One of the odd things about the pandemic that has simultaneously amused and irked me is just how many “blasts from the past” have reappeared, washed-up quacks who were once prominent but had faded into the background. I’m referring to quacks that I used to write about a lot “back in the day” (as in 2004-2009 or so) but about whom I haven’t thought much in a long time. Although the topic of this post is a doctor named Richard Moskowitz, perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is Dr. Rashid Buttar.
Dr. Buttar has long been an antivaxxer, as well as an autism and cancer quack, and was once very prominent in the days for selling his “transdermal chelation therapy” (which we dismissively referred to as “Buttar’s butter“), whose “mechanism” was based on the most prevalent antivaccine conspiracy theory in the US at the time, namely that the mercury in the thimerosal preservative that used to be in several childhood vaccines until around 2001-2002 was a major cause of autism. (You might remember that Generation Rescue, the antivaccine organization founded by J.B. Handley that later chose Jenny McCarthy as its President, was founded based on this idea.) You might remember my writing about his calling the North Carolina Medical Board a “rabid dog” but later getting his license reinstated and successfully using his political pull to get the law there changed to be more friendly to quackery, but since then hadn’t been heard from much; that is, until COVID-19 let him rebrand himself as a COVID crank and launch himself into the “Disinformation Dozen,” twelve healthcare professionals named as the foremost spreaders of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation.
To be fair, Dr. Moskowitz was not in Dr. Buttar’s class when it came to spreading disinformation. However, his history, like that of Gary Null and Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, goes back much, much further than that of Dr. Buttar. We’re talking the pre-Internet, pre-social media era dating back to the 1970s. “Back in the day,” I didn’t write about him nearly as much, either. Mainly, I marveled about how a physician could be a homeopath. (Yes, Moskowitz practices homeopathy and is widely cited true believer.) Unsurprisingly, if you look for books by him on Amazon or elsewhere, you’ll find books about homeopathy and a “reappraisal” of vaccines written last year.
I guess, then, that it should come as no surprise that a washed up media quack might turn to that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery (as I’ve long liked to call it) Age of Autism in order to chase relevance in the age of COVID-19. Granted, with the rise of other antivaccine sites, AoA isn’t the go-to antivax blog that it once was, but it still has some cachet. I noticed over the last few weeks that Dr. Moskowitz has written three posts so far for AoA:
Truly, it appears that an old quack is trying to learn new tricks. Let’s take a look at some of the gems in Moskowitz’s latest contributions to AoA. First of all, Moskowitz begins by saying, in essence, that he is an antivaxxer without explicitly saying that he is:
In more than fifty years of family practice, I have cared for many, many vaccine-injured children and adults, an experience that has convinced me that the vaccination process is itself a major cause of chronic, autoimmune disease, as has a sizeable body of reputable, published science reaching the same conclusion, which remains largely ignored for precisely that reason.
My 2017 book, Vaccines: a Reappraisal, was an attempt to restate that case, in response to the drug industry’s massive campaign to enforce and indeed tighten the vaccination mandates that were already in place, by seeking to remove all religious, philosophical, and personal-belief exemptions, and to further limit even medical exemptions, which were always prohibitively difficult to obtain.
Their success in persuading many blue states to propose and in some cases enact draconian new laws of this type took the contentious issue of mass vaccination beyond its scientific dimension into the threat to fundamental civil and human rights that was always bound up with it: the right of informed consent, as enshrined in the Nuremberg Code, and the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children, both of which we all still claim to hold dear.
So let’s see how many antivax tropes we can find. First, there’s the oft-parroted claim by antivaxxers that the reason why the prevalence of chronic diseases has increased over the last few decades is because of vaccines. It’s very predictable. Antivaxxers like Moskowitz almost always ignore all the other possible contributors to the problems of the obesity epidemic and increases in the prevalence of chronic diseases, the most prominent of which is the aging of the population, which means that more people are in older age range where such diseases become more common, and focus like a laser beam on vaccines. Indeed, I often like to ask antivaxxers like Moskowitz: Why not the Internet? Prior to 1990, hardly anyone had access to the Internet, but over the last 30 years its use has become so ubiquitous that nearly everyone has a pocket computer in the form of a smartphone that allows them to access the Internet at any time. Obviously, correlation usually doesn’t equal causation.
Then there’s the conspiracy theory. According to Moskowitz, “no one” pays attention to the “research” that implicates vaccines as the cause of all those health problems because…well, it’s never entirely clear why except to protect big pharma’s profits, even though vaccines are far from the most profitable part of the portfolio of products that pharmaceutical companies develop and manufacture. Also, part of the conspiracy theory posits that the CDC is entirely corrupt and captured by the pharmaceutical industry, such that it supports vaccine mandates. Of course, the funny thing here is that the CDC doesn’t approve drugs or vaccines. True, it has a committee (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) that evaluates the vaccination schedule, decides which vaccines should be in it, and issues recommendations regarding who should receive which vaccine(s) and when. It is the FDA that approves drugs and vaccines. True, in the case of vaccines, both the FDA and CDC have to agree, but the FDA is not beholden to the CDC and vice-versa, as we have seen in their recent disagreements on approving COVID-19 boosters.
All of this, of course, is a huge conspiracy:
Immunization is a global health success story, saving millions of lives every year. It is the foundation of primary health care, an indisputable human right, and one of the best investments that money can buy. With the support of countries and partners, WHO is leading the creation of a new global strategy for the next decade. It envisions a world in which everyone, everywhere, and at every age fully benefits from vaccination to improve health and well-being.43
By branding the COVID a pandemic, the CDC, the WHO, the vaccine industry, and their mega-rich donors have cultivated an atmosphere of urgency, fear, and uncertainty by prolonging the economic shutdown, opposing effective treatments for the illness, and thus helping to bring about the conditions for the general public in most of the world to long for a vaccine as their only hope of escaping from the crisis and returning to a semblance of the life they were forced to leave behind.
Still, as is the case with most antivaxxers, later in the post Moskowitz attacks the Vaccine Court:
This cozy relationship has led the CDC to accept as official policy the industry’s impossibly strict standards for what qualifies as a bona-fide adverse reaction to vaccines, to make the vaccines look as safe and effective as possible, even to the extent of falsifying the data from their own safety and efficacy trials to support those priorities. The industry achieved its consummate victory in Congress, with passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, excusing them from any financial responsibility for the deaths and serious injuries caused by their products, a free ride granted to no other industry, and creating a federal compensation program in which victims’ claims are seldom reported and almost never succeed.
In part 1 of his next post, Moskowitz even claims:
Thus freed from all damage claims, the manufacturers now have carte blanche to manufacture vaccines against any diseases or infirmities they wish, often for no better reason than that they have the technical capacity to do so, with the CDC and the FDA all but guaranteed to approve them. Aided by the widespread veneration that vaccines have continued to inspire in the general public and the medical profession, the CDC has completed its transformation from an independent agency protecting the public interest into the head cheerleader for the pharmaceutical industry it was supposed to be regulating, while still going through the motions of its original purpose.
Its secret for keeping up that pretense lies in its impossibly strict standards for vaccine injuries, which are identical to those vanishingly few listed in the safety trials of the manufacturers, and make a mockery of accepted scientific standards, avoiding placebo controls of unvaccinated persons, rejecting adverse events occurring more than a week or two after the shot, as well as those not already approved on the list, and giving the lead investigator absolute authority to disallow reported injuries for any reason at all.33
The inevitable result has been a massive underreporting of chronic diseases, acute injuries, and deaths occasioned by vaccines, estimated by a former head of the FDA to be only 1% of the actual figure,34 which has helped to convince the general public and most of the medical profession that these products are ideally safe, and that it is therefore entirely permissible and indeed desirable to pile on as many as we want, and to give them as often as we like,35despite ample scientific research to the contrary, and candid revelations of malfeasance from agency and industry insiders.
This is, of course, ridiculous. Antivaxxers never tire of “reporting” the claims of “victims.” Moreover, as I’ve written many times before, in actuality, the Vaccine Court is actually quite liberal in its judgments, in essence bending over backwards to compensate families, even when the medical condition for which compensation is being sought might not have been due to vaccines. Not only is the standard of evidence that of civil court (“50% and a feather,” as we sometimes call it), but more leeway is given when it comes to the use of scientific evidence and theories of causation, which has on occasion led to some scientifically dubious judgments, antivaxxers lie about it and make it sound as though the Vaccine Court never compensates anyone. What they really mean is that the Vaccine Court doesn’t accept that vaccines cause autism and all the other diseases that they blame on vaccines because the scientific evidence is overwhelming that they don’t. Lawyers hate it too, although I can’t figure out why. Unlike other courts, the Vaccine Court pays reasonable court costs for complainants, win or lose. Of course, I know why lawyers hate Vaccine Court. Even though they can get a lucrative steady paycheck representing families taking their case to the Vaccine Court, they’ll never get a massive contingency fee that’s a percentage of a huge headline-making payout.
What Moskowitz and his fellow antivaxxers don’t like about the current vaccine adverse event reporting systems is that scientists don’t take their word for it that every “adverse event” that happened after a vaccine must have been caused by the vaccine. They mine the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database for every claim of “vaccine injury” and assume that the problem must have been caused by the vaccine, engaging in the baseline rate fallacy by ignoring the base rate of such health issues that occurs without vaccines and would have occurred without vaccination. They then use that to falsely attribute tens of thousands of deaths to COVID-19 vaccines when the number of deaths that might actually be attributed to the vaccines is vanishingly small. Even doctors who should know better have been “dumpster diving” in VAERS, using unverified reports to attribute injury to vaccines and ignoring how the VAERS database has long been contaminated with reports by antivaxxers.
Then, of course, Moskowitz appeals to the Nuremberg Code, because of course he does. As I discussed recently, the Nuremberg Code never applied to medical care or vaccine mandates, being a statement of ethical principles that should govern medical research involving human subjects, like clinical trials. Moreover, since 1947, there have been newer, more comprehensive statements of human subjects research ethics that have more or less supplanted the Nuremberg Code, which remains a subset of what these new statements say. I’m referring, of course, to statements like the Belmont Report and the Declaration of Helsinki, the latter of which is updated every few years. Odd, then, how antivaxxers like Moskowitz never refer to these newer documents and instead always refer to the Nuremberg Code, which is a perfectly reasonable and serviceable statement on the medical ethics of human subjects research, but old. Why is this? I think you know why. If you cite, for example, the Declaration of Helsinki, you can’t use it to portray proponents of vaccine and public health mandates as Nazis on par with the Nazi doctors whose trial produced the Nuremberg Code. If you refer to the Nuremberg Code, you can. It’s just that simple, and it’s all about the Godwin.
Moskowitz spends a lot of verbiage about how he’s a Democrat and a progressive and how he can’t believe that someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders would support vaccine mandates because he views them as an intolerable affront to freedom. That’s probably why he tries in his next two-part post to lay into the “bothsidesism,” in which he blames “both sides” for the pandemic. For instance, in the first part, he goes on at length about the well-documented failures of the Trump administration last year:
Trump’s bland dismissal of the threat, combined with his outspoken disdain for science in general, and for the CDC in particular, gave irrefutable evidence to opponents and supporters alike of his utter incompetence and unfeigned disinclination to unite the nation and provide the kind of nonpartisan leadership that such a crisis clearly demands, and has made Dr. Fauci, the public face of his coronavirus task force, into an unlikely hero for daring to contradict the Commander-in-Chief at his daily press briefings and getting away with it
But then comes the pivot to “both sides”:
But in their eagerness to seize on Trump’s disgraceful and indeed unapologetic indifference to the public interest, his Democratic opponents have been far too quick to ignore the equally shocking fact that the CDC has also failed us monumentally,
Even though Trump’s dithering, denialism, and incompetence were more than enough to vote him out of office, to say nothing of all the other reasons, it certainly doesn’t excuse the agency in charge of our public health from failing to do precisely the job it was created and equipped to do, one requiring scientific expertise that the President, the politicians, and the general public don’t have and aren’t expected to have.
- by not stockpiling adequate testing materials and safety equipment before-hand, which were widely available through WHO and immediately put to use more or less everywhere else in the world;
- by not doing whatever else was necessary to prepare for such outbreaks in advance, despite having long predicted their likelihood; and
- by not taking prompt and effective action once the virus made its presence known, above all by developing and executing an effective nationwide program for testing and contact-tracing those infected, both symptomatic and otherwise, especially in high-risk locations,4 as had already proved its worth in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong.
Yes, but who had been in charge of the CDC for three years before the pandemic hit? Who had dismantled its pandemic preparedness? Who regularly inserted himself itself into the decision-making process of the CDC after the pandemic hit, all to try to get it to endorse a more “don’t worry, be happy” approach to COVID-19, all while putting unprecedented political pressure on the FDA and CDC to get a vaccine approved before the 2020 election?
Ignoring all that, Moskowitz leaps straight into a new conspiracy theory about the CDC:
In any case, by far the simplest explanation, which would also help explain why their response continues to be half-hearted and chaotic even now, is that the CDC leadership actually wanted and indeed planned for the event to evolve in that way, because they had already decided to invest their time, money, and energy in developing and promoting a new vaccine against the virus, which had long since become their default strategy for dealing with infectious diseases of every kind.
Given the official line, and the censoring of all competing versions, this conjecture would already qualify as a “conspiracy theory” of sorts; but what gives it a lot more credence than it should have is the coincidence that CDC officials actively participated in an elaborate wargame-simulation exercise in October, 2019, that envisioned and indeed actively planned for a coronavirus pandemic uncannily like the one we are now living through, just two months before the first cases were announced to the world.6
Moskowitz is referring to “Event 201,” something I’ve written about a couple of times before. Event 201 was indeed a simulation of a pandemic held in October 2010 that rapidly found its way into COVID-19 conspiracy theories like “Plandemic” as “slam dunk evidence” that “they” had planned the pandemic. Of course, the wag in me can’t help but note a couple of things. First, vaccines are the most powerful tools that we have to end the pandemic. Second, given the political backlash to non-vaccine public health interventions to mitigate the harm from COVID-19, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a lot of politicians and public health officials embraced vaccines as the primary method to fight the pandemic, given how their options were increasingly limited by “freedumb”-loving politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his useful idiot physicians like Dr. Joseph Ladapo (who is still at it spewing antivaccine and antimask propaganda to support his new boss).
Of course, no conspiracy theory about COVID-19 like Moskowitz’s would be complete without the ever-popular claim that COVID-19 is not deadly except if you’re chronically ill (due to obesity and vaccines, apparently), and Moskowitz leans into this aspect in part 2:
As I witnessed repeatedly in my practice, making worse what’s already there is a regular, built-in consequence of every vaccine,56 suggesting that the COVID illness is itself vaccine-like, and that the adverse effects of vaccines developed against it might travel much the same path.
In the countries hardest hit, the illness has similarly targeted the aged and chronically ill with remarkable consistency. In the U. S., residents of nursing-homes, assisted-living, rehab, and other extended-care facilities, comprising only 0.6% of the population, accounted for 42% of the deaths linked to COVID-19 in 2020, and 81.4% of those in Minnesota, 77.0% in Rhode Island, and 70.0% in Ohio.57
Similarly, a large majority of Americans dying with the COVID were already suffering from one or more chronic diseases. In New York State, 86.2% of the deaths involved one or more comorbidities,58 creating a similar confusion as to whether the virus was the primary cause of death, a precipitating factor, or merely a coincidence.
Other major factors are poverty, malnutrition, socioeconomic and political oppression, and the poor health, pollution, and lack of good medical care that so often accompany them, which are also huge systemic causes of chronic disease generally. These neediest, disproportionately non-white subpopulations comprise the other huge clustering of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths: low-wage workers who can’t afford to stay home, the indigent and unemployed needing public assistance that isn’t there, and asylum-seekers, detainees, prisoners, and homeless with nowhere else to go.59 Here, too, chronic ill-health and COVID go tragically and predictably hand-in-glove.
I’ve referred to this claim many times as “dying with COVID-19, not of COVID-19” or the “only 6% gambit,” the latter of which mangles death certificate data to falsely claims that “only” 6% of the total reported deaths due to COVID-19 were actually due to the coronavirus, the rest being due to chronic disease or something else. No one denies that COVID-19 is far more likely to result in serious diseases and hospitalization in the elderly and those with chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes; that is an observation that was made very early in the pandemic. Unfortunately, some antivax conspiracy theorists (I’m talking to you, Del Bigtree, among others) have taken that observation as a reason to shame those with chronic diseases as having brought their misfortune upon themselves. Moskowitz doesn’t so much do that as pivot to blaming all these chronic diseases on—you guessed it!—vaccines from before the pandemic.
Here’s what I mean:
The CDC has rarely shown much interest or curiosity about what might be fueling these massive epidemics of chronic disease and brain dysfunction. Nor is it any great mystery why the U. S. and the whole industrialized world have become so afflicted. We already know and largely disregard the pesticides, herbicides, fluorohydrocarbons, endocrine disruptors, and innumerable other chemicals that pollute our air, water, soil, and food, not to mention the electromagnetic emissions and ionizing radiations from our machines and devices, the pathophysiology of our fast-paced and stressful way of life, and perhaps most of all, the morbidity and mortality of poverty, war, racism, oppression, incarceration, and homelessness, all of which are more prevalent in the United States than in any other wealthy, industrialized country.
But one formidable cause of chronic disease that still flies under the radar is vaccination. Vaccines are explicitly targeted to the entire population, especially children, and injected directly into the blood, giving them free and immediate access to our internal organs on a long-term basis. In practice, I began witnessing their major contribution to our chronic disease burden more than 30 years ago,73 and it has since been amply confirmed in both clinical and basic-science research.74 Yet most of us are still unaware of it, and go to great lengths to deny it when doctors, scientists, and the parents of vaccine-injured children try to point it out.
And then there’s this facepalm-worthy bit:
Vaccines, by contrast, are injected directly into the blood, with no incubation period, no acute illness, no massive outpouring, and thus no effective way of getting rid of them. In fact, they are designed to remain inside the body more or less permanently, to continue stimulating antibody synthesis on a long-term basis. To produce a vigorous and sustained antibody response, the “non-living” vaccines made from bacteria (DTaP, pneumo, HiB) and bioengineered viruses (Hep B, HPV) require chemical adjuvants, notably water-soluble aluminum salts, which are toxic all by themselves, and form complexes of high molecular weight that cannot be excreted in the urine,84 while the live-virus vaccines (MMR, varicella, rotavirus, shingles) are capable of entering host cells and remaining there indefinitely as “episomes” attached to their genetic material.85
In short, vaccination is by definition a chronic phenomenon; and the partial, temporary, and essentially counterfeit immunity it provides does nothing to prime the immune mechanism as a whole, much less protect us from developing chronic diseases in the future. On the contrary, as we saw, vaccines are an important starting-point for chronic disease, though certainly not the only one, and mainly subclinical at first, but all too often a lot more than that. It is thus profoundly misleading, if not the exact opposite of the truth, to claim that a vaccine somehow protects us from an acute infection if it gives it to us chronically instead, such that we’re incapable of getting rid of it, and are somewhat less capable of responding acutely to it if it reappears in the future, and perhaps to other foreign antigens as well.
First of all, no, just no! Vaccines are not “injected directly into the blood.” They just are not. They’re injected intramuscularly or subcutaneously; that is, if they’re not a live-virus vaccine that can be given orally or intranasally. They do not go directly into the bloodstream, but rather the intramuscularly injected vaccines sit in the space between muscle cells, there to stimulate an immune response. Sure, some vaccine will leak into the blood, but in general very little. The antigens sit in the muscle, along with any adjuvants like aluminum. That a physician can believe and spew such ignorance of basic medicine and biology tells you all you need to know about him. Of course, given that Moskowitz is a physician who believes in The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, should tell you all you need to know about him. No wonder he thinks that “natural immunity” must be better than vaccine-induced immunity, even though such is not necessarily (and often is not) the case. It’s also unsurprising that he believes the “sickest generation” lie promoted by antivaxxers like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., that claims that vaccines have made the current generation of children the “sickest.” I can’t help but wonder: If this generation of children is so chronically sick, why is it that COVID-19 is still so much less likely to hospitalize or kill them than it is for adults?
Moskowitz concludes with a combination of an appeal to nature in which, “If I die, I die” is portrayed as pure virtue, plus the quack’s belief in future vindication, as he pontificates oh-so-self-righteously that, even though he’s 83 years old:
If I come down with the COVID, and all my vitamins, homeopathic medicines, and whatever else don’t help me recover, such that I die of it, so be it; but I’d still rather take my chances with it than willingly subject my body and soul to what I truly believe is something at best only partially and temporarily effective, as well as profoundly dangerous both now and for the future. And if I’m right, I hope that the truth about the COVID will emerge before more damage is done, and that those who planned for it, are keeping it going by flattening the curve and manipulating the statistics, and thus make almost everyone on the planet long for these GMO toxins will be exposed, discredited, and brought to justice.
Note the obsession with future vindication and punishing his enemies. These are hallmarks of quacks and cranks. I’d also add: My father is 83, and he’s fully vaccinated. That’s because he knows he’s at high risk for complications from COVID-19 if he ever catches it and doesn’t believe antivaccine propaganda and conspiracy theories.
There’s so much more in Dr. Moskowitz’s posts for AoA that I didn’t get into, as this post is already long. You can read them for yourself if you desire. What I see in his posts is how belief in antivaccine pseudoscience and quackery like homeopathy provided fertile ground for Dr. Moskowitz to pivot to every COVID-19 conspiracy theory out there, mainly because none of them are new. They are all just regurgitations of the same old conspiracy theories that antivaxxers and quacks have been repeating for decades—including quacks like Dr. Moskowitz. Truly, everything old is new again in the age of COVID.