Please stop reading if you believe COVID vaccines include microchips and magnets, or that they cause the disease or make you infertile. This piece is not for you.
A few days ago, I wrote about how politics had eclipsed common sense, describing my personal experience with the vaccine and a booster. In that piece, I laid out how most Americans not only support COVID vaccines, they also favor mandates.
I expected some backlash, but I was surprised at the amount of fake news that continues to spread.
Most the anti-vaccine comments my piece generated were not the type of crazy conspiracy theories that portray Bill Gates and Tony Fauci as versions of Lex Luthor and Dr. Evil using vaccines as tools of world domination.
Still, the comments fuel the fire of anti-vaccine anger and, with anger comes confusion. While the claims collapse under scrutiny as being full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, millions find them to signify something and use them to support their decisions to not get vaccinated.
That's because some of the anti-vaxxer arguments are just rational enough to sway some seemingly intelligent folks.
In many ways, that is more dangerous than the truly insane stuff, which is only capable of convincing people who believe the U.S. government was behind 9/11 or that Jews caused the Holocaust.
The following is a sampling of the reasons readers expressed for opposing either the vaccines or the vaccine mandates, together with why they are logical fallacies.
PLEASE NOTE: The sub-headlines are faulty anti-vaccine arguments posted in response to my recent pro-vaccination article.
The Vaccine Is Untested
Often repeated, the most basic argument here came from one reader who said she would not get the vaccine “because I’m not Pharma’s lab rat.”
Almost 7 billion COVID doses have been administered across 184 countries. How could anyone be a lab rat at this point?
Big Pharma Is Bad
As one reader wrote, “Big Pharma doesn’t care about safety and effectiveness … how many billions of dollars has Big Pharma been fined for faulty products, lying, bribery, racketeering …?”
This rationalization falls into trap of saying that because individuals, companies, and governments screwed up on one thing, they somehow will always screw up. It's like saying that because Roger Federer double faulted, he will always double fault.
It ignores how Big Pharma is greatly responsible for increasing our life spans and our quality of life with everything from life-saving medications (including vaccines) to antihistamines and aspirin.
How far do you take the argument? Are you going to stop taking Advil or Benadryl? What about the MMR or Polio vaccines? And is Pfizer's Viagra great but its vaccine isn't?
One great contradiction here is that many folks who are fine with trusting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, products of Big Pharma, oppose the vaccine because it comes from Big Pharma.
And the pharmaceutical industry, despite its many faults, does care about safety and effectiveness. If the drugs it produces were not consistently safe and effective, they would go out of business.
The Vaccine Isn’t a Vaccine
Yes, various comments mentioned this fake-news distinction about the COVID vaccine, claiming it's a shot and not a vaccine.
I failed to find any prominent promoters of this nonsense, but this "reasoning" is clearly out there.
Merriam-Webster defines a vaccine as “a preparation that is administered (as by injection) to stimulate the body's immune response to a specific infectious agent or disease.”
So, pardon me for stating the obvious, but the COVID vaccine is a vaccine.
It’s possible some people are confused by headlines like this one in the Wall Street Journal: “Some Vaccines Last a Lifetime. Here’s Why COVID-19 Shots Don’t.”
But the article itself makes it clear that the COVID vaccine is a vaccine.
Maybe the problem is that some people are confusing matters and arguing that it’s a shot because it doesn’t provide strong lifetime protection. But other vaccines certainly don’t.
In any case, this distinction without a difference should not be an justification for people to oppose vaccination.
You’re Almost Surely Going to Survive if You Get COVID
One reader argues that “For most people there is an approximately 99.6% survival rate – if you get it.”
The exact mortality rate of COVID is still being debated. However, for many older and sicker Americans that rate is generally accepted to be higher than .4%.
But let’s say the 99.6% survival rate is correct. It still means that you have a one-in-250 chance of dying from COVID, plus a much higher chance of hospitalization and "long COVID" symptoms.
How many of us are willing to roll the dice with those odds?
Hang gliding is twice as safe. Motorbike racing is four times safer. Skydiving? More than four hundred times as safe.
Sadly, more than 90,000 deaths since June 2021 likely would have been prevented with vaccinations, according to a just-released Kaiser Family Foundation study. That's close to the population of Albany, New York.
Natural Immunity from Infection Is Better
As one reader claims, “Natural immunity from past infection is far superior than these crappy jabs.”
A series of studies agree. However, others don't, including a CDC study that found that “COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone.”
I lived with this personally. My son, an extremely fit college athlete, had COVID twice (he likely contracted different variants). Seven months later, he has yet to fully regain his sense of smell.
One of my nephews and at least two of my students also contracted the disease twice before they were vaccinated.
Obviously, my examples are anecdotal. I only know two vaccinated people who had breakthrough cases. Both had very mild symptoms.
More important: Even if it were true that contracting the disease provides stronger protection, how exactly does that help anyone who hasn't had it?
I can't see most people lining up for COVID parties like they did with their kids for chickenpox parties before the varicella vaccine was introduced in 1995. An Israeli study that found having COVID provides better protection still specifically cautions that intentional infection is extremely risky.
Governmental Incompetence 1: The Hydroxychloroquine Argument
As one reader put it, “Our state and federal governments allowed thousands, if not tens of thousands, to die by not allowing doctors to prescribe therapeutics.”
This comment propagates misinformation on many different levels.
Most important, there is zero proof that anyone died because doctors didn't prescribe therapeutics that would have worked.
The truth is that there’s no solid evidence that drugs fancied by anti-vaxxers, including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, would help anyone. In fact, most serious studies show they do not.
Also, while the FDA warned against prescribing certain drugs for COVID, that generally did not stop doctors from giving them to their patients. The reality is that most doctors knew what was best, followed the FDA’s advice, didn’t prescribe ineffective drugs, and may well have saved some lives by not doing so.
Government Incompetence 2: Officials Lied to Us
This is one of the most common anti-vaccine arguments, quite clearly stated by one reader: “The CDC has been incorrect a large amount of the time … Dr. Fauci has been consistently perjuring himself.”
Put simply, it’s the “they screwed up, so I won’t get their vaccine” position.
The CDC, FDA, the Trump administration, and the Biden administration have clearly made a series of mistakes and often failed miserably in their messaging.
But how does bad governance under the pressure of the worst pandemic in a century in any way diminish the validity of a vaccine produced by the private sector and which was vetted by the companies that produced them, the government, independent analysts, and, now, billions of people who have received the shots?
Government Incompetence 3: Officials Lied About Masks
I agree that the government lied when officials told us early on that we shouldn’t wear masks.
But the logic in using that to oppose vaccines or vaccine mandates is especially muddled.
So, as the argument goes, the government screwed up and we can’t trust officials because they didn’t tell us to wear masks from Day One.
The first illogic here is that faulty advice on masks somehow means people should stay away from vaccines.
The second is that most people who cite the bad advice on masks as a reason not to get the vaccine oppose wearing masks anyway.
In other words, the government sucks because it didn’t tell us to wear masks, but it also sucks because it is telling us to wear them.
Oh, and because of that we shouldn’t trust the vaccine or have vaccine mandates.
Sorry, but none of that makes sense.
Big Pharma Has No Liability
One reader rejects vaccines produced over the last 35 years because the U.S. government granted Big Pharma limited liability. She says, "Anything before 1986 sure … as soon as pharma was excused from any liability … nah.”
The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 established a no-fault system to compensate injuries from mandated vaccines. Misinformation about supposed dangers posed by the DPT vaccine had made it almost impossible for vaccine manufacturers to obtain insurance. The price of the vaccine skyrocketed. The government properly stepped in.
Since 1986, all sorts of vaccines have been developed or improved. They have been safe and effective for billions of people. This is no reason to reject them.
The CDC Changed Its Definition of Vaccine
One reader asks, “Why did they quietly change the definition of a vaccine?”
All the CDC did was was make minor changes to clarify its definition to say no vaccine provides 100% protection.
How is this some sort of government conspiracy?
And why would it be a reason to avoid vaccination? The big, bad bureaucracy changed a definition, so the COVID vaccine is therefore dangerous? Why do people think this way?
Immigrants Are Bringing COVID to the U.S. Anyway
I have criticized the Biden administration’s wishy-washiness on immigration, how White House policies have worsened the crisis at the southern border, and how the problem has been mismanaged.
But can we logically leap to this reader’s conclusion: “As long as hundreds of thousands of ‘immigrants’ are being encouraged by Democrats to enter the U.S. illegally through the Southern border (with no testing and no vaccines), and they are being turned loose on Americans, why bother? What a farce this is!”
This reader is absolutely right to complain. But how does one thing lead to the other?
If lots of undocumented migrants are truly bringing COVID to the U.S., wouldn’t that make it even more important for Americans to get vaccinated?
I will end this column as I did an earlier column about vaccines, with the words of Dr. Brytney Cobia of Birmingham, Alabama.
Amid all the heartbreak of the pandemic, her description of mortally ill patients stands out: "One of the last things they do before they're intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I'm sorry, but it's too late."
Please get vaccinated. For your sake and the sake of the elderly and immunocompromised like Colin Powell.
Cover photo: Doctor holding vaccination record card. (ArtistGNDphotography/Getty Images)
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