.H.O. Director’s resignation, and tonight there is a republican resolution for defunding the W.H.O. until he resigns. The brightest part of this event isn’t whether or not we are directly impacted by any decisions of the W.H.O. Director, but more so that that our fellow Americans have had their dreams shattered and realized that the W.H.O. is not an unbiased nearly-Godly public health entity doing what’s best for all of mankind.
Far be it from me not to criticize the WHO. I’ve criticized it in particular for its credulous embrace of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its revision of the International Classification of Diseases so that its latest version, ICD-11 including diagnosis codes for TCM and other Asian traditional medicines while actively promoting the “integration” of TCM with science-based medicine. And, yes, a lot of the reason WHO is promoting and normalizing TCM quackery is because China has such a huge influence in the organization.
There are, of course, legitimate criticisms of the WHO’s initial response to the pandemic. For instance, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is not an MD, but was a well-regarded microbiologist and malaria researcher, and his Wikipedia entry suggests a distinguished career in public health before he became Ethiopia’s foreign minister. Still, it is true that Tedros did praise China early on in the pandemic. As noted in this Rolling Stone article, Tedros traveled to Beijing and has heaped effusive praise on China’s response to the pandemic even though its leaders didn’t turn over data right away and delayed sharing samples of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, it’s a balancing act. China is very powerful, and its cooperation was essential to having any chance of mitigating the impact of COVID-19. Also, WHO has systemic problems; no one denies that. As the Rolling Stone article notes, problems are rooted in a conflict between its overall mission to serve the world’s public health needs and the political realities that are inseparable from= how the organization is funded, with its funding coming from 194 UN member states and other outside entities who control how the vast majority of WHO’s resources are allocated. Its budget is also small compared to its mandate, with a two-year budget for 2020-2021 of $4.8 billion, compared to the CDC’s 2021 budget of $7 billion.
Of course, Quackenboss, like all antivaxxers, hates the WHO because it promotes vaccination, as it should, to improve the health of the world’s children. Its polio eradication efforts come under special scrutiny, and when the WHO held a vaccine safety summit last December, by January antivaccine propagandist Del Bigtree had assembled a video of carefully cherry-picked outtakes from a two-day conference that were edited to make it look as though leading WHO scientists were casting grave doubt on vaccine safety. They weren’t. Bigtree’s video was, as is the case of all his videos, deceptive propaganda.
Could the WHO have done better? Of course. However, threatening to defund it during the middle of a global pandemic is madness.
Let’s move on to #2, wherein Quackenboss attacks—surprise! surprise!—Dr. Anthony Fauci:
This little thug has multi-million-dollar conflicts of interest at the N.I.H. and he’s telling us that there will be no picking up and continuing on until his new vaccine hits the market. Do you have any idea how much money he’s commanded from taxpayers? For SARS, for MERS, for ebola, for zika. Thirty years to make an AIDS vaccine that doesn’t exist. How is this guy still employed?
Have you ever looked at his Wikipedia? You know how it is when you’ve needed to write your resume and you’re like, “Damn, how do I make myself look like I’ve accomplished something when really I’ve been treading water for years, praying not to get fired?” That’s Anthony Fauci’s Wikipedia. He’s made “important scientific observations,” and he’s “contributed to some understandings,” he’s “outlined some mechanisms,” he “developed some strategies.” I’m not making this up. He has never produced one FDA-licensed vaccine for any of the billions of dollars he’s demanded from Congress.
He facilitates pharmaceutical money laundering, that’s what he does.
The masses have watched day after day as he’s refused to endorse a 30-cent potential cure for COVID-19 and Americans have had enough. He’s standing by and letting people die while the world waits, and waits, and waits for his vaccine.
Remember what I said about the irony of antivaxxers pushing hydroxychloroquine as the “solution” to the pandemic? That’s exactly what Quackenboss is doing here with her reference to a “30-cent potential cure.” As I’ve discussed before, the weak evidence supporting chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for COVID-19 is rooted in anecdotes and “case series” that are really just doctors’ bias-filled recollections, two execrable studies from France, and two small randomized trials from China, one negative and one positive but so flawed as to call its results into serious doubt. It is indeed amusing to see someone like Quackenboss, for whom no study is rigorous enough to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of vaccines, touting hydroxychloroquine, a drug with significant toxicities, as a “potential cure for COVID-19.”
As for her attack, it is also rich to see a pseudonymous antivaxxer with no qualifications denigrate the resume of a scientist like Dr. Fauci. Truly these people have no sense of irony. (Quackenboss is the ‘nym for Robyn Ross, an attorney in Colorado whose sole medical qualification is a bachelor’s degree in biology.)
But Dunning-Kruger never stopped an antivaxxer:
3. Infants are missing vaccination appointments and SIDS rates are dropping.
Not every infant, don’t get me wrong. Pediatricians are doing a full court press begging new parents to keep their “well baby” appointments as an essential reason to leave the houses. Do you remember what it was like to have a two-month-old in your house? Would you have taken your precious baby to a doctor during a pandemic? Me neither.
Some will, some won’t, but here are the facts: 3,500 babies die of SIDS each year. That’s almost 10 babies lost per day, every day of the week. If half of all new American parents skip the two or four-month vaccination appointment from March 15 to May 1, that’s 221 babies who don’t die in those 45 days. If more than half skip, that’s more babies who don’t die. If all parents skip, it’s 442 babies saved in six weeks.
Do you know who tracks this data? The CDC. They have it all. There’s a federal form that even asks pathologists about which vaccines were given to the child in the last 72 hours before death.
Notice that Quackenboss doesn’t present any…oh, you know…data that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rates are dropping. She only speculates that it will and fantasizes about Freedom of Information Act requests for that data or a new “CDC whistleblower” in the future while making an even more risible prediction:
Or maybe the CDC will publish a study on how asymptomatic infant coronavirus prevented SIDS in the spring of 2020?
Also, if SIDS rates drop during this period (unlikely, but possible), that doesn’t mean it must be the vaccines. So many other things are going on right now that would be confounders. Of course, even if Quackenboss’ fantasy came true and there was a detectable decline in SIDS cases, I predict that she would attack any attempt to control for confounders as a coverup. For instance, it is known that SIDS rates are higher in the winter than the summer; so we would expect a decline in overall SIDS incidence going from March to June anyway, although seasonal variation has been declining since back sleeping recommendations were issued. Finally, I can’t help but wonder what she would say if SIDS rates actually increase.
We’ve all seen Paul Offit, Ian Lipkin, Peter Hotez, and finally Anthony Fauci himself warning the public about the “paradoxical immune enhancement” caused by an early version of the coronavirus vaccine, which is a common reaction with respiratory virus vaccines. It means that if the vaccinated person encounters the virus in the wild, they get far sicker than average, and die. Who the hell wants that vaccine?
Even before Fauci admitted the risk on live television the other day, an LX/Morning Consult poll found that only 30% of American adults would “be among the first” to get this new vaccine for a disease that is asymptomatic in children.
But here’s our prize: fully ten percent of poll responders said they would not get the vaccine at all. Wait, what? They’re all OK with vaccinating babies but the buck stops with vaccinating themselves?
Stop and think about all 220 million adults in the US. Take 10% of them. Now add them to the health freedom movement. Holla! If we can crack their brains open on their rights to refuse one vaccine, we’ve got them for life. Your legislators can bring it.
Immune enhancement is actually one reason why developing a COVID-19 vaccine could take longer than the 18 month time frame that many are predicting, and does Quackenboss actually think that real scientists (as opposed to an antivax attorney with an undergraduate biology degree) don’t think of this issue and aren’t working very hard to over come it? Meanwhile just look at the glee with which she anticipates how any vaccine adverse reactions in the form of immune enhancement will be a boon to the antivaccine movement. Truly the antivaccine religion is a death cult.
Next up, an attack on the Gates Foundation:
We all know that science has been for sale for decades, but this revelation couldn’t have come at a better time. The Gates Foundation is conducting a study on people sickened with COVID-19, to see whether hydroxychloroquine, the darling of the pandemic, is more effective than a placebo at saving lives. But guess what the placebo is? It’s vitamin C, which is, in itself, has been a successful COVID-19 treatment! Gates has all of his eggs in the vaccine basket, naturally, and is attempting to defeat hydroxychloroquine in the media, so stay tuned for the results of his study to be released in a few weeks or months.
You may think we’re the only ones outraged by controlled studies using anything but an inert placebo, but people were losing their minds over it on Twitter last night. The masses are waking! You don’t have to be an “anti-vaxxer” to know that vitamin C has serious health benefits.
I will admit to being puzzled at the choice of vitamin C as a placebo, which I verified by going to the original article. (I never trust anything Quackenboss says without verifying it.) For one thing, there is no good evidence that vitamin C treats or prevents COVID-19, and even the vitamin C cultists who claim that vitamin C can treat cancer and all manner of ailments don’t claim that taking a normal daily dose that is found in many supplements is enough. They claim that high dose intravenous vitamin C is necessary. I couldn’t find the reason why vitamin C was chosen as placebo, but it’s not an unreasonable choice given that there is no known activity of vitamin C versus COVID-19, particularly at the dose of 250 mg and 500 mg per day used. Personally, if I were designing a trial, it’s not a choice I would have made for the placebo control, but it’s hardly “tobacco science.”
Next up, here’s some New World Order conspiracy mongering:
Surely you’ve seen this outrageous Bill Gates idea being parroted in our Congress: people are supposed to IgG test for past COVID-19 infections, and then obtain “certificates of immunity” or “immunity badges” before being allowed to return to work “with confidence.” All of this is being done by pharma in the hopes of finally setting up that adult vaccine tracking database they’ve wanted for years. What could possibly go wrong in a country like ours with this idea?
I guess we’re lucky they aren’t going with Bill’s idea of implanting microchips into our retinas or whatever gets that creeper excited in times like these.
Of course, while America waits for a vaccine that most people don’t really want, this unacceptable idea would give rise to an immunity caste that is allowed to return to work and feed their families while everyone else begs on the streets. And, of course, it will lead to massive “corona parties” where people hope for intentional exposure so that they can get it over with and get back to life. Of course, this will kill the elderly, the immune compromised, and everyone on blood pressure meds.
Because such certificates, if they were ever instituted, are exactly like implanting microchips and mass surveillance. As for speculation about “coronavirus parties,” only an antivaxxer would think that other people who aren’t antivaccine would think of such a thing.
Finally, vaccine mandates are an insidious plot to eliminate the “healthy control group”:
How often have we said that states like California and New York have eliminated exemptions in attempt to eliminate our healthy control group from society? A parallel story is playing out in Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and even in Sweden and Belarus. They have refused to lock down, not that most people aren’t taking the virus seriously. The seriousness of the situation isn’t the issue; stripping people of their freedoms is the issue.
But the “control group” is why you see the media screaming about how the center of America isn’t threatening their citizens enough. It started with Bill Gates a few days ago, and was quickly picked up by his minions.
They want a federal lockdown because God forbid we look back on this situation in a year and say, “Hmmm. Apparently, looking at the data from Arkansas, locking down the whole planet was utterly unnecessary.” Do you know how unhinged Americans are going to become when they realize their jobs and small businesses were destroyed for no reason?
First off, there is no evidence that the unvaccinated are healthier. Indeed, what evidence that exists suggests, although it is not conclusive, quite the opposite, that vaccinated children are healthier. The worst that can be said is that vaccinated children are most definitely not detectably less healthy than unvaccinated children in terms of chronic illness and that the vaccinated have the advantage of suffering from much less infectious disease, such as measles, which can cause long-lasting damage to the immune system. In her usual delusional way, Quackenboss actually thinks that her “healthy control group” of unvaccinated people will be more resistant to COVID-19 and less prone to severe illness and death.
As for the states that refused until recently to institute shelter-in-place orders, we will soon find out how they do. I suspect that it will be poorly, although not as poorly as some more densely populated areas, because population density facilitates the spread of viral illnesses due to the closer proximity and more frequent interactions with a wider variety of people that are the norm in cities and densely populated suburbs. Yes, to Quackenboss it must be all about the vaccines when it comes to why COVID-19 hasn’t spread widely in the “center of the country” yet, instead of numerous other more likely factors.
Then, in the future, when we go before committee hearings and argue that eliminating exemptions eliminates the control group to prove that we are right, we’re going to have a beautiful, relatable, metaphor to do it with.
No, Quackenboss and her fellow antivaxxers, if they try to use that line, will have a delusional, pseudoscientific story for scientists to laugh at.