(Orac note 1/31/2021: Please see the Addendum to this post, with Dr. Noorchashm’s response to my post and some updates. In brief, Dr. Noorchashm states that he did not give Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. permission to republish his post and open letter to the FDA, which should be kept in mind as you read this post.)
On Monday, I discussed some of the efforts by antivaxxers to try to undermine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, noting how they were continuing apace. As I put it at the time, every pre-pandemic antivaccine trope in the book had already been picked up, dusted off, and recycled for use with COVID-19, including lies claiming that the vaccine renders females infertile, permanently alters your DNA, causes autoimmune disease, or even kills. Even though it occurs to me that, given the torrent of disinformation about vaccines being spread by the antivaccine movement about not just the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, but all COVID-19 vaccines being developed and tested, I could easily turn this blog into nothing but posted entitled Antivaxxers’ efforts to undermine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines continue apace, parts 1 through infinity, I thought it worthwhile to followup on Monday’s post with a new example that I’ve come across. Besides, I have a long-running series entitled The annals of “I’m not antivaccine” that’s already up to part 27, but part 1 dates back to 2010. I fear I could get up to part 27 of this new series before summer if I’m not cars. But first, let’s meet Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, who is, inadvertently providing the antivaccine movement with a major new talking point.
Dr. Hooman Noorchashm: Duped by RFK Jr.?
I begin, as is often the case, with antivax leader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., his own wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Children’s Health Defense, and its antivaccine publication The Defender. Here, RFK Jr. pulls the appeal to authority play, entitling his article, Cardiothoracic Surgeon Warns FDA, Pfizer on Immunological Danger of COVID Vaccines in Recently Convalescent and Asymptomatic Carriers. I must admit that I had never before heard of the cardiothoracic surgeon who wrote the article, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm. The Children’s Health Defense website describes him thusly:
Hooman Noorchashm MD, Ph.D. is a physician-scientist. He is an advocate for ethics, patient safety and women’s health. He and his 6 children live in Pennsylvania.
It turns out that this is the only article by him published on the Children’s Health Defense’s The Defender. This led me to ask: Is Dr. Noorchashm an antivaxxer, or is he someone with some potentially legitimate concerns about COVID-19 vaccines who’s been duped into publishing on The Defender? In other words, is he antivax himself, or has he been duped by the antivaccine movement? An alternative explanation is that RFK Jr. republished his post without his permission, but given that there is now a section on the Children’s Health Defense website with his name and a brief bio I rather suspect that he gave RFK Jr. permission to republish. [Note that in the addendum, Dr. Noorchashm states that he did not give RFK Jr. permission to republish his post, which makes RFK Jr.’s creation of an author page for Dr. Noorchashm appear even more dishonest. Mea culpa for being too quick to assume that Dr. Noorchashm had given him permission.]
Whatever the case, Dr. Noorchashm’s Twitter feed is worrisome. On the one hand, I find this:
But then I found this as well:
I wrote about Hank Aaron and his death 16 days after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine a few days ago. His tragic death at age 86 was almost certainly an example of the sorts of coincidental events that I had warned about, the ones that I predicted antivaxxers would weaponize, as they did the deaths of nursing home patients in Norway. Seeing Dr. Noorchashm using Hank Aaron’s death in exactly the same way that antivaxxers have been using it, to blame a COVID-19 vaccine in the absence of evidence of causation, for the death of an elderly man, is not a good look for someone who is “not antivaccine.” At the very least, he is doing the same thing with this anecdote that antivaxxers have done, used it to support causation when it is not at all clear that there is causation.
Going back to read his article linked to in the first Tweet, I see that it’s basically the same argument he makes in his Defender article. In fact, his Medium article is the very same article and open letter as the one published on The Defender. Oops! Reading Dr. Noorchashm’s background, publication record, and posts on social media, I’m leaning towards his having been duped, based on this statement:
I want to be very clear that I am an ardent supporter of President Biden’s plan to vaccinate 150 Million Americans in 100 days. And that my letter is not to be abused by political, uninformed or conspiratorial forces attempting to dissuade the American public from being vaccinated. I do believe that it is the patriotic duty of every American who can reasonably and safely be vaccinated, to do so — in order that we save our nation from this pandemic peril that is threatening our very existence.
Funny how Dr. Noorchashm included a disclaimer in the introduction to his open letter stating that he doesn’t want his concerns expressed in his letter to be “abused by political, uninformed or conspiratorial forces attempting to dissuade the American public from being vaccinated” but has done nothing about one of the most prominent antivaxxers of all, RFK Jr., having done exactly that. Dr. Noorchashm has just earned the not-so-coveted Godzilla facepalm:
Let’s move on to look at Dr. Noorchashm’s concerns. Is there anything behind them? If there is, he hasn’t made a good case.
Is it dangerous to vaccinate those who have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2?
Dr. Noorchashm’s main concern seems to be that those who have previously been exposed to COVID-19 (and have pre-existing antibodies), who’ve had COVID-19, or who might have asymptomatic COVID-19 at the time of vaccination will have particularly severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccination. It’s not an entirely unreasonable fear, but it’s a fear for which even he admits there is no evidence, instead referring to his concern as a “prognostication”:
I want to be clear to be clear that my warning here is based on a near definitive scientific Immunological prognostication. It is a “prognostication” in that I have put it forth in the absence of clear “evidence” of it being a material risk.This is because we are dealing with an evolving 11-month old national health emergency with many unknowns, and a vaccine that is only several weeks old — and was approved for massive scale use on the Emergency basis. And, in a setting where it is critical to quickly vaccinate as many citizens as possible to achieve herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2.
What’s with the scare quotes around “prognostication” and “evidence”? It’s almost as though Dr. Noorchashm is being sarcastic about the terms, as though he doesn’t accept the current very persuasive evidence for the safety and efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines against COVID-19, even in patients who have pre-existing antibodies.
My puzzlement at Dr. Noorchashm’s strange phrasing aside, I would argue that existing data from the 70,000+ people in the Moderna and Pfizer clinical trials, plus the data regarding the millions vaccinated with these two vaccines thus far strongly support the safety and efficacy of these two vaccines and have not as yet raised any major red flags regarding Dr. Noorchashm’s concerns. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with him bringing up such concerns—but in the appropriate forum, such as the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Unfortunately, by letting his name and reputation be cited in such a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine villainy as Robert F. Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense, he is (most likely inadvertently) contributing to spreading fear about COVID-19 vaccines in the middle of a pandemic that’s killed well north of 400,000 people thus far in the US alone. In case Dr. Noorchashm ever sees this post, I will conclude this article with a description of RFK Jr.’s long history of antivaccine propaganda.
Before I get to that, let’s look at Dr. Noorchashm’s article. First, let’s see how RFK Jr. chooses to introduce it:
In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer and the press, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm warns of an “almost certain immunological prognotication that if viral antigens are present in the tissues of subjects who undergo vaccination, the antigen specific immune response triggered by the vaccine will target those tissues and cause tissue inflammation and damage.”
Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-scientist and advocate for ethics, patient safety and women’s health. He specializes in cardiothoracic surgery and has taught and practiced medicine for nearly two decades.
“Dr. Noorchashm’s prognostications of harm in elderly individuals with cardiovascular disease coincides with the numerous reports of unexplained cardiovascular deaths following COVID-19 vaccination in Norway, Germany, the UK, Gibraltar and the U.S.,” said Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, director and president emerita of Children’s Health Defense.
Redwood noted that J. Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D., sent similar concerns to the FDA on Dec. 8, 2020.
Note that Lyn Redwood is every bit as antivaccine as RFK Jr. and I’ve been mentioning her antivaccine activism dating back to at least 2007, when she was associated with the antivaccine group Safeminds. Note how RFK Jr. and she frame the open letter. This is clearly going to be a new antivaccine talking point about COVID-19 vaccines going forward, and Dr. Noorchashm has cluelessly given antivaxxers scientific cover for it, his disclaimer about not wanting to see his letter misused by ideologues notwithstanding.
Now, on to Dr. Noorchashm’s concerns:
As you also know it appears that the ACE-2 receptor on endothelium is the portal for viral entry into endothelial cells — and it seems that endothelial injury from the virus or from the inflammatory reaction it incites, is the reason why many COVID-19 patients experience thromboembolic complications.
So it is a matter of certainty that viral antigens are present in the endothelial lining of blood vessels in all persons with active or recent SARS-CoV-2 infection — irrespective of whether they are symptomatic or convalescent.
I am writing to warn that it is an almost certain immunological prognotication that if viral antigens are present in the tissues of subjects who undergo vaccination, the antigen specific immune response triggered by the vaccine will target those tissues and cause tissue inflammation and damage.
Most pertinently, when viral antigens are present in the vascular endothelium, and especially in elderly and frail with cardiovascular disease, the antigen specific immune response incited by the vaccine is almost certain to do damage to the vascular endothelium. Such vaccine directed endothelial inflammation is certain to cause blood clot formation with the potential for major thromboembolic complications, at least in a subset of such patients. If a majority of younger more robust patients might tolerate such vascular injury from a vaccine immune response, many elderly and frail patients with cardiovascular disease will not.
Basically, Dr. Noorchashm is expressing concern about a simple observation. The SARS-CoV-2 viral spike protein is the protein used in the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines as the antigen to develop an immune response. This protein is also the viral protein that binds to the ACE-2 receptor on cells to allow the virus to gain entry to cells. The ACE-2 receptor is a very important protein that is located on the surface of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels; so naturally in the case of COVID-19 infection one would expect the spike protein to be found in vascular endothelial cells in patients with COVID-19.
What Dr. Noorchashm is describing is a theoretical issue. It’s not an entirely unreasonable concern, given that it is believed that part of the pathophysiology of severe, life-threatening COVID-19 disease is an immune response that attacks blood vessels, but how much of an issue is it really, and does Dr. Noorchashm really think that the FDA, the companies that developed the spike protein-based COVID-19 vaccines, and the regulators charged with issuing the emergency use approval (EUA) for the vaccines and for monitoring their safety haven’t thought of this issue before? (Indeed, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—ACIP—did explicitly consider this concern.) Moreover, before these vaccines were developed, one major concern was something called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of disease, a condition when insufficient antibody titers trigger enhancement of disease. Basically, in ADE, vaccine-induced non-neutralizing or weakly neutralizing antibodies bind to newly infecting virus to promote enhanced virus uptake into host cells. Fortunately, this appears not to be an issue with COVID-19 vaccines.
Here’s the thing. As I’ve discussed before, it will take epidemiology to differentiate increases in various conditions after vaccination against COVID-19 from the baseline rate of such conditions in the populations studied. For example, the deaths of nursing home patients in Norway I discussed earlier this week were not associated with a detectable increase in the baseline rate of 400 deaths/week in that particular population, meaning that they were almost certainly coincidental to the vaccine, as elderly patients in nursing homes will, unfortunately, die at a fairly high frequency (certainly compared to that of young, healthy people). That’s why, out of an abundance of caution, health authorities in Norway tweaked, but did not radically alter their recommendations for vaccination of elderly nursing home patients against COVID-19.
Again, I don’t have a problem with Dr. Noorchashm writing a letter of concern to the FDA. I do have a problem with him continuing to allow his message to be weaponized by RFK Jr. I also have a problem with him pointing to anecdotes that do not show causation to support his concerns without adding this sort of nuance.
Dr. Noorchashm’s whole idea is that we should “screen” before vaccinating against COVID-19; specifically, that anyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should have a blood test to look for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 that could indicate previous infection or ongoing asymptomatic infection. In another post, he suggests:
It is critical that the elderly, the infirm and any persons with cardiovascular disease be screened with at least one, preferably two (as described above), of these assays immediately prior to vaccination— in order to maximally mitigate against the possibility of activating a dangerous inflammatory response. Here is a step-by-step roadmap on how to safely proceed based on the obtained results:
If you fall in Category 3 or 4, you may have symptomatic COVID-19 disease or be asymptomatic. Proceed as follows: A) If you are asymptomatic: Repeat your PCR/Rapid test in 6–8 months. If negative, proceed with vaccination. B) If you have symptomatic COVID-19 disease: Repeat your Antibody test following convalescence and if positive, you are highly likely to be immune. This is the expected finding in the vast majority of people who’ve had previous COVID-19 disease. In this case, you may either choose to forgo vaccination, or you may receive the vaccine. If you choose to be vaccinated, repeat the PCR/Rapid Test immediately prior to vaccination and proceed if negative. The overall concept is that if you are a carrier of the virus, either by PCR or the Rapid test, you are safest delaying your vaccination by 6–8 months — in such a case, if you developed symptomatic disease, and are Antibody positive, you may also consider forgoing vaccination, because you have natural immunity. With asymptomatic infection, even if the Antibody test turns positive, it is safest to consider getting the vaccine. The basic premise being that symptomatic natural infection, while not the preferable way to achieve immunity, is itself a very powerful way to develop immunity.
- Antibody Test Negative, PCR/Rapid Test Negative: Viral antigens are unlikely to be present in your body. Proceed with Vaccination ASAP.
- Antibody Test Positive, PCR/Rapid Test Negative: It is highly likely that you were exposed to the virus and may have viral proteins present in your tissues. You may be immune to the virus already. Delay Vaccination by 6–8 months and repeat PCR/Rapid Test immediately prior to vaccination at that time.
- Antibody Test Negative, PCR/Rapid Test Positive: You are carrier of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. DO NOT PROCEED WITH VACCINATION. Delay vaccination by 6–8 months and repeat PCR/Rapid Test immediately prior to vaccination at that time.
- Antibody Test Positive, PCR/Rapid Test Positive: You are a carrier of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and have already mounted an immune response against it. DO NOT PROCEED WITH VACCINATION. Delay vaccination by 6–8 months and repeat PCR/Rapid Test immediately prior to vaccination at that time.
And then in his letter, he states:
Therefore, it is my respectful request that FDA, in collaboration with Pfizer and Moderna, immediately and at the very minimum, institute clear recommendations to clinicians that they delay immunization in any recently convalescent patients, as well as, any known symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers — and to actively screen as many patients with high cardiovascular risk as is reasonably possible, in order to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, prior to vaccinating them.
A potential reasonable solution, especially in the nursing home setting, would be to use antibody screening as a surrogate means of excluding/delaying vaccination in persons who might have been exposed to the virus and have viral antigens lingering in their tissues.
Dr. Noorchashm even concludes:
I ask that you carefully and wisely consider my immunological prognostication and warning here — FDA, Pfizer and Moderna ought not miss this risk of harm to what is a daily increasing proportion of the population during this ongoing pandemic. Vaccinating patients with occult SARS-CoV-2 infections or lingering viral antigens, is a clear and present potential danger to the health of these patients.
But is it? Is it really? Again, even Dr. Noorchashm admits that he currently has no evidence that people who’ve had COVID-19 before, either an asymptomatic case or a case from which they’ve recovered, are having serious adverse events (SAEs) up to and including death after COVID-19 vaccination above the expected baseline rate in the relevant populations for such health problems. Instead, he keeps referring to his prediction as an ““almost certain immunological prognostication” or a “near definitive scientific Immunological prognostication” (capital letter included) in order to make his prediction sound way more certain than it really is. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking and looking for indications in the adverse events data after the rollout of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for a hint of an association between vaccination and death or serious illness, and I haven’t been finding any.
Meanwhile, other immunologists have been stating repeatedly that people who have had COVID-19 before should be vaccinated against it. Among the reasons these experts give is the variability in the level of neutralizing antibodies produced by different people after infection, ranging from low levels that don’t prevent reinfection to high levels that do. In brief, the vaccine “levels out” the variability in people’s immune responses.
Moreover, what Dr. Noorchashm proposes is not simple or cheap:
Sette says it’s a “reasonable argument” to suggest that maybe people who have had Covid-19 shouldn’t be prioritized to get the vaccine, should the stock of it remain limited over the long term. But in practice, that argument could become problematic.
For one: “It’s too difficult to operationalize pre-vaccination testing,” Peter Hotez, vaccine expert and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, says in an email. It would be tedious work to determine who might be immune to SARS-CoV-2 before vaccination. It could be tedious work to determine who has been infected prior to vaccination as well.
Plus, again, the information resulting from such tests may not be all that useful in determining a person’s lasting immunity.
In fairness, what Dr. Noorchashm is arguing is not that testing everyone (or at least the old and infirm) for COVID-19 virus and antibodies before vaccinating against COVID-19 will determine who is and isn’t immune beforehand but rather that it will somehow make vaccination safer by preventing horrendous immune reactions that destroy blood vessels and cause sudden cardiovascular death in people who have preexisting COVID-19 antibodies or an asymptomatic infection.
So why not do this testing anyway, out of an abundance of caution? The answer is relatively simple. First, it would, as Dr. Hotez points out, it would be tedious. Just as importantly, it would be expensive and add an enormous cost and delay to an already very costly vaccination effort, all while slowing it down. Just think of how much longer it would take to get people vaccinated if all of them (or even just a substantial portion of them) had to be tested by nasal swab and blood test for COVID-19 and for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, respectively, before receiving the vaccination. In the middle of a pandemic whose death count in the US alone has been predicted to hit a half a million people well before the end of February, slowing down the vaccination effort could kill who knows how many thousands of people who might not die if they can be vaccinated sooner. Such a strategy might be justifiable if we had good reason to suspect that not doing the testing would result in the deaths of as many or more people, but not even Dr. Noorchashm can present good evidence that simply vaccinating people without testing them for COVID-19 first would result in anywhere near that many deaths—or even any deaths or SAEs at all! He has a theoretical concern and anecdotes, and that’s it.
Moreover, I would be willing to bet that Dr. Noorchashm doesn’t realize that he’s echoing a very old antivaccine trope. Antivaxxers love to claim that we should “vaccinate selectively” based on pre-vaccination testing. For example, antivaxxers will often claim that we should test children for measles titers before administering the second and third MMR dose. Others come up with all sorts of fanciful tests not based in science, including genomic tests, to “predict” who will be most at risk for “vaccine injury.” I don’t expect Dr. Noorchashm to be aware of this history, but I am aware of it, which is why I noticed right away why antivaxxers are starting to notice his #ScreenB4Vaccine hashtag:
Although, in fairness, not all antivaxxers are on board with Dr. Noorchashm’s recommendations because of this:
Basically, whether he realizes it or not, Dr. Noorchashm is feeding the antivaccine movement a talking point.
Dr. Noorchashm should not let his name and message be co-opted by antivaxxers
Readers might think that I was harsh when I asked whether Dr. Noorchashm is antivax or is being used by the antivaccine movement. While I don’t doubt that Dr. Noorchashm really does believe in the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination program as a very important part of the pathway out of this pandemic, I do see him using his pet hypothesis and anecdotes like that of Hank Aaron to promote a “solution” to a “problem” for which there is as yet no compelling scientific evidence. (See? I can use scare quotes too.)
Dr. Noorchashm notes:
Additionally, if the immunological risk I am prognosticating herein is in reality material, over the next months as millions more Americans are immunized, it will become quite visible to the public.
Here’s a retort. According to statistics updated today, over 87 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in 60 countries. In the US, 27.3 million doses have been distributed thus far since December 14, 2020. Currently, around 1.26 million doses per day are being administered in the US alone. Worldwide, the number is almost 4.2 million doses per day. That’s a hell of a lot of vaccines. If Dr. Noorchashm’s concern about an immune reaction against the vasculature in people who’ve had (or who have) COVID-19 who are vaccinated were significant, particularly if it were as big a concern as he’s arguing, we’d very likely have seen a signal for this problem by now in the safety data. We have not. I predict that we most likely will not.
As for Dr. Noorchashm, I’d like to remind him that, if he were really as provaccine as he claims, he would never in any way let his name or message be used by an antivaxxer like RFK Jr., as being associated with someone like RFK Jr. is utter poison to the reputation of anyone who purports to be pro-science—and rightly so. While it is true that RFK Jr. loves to claim to be “fiercely pro-vaccine,” he has consistently demonstrated himself to be, in reality, anything but. Indeed, he is “fiercely” antivaccine, as demonstrated by his history of 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, last year his own family 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 antimask, “anti-lockdown,” and pro-quack treatments. Seriously, this is not the sort of person you want to associate with if you truly don’t want your message to be used by antivaxxers.
I hope that, should Dr. Noorchashm see this post, he will realize that he is unwittingly allowing his name, scientific reputation, and message to be used by one of the most prominent antivaxxers in the world to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about COVID-19 vaccines. The least he can do is to admit his mistake and publicly demand that RFK Jr. remove his open letter from The Defender‘s website. Dr. Noorchashm should think of it this way. RFK Jr. undoubtedly thought that using his concerns about COVID-19 vaccination in people who have (or have had) the disease was a propaganda victory for Children’s Health Defense. If Dr. Noorchashm were to publicly renounce that use of his open letter to the FDA, that would “flip the script” and turn it into a messaging victory for pro-vaccine advocates, as RFK Jr. would be revealed to have deceptively appropriated his post and name to spread his antivaccine message.
Isn’t that something someone who is provaccine would really, really, really relish doing?
There have been some…developments…since this post went live on Friday.
First, Dr. Noorchashm has posted a rebuttal on Medium, and in the interests of accuracy and fairness, I need to point that out. Here is the link. I encourage everyone to read it.
I have also received distressed and angry emails from Dr. Noorchashm describing my post as “defamatory” and arguing against my point, while demanding that I either remove the post or tone it way down. In particular, he seems to object most to my having wondered if he was a “useful idiot” for RFK Jr., a question whose answer I will suggest that my readers decide for themselves.
It was in these emails that Dr. Noorchashm stated explicitly that he had not given RFK Jr. permission to republish his post. Oddly enough, he also cc’ed a number of people, including Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock (why, I don’t know), other FDA officials, Dr. Paul Offit (why, I also have no idea), several Wall Street Journal journalists, and the chairman of the department of surgery where I am faculty, as well as one other surgery faculty member in my department who is not even based at my hospital and likely has no idea what the heck this is about and only a vague idea of who I am. (Come to think of it, my chairman likely had no idea what this was about either.)
In response to Dr. Noorchashm’s protestations that he is very pro-vaccine, I suggested that, taking him at his word the that is the case, he really should publicly demand that RFK Jr. remove his article from The Defender‘s website. It’s what a pro-vaccine advocate would do. In response, Dr. Noorchashm more or less shrugged his shoulders and said that anyone can use his articles. In his response, he even wrote:
What Gorski is alleging is that Mr. Kennedy is using my letter to stoke vaccine hesitancy — and he is critiquing me for permitting this usage of my scientific opinion and public letter to the FDA . As if I have any control over Mr. Kennedy’s, or his own, choice to opine or adopt my opinion piece however they wish to.
“It’s called living in America, David.”
To be clear, had I uploaded my letter to FDA and Pfizer into the FDA’s public comment portal, Mr. Kennedy would have had free access to it also. So really, what Gorski is suggesting is that I either not publish such a letter of concern, or that I demand that Kennedy withdraw his reference to my letter.
I intend to do neither of what Gorski is erroneously suggesting I should. Because, I believe that Dr. Gorski’s opinion is not aimed at creating consensus. It is aimed at getting a cheer from his echo chamber of followers, who do not see that it may very well be possible to convince a large proportion of the American public that these vaccines are highly likely to be effective — AND that they can be administered rationally and safely by mitigating against all real and potential safety risks.
I’m sorry, but this is just…disingenuous. Sure, Dr. Noorchashm’s letter to the FDA is public, but his introduction to his letter on Medium falls under his copyright, and remember: RFK Jr. did more than just copy Dr. Noorchashm’s public letter. RFK Jr. took the whole letter and introduction and republished them in toto on his website as though Dr. Noorchashm had written them for him, even going so far as to create an author profile for Dr. Noorchashm! Again, how anyone who is so passionately pro-vaccine can allow such a deceptive co-opting of his work to go unanswered, I have no idea. Perhaps Dr. Noorchashm can explain. Through it all, he kept saying things like, “Always polite!” as if his main complaint was that I was not “polite” or “civil” enough for him.
Finally, this morning Dr. Noorchashm did two things. First, he Tweeted this:
In response to people pointing out that he’s using single anecdotes in much the same way that antivaxxers do, he retorted:
Invoking the trope about people having believed that the earth was flat? Seriously? Scientists have actually known that the earth is roughly spherical since the 5th century BCE. Be that as it may, Dr. Noorchashm is using anecdotes to promote his view that the COVID-19 vaccine might have caused this, even though the article he’s linking to explicitly states that the COVID-19 vaccine had been ruled out as a contributing factor.
Then, Dr. Noorchashm wrote an email to my chairman complaining to him and asking him to tell me to remove my post or tone it way down. I know this because my chairman forwarded it to me with an “FYI.” I was half-tempted to publish the email here, but then thought the better of it. I will, however, conclude this addendum by pointing out that trying to use my bosses to silence me is a favored tactic of antivaxxers and quacks, one that’s been used against me so many times that it barely registers any more, other than for them to forward the email to me to let me know that someone had complained.
In fact, trying to get someone in trouble at work by complaining to his boss about something he wrote on his blog is rarely a good look. In fact, it’s usually quite cowardly, and the intent to silence is almost always very obvious. Someone who is so pro-vaccine really should think twice about using this tactic, given how favored it is by science denialists and cranks. Again, I’ve had this technique wielded against me more times than I can remember, going back to April 2005. Dr. Noorchashm now knows that I react very negatively to it.