I’ve noted that, since the pandemic began, an unholy alliance has developed between COVID-19 denialists and conspiracy theorists and antivaccine activists, with antivaxxers eagerly joining the conspiracy theorists claiming that COVID-19 is a “plandemic,” that it’s due to a failed SARS coronavirus vaccine, that it’s due to 5G, that it’s “just a cold,” and just about every other false claim about COVID-19, including that masks don’t work to slow it’s spread. (They do.) So it’s not surprising that the other day I came across a video by the grande dame of the antivaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher, the founder of the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center. Personally, yet another one of my irony meters melted down into a smoldering, zapping pile of plastic, wires, and goo after I read the transcript of the video, Vaccination: What’s Trust Got to Do with It?:
Fisher is correct that the vaccination program does depend on us trusting the the medical profession, the government, and the regulatory apparatus that approve vaccines based on their safety and efficacy, but, being an antivaxxer, that’s obviously not what she’s about. What she’s about is doing her best to gin up more distrust of vaccines, not to assuage any distrust, and to do that by promoting her Fifth International Public Conference on Vaccination that will be broadcast online Oct. 16-18, 2020. How does she frame the issue of a COVID-19 vaccine? Take a guess. It’s just the same way antimaskers and lockdown protesters frame it:
As the National Vaccine Information Center prepares to host the three day, three night Fifth International Public Conference on Vaccination that will be broadcast online Oct. 16-18, 2020, the theme we have chosen is Protecting Health and Autonomy in the 21st Century, because at no time in modern history has it been more important for all of us to take a stand and do just that. This year, the orchestrated actions by governments around the world to restrict or eliminate civil liberties in response to the emergence of a new coronavirus has been unprecedented, and it has had profound effects on the global economy and on the physical, mental and emotional health of billions of people.
It’s a common refrain, that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be used as a pretext to impose mandatory mass vaccination. She also does her best to downplay the severity of the disease:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the overall mortality rate for the new SARS coronavirus causing COVID-19 is about 0.6 percent, 5 although some scientists say it is lower, 6 while others estimate it can be as high as one to two percent in some parts of the world. Compared to Ebola with a 50 percent mortality rate 8or smallpox, at 30 percent; 9 tuberculosis at 20 to 70 percent; 10 diphtheria at 5 to 10 percent; 11 or the 1918 influenza pandemic with a 2.5 percent mortality rate, 12 COVID-19 is near the bottom of the infectious diseases mortality scale with a less one percent mortality rate in most countries.
This is, of course, a misunderstanding, likely intentional, of why the COVID-19 pandemic is so severe. For an infectious disease a death rate that is “only 0.6%” has to be taken in the context of how many people are vulnerable and the law of large numbers. COVID-19 is a disease currently tearing through a population with little or no preexisting immunity to it and that can spread rapidly through the air. Using the 0.6% mortality rate (which might or might not turn out to be accurate), if 100 million are infected we can expect 600,000 to die. If a billion people around the world are infected, 6 million can be expected to die. Large numbers mean that even seemingly small mortality rates can result in a lot of deaths. This also ignores the long term complications of COVID-19, which have left an as yet unknown number of people with debilitating symptoms that impair their quality of life and ability to function.
Last week, the US death toll from COVID-19 passed 200,000 deaths, which brings it into an interesting range. First, it’s now the third leading cause of death in the US for 2020, behind heart disease and cancer. Second, it’s now in a range that you might have heard about on this blog before, between 200,000 and 250,000. Sound familiar? That’s one of the widely cited figures for deaths due to medical error in the US. As I’ve described many times before, it’s a BS figure based on unreasonable extrapolations and too sensitive instruments capturing “error” that often fail to distinguish between expected complications and actual medical errors. It’s also a figure that the same people who are antivaxxers and/or COVID-19 conspiracy theorists love to tout that figure as evidence that medicine kills lots of people. In that context, they certainly don’t consider 200,000 deaths a year to be insignificant or not a big deal. Yet, these same people often do their damnedest to portray 200,000 deaths (and counting) in a single year due to COVID-19 as insignificant, no big deal. One more time, being the third leading cause of death is not “insignificant.” Indeed, a quick perusal of Fisher’s website demonstrates that she certainly doesn’t consider 250,000 deaths supposedly due to medical error (a figure lower than the number of lives that COVID-19 will certainly claim before year’s end) shows that she doesn’t consider such a number of deaths “insignificant.”
Next up on the denial parade:
Those at highest risk for complications and death include the elderly and those with one or more poor health conditions. 13 The CDC recently reported that only six percent of COVID-19-related deaths were solely due to coronavirus infection and 94 percent of the people who died also had influenza or pneumonia; heart, lung or kidney disease; high blood pressure; diabetes, or another underlying poor health condition. 14 Most studies suggest it is rare for children to suffer complications and die from COVID-19.
But seven months after the World Health Organization 16 declared a coronavirus pandemic, 17 and public health officials persuaded lawmakers to turn the world upside down, a lot of people are asking questions and so are doctors who disagree with each other about the facts.
Ah, yes. You can tell that the JAQing off is about to commence. But, first, let’s note that Fisher is parroting what I like to refer to as the “only 6%” gambit, bit of COVID-19 disinformation that deceptively claims that “only 6%” of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 were really due to coronavirus because other conditions were listed on their death certificates, including conditions caused by COVID-19 infection. Next up, she does her best to cast doubt on whether masks work (they do) based on previous statements from early in the pandemic and how long it took the World Health Organization to change its recommendation stating that routine masking wasn’t supported by high quality evidence. Times change, and so does science, though. Now, the evidence has moved the scientific consensus to strongly support the use of masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There’s even been speculation that masks can decrease the severity of illness even when infection occurs. Naturally, Fisher uses this uncertainty to attack mandates and anyone who enforces them.
I don’t really want to dwell that much on Fisher’s specific tactics to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re very much typical of antimaskers and COVID-19 denialists and, I must admit, even a bit restrained compared to the average rhetoric that comes from such people. The reason is that I want to cut to the chase, to get to the purpose behind Fisher’s Gish galloping. Predictably, it’s to sow fear, undertainty, and doubt about vaccines:
While doctors debate the science, it is becoming clearer that the response to the new coronavirus infection by government health officials has been a public relations disaster. The anxiety, fear, and chaos created by regulations instituted by most governments after the declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic in March 2019 has torn the fabric of societies and affected public opinion about public health laws and vaccination.
Now the people are being told that there is one – and only one – simple solution to resolving the crisis and getting back to normal: that is, the only way we can take off our masks and touch, hug, kiss, or come close to each other again is for every person living in every country to get injected with one of the liability-free COVID-19 vaccines being fast tracked to market.
In April, World Health Organization officials at the United Nations launched a global initiative “to end the Covid-19 pandemic, ”proclaiming that, “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” By May, they were warning that if every person in the world doesn’t get injected with a COVID-19 vaccination, the virus “may never go away.”
The World Health Organization, US government and lawmakers in the European Union, along with wealthy and politically powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Gates Foundation, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) have given the pharmaceutical industry tens of billions of dollars to develop and fast track experimental coronavirus vaccines to market and promote their universal use. At the same time, governments have given pharmaceutical companies a liability shield from lawsuits when COVID-19 vaccines injure or kill people.
The hard sell is on, but a lot of people are not buying it.
Notice how Fisher pivots from a statement that is arguably true, namely that the regulations and steps taken to slow the spread of the pandemic by various governments have caused fear and resistance. Much of that fear and resistance has been promoted by the antivaccine movement and antivaccine activists like Fisher, but certainly not all of it. A lot of it has been also caused by fans of various populist leaders and antigovernment protesters. Even so, notice how Fisher is trying to demonize a vaccine that doesn’t yet exist using typical antivaccine tropes about big pharma. True, it is not unreasonable to be concerned about the largesse that’s been showered upon pharmaceutical companies to produce a vaccine, nor is it unreasonable to worry about programs like Operation Warp Speed. Indeed, I myself have expressed concern about wehther Operation Warp Speed will sacrifice safety for speed in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
Again, though, that’s not what Fisher is about here. She’s about using legitimate concerns about COVID-19 vaccine development and using them to promote distrust of all vaccines. She accomplishes this by going on and on and on about resisting the “sales pitch” for any new COVID-19 vaccine and how it’s all about “freedom” and “forced vaccination.” She even cites Steve Salzberg’s post suggesting allowing the approval and use of a COVID-19 before phase 3 testing is done, conveniently forgetting to mention that he later reversed himself and admitted that he’d been mistaken to suggest such a thing.
After recounting various anti-lockdown and anti-mask protests, Fisher finally gets to what she’s really about:
So whether or not you will be punished for refusing to get a COVID-19 shot next year primarily will be determined by your state’s Governor and the representatives who have been elected to make laws in your state Capitol. 140 Depending upon where you live and the political philosophy of the majority of representatives in your state legislature, after the COVID-19 vaccine is licensed by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the CDC for use by all children and adults, 141 if you refuse to get a COVID-19 shot, you could be blocked from: 142
In other words, if you refuse to get a coronavirus vaccination, you could be subjected to the kinds of punitive social sanctions I have been predicting and publicly warned about since 1997, sanctions that are already being applied to Americans who decline to get or give their children dozens of doses of CDC “recommended” liability free vaccines and already are being denied an education, medical care, and employment.
- Being employed and going to work in an office
- Getting and education
- Obtaining a driver’s license or passport
- Boarding a train or other public transportation
- Attending a sports game or concert
- Entering a store, restaurant, bar, coffee shop or nail salon
- Booking an appointment with a doctor
- And you could be prohibited from checking into a hospital for surgery, or visiting a family member in a nursing home, or blocked from obtaining private health insurance and Medicaid or Medicare.
See what I mean? She’s trying to claim that potential draconian measures to ensure that everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19 are akin to what antivaxxers already experience for not vaccinating their children, which is ridiculous. All antivaxxers experience for their refusal is that their children can’t attend school or day care. That’s basically it.
What we get from medical professors in universities receiving lots of money from the government and pharmaceutical companies, and from doctors developing vaccines, and from public health officials pushing “no exceptions” vaccination policies is threats, name-calling, bullying and punishment if we try to exercise informed consent to vaccination.
There is no other word for it but abuse.
They order us to obey them but refuse to take responsibility for what happens when we obey the orders they give. They expect us to trust them and refuse to care about the victims of vaccination when the benefits do not outweigh the risks. Instead, they act to protect the power and profit-making of their business partners: the pharmaceutical industry, medical trade associations, multi-national media corporations and Silicon Valley billionaires, and leave vaccine victims to take care of themselves.
What’s trust got to do with it?
Broken trust has everything to do with why the majority of people in the U.S. and Europe do not want to roll the dice and find out whether the odds of surviving a COVID-19 vaccination are in their favor.
Of course, what Fisher and her fellow antivaxxers are exercising is not “informed consent.” Rather, it is what I like to refer to “misinformed consent,” although more recently I’ve been calling it something that’s more accurate (I think): Misinformed refusal, because that’s what it is, a refusal to vaccinate based on misinformation claiming that vaccines cause autism, autoimmune disease, neurdevelopmental disorders, cancer, and basically more conditions and diseases than I can easily recount, all while not working to prevent infectious disease.
In other words, COVID-19 is nothing more than a convenient tool for Fisher to promote her message of fear mongering about vaccines and playing the persecuted martyr for her refusal. Same as it ever was.