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Response To “Anonymous” On The Question Of Vaccines

Anonymous” responded to this article by posting a number of other pieces downloaded from the web which, I assume, were intended to discredit the article on this site.  What follows is a brief attempt to examine those pieces using a little critical thinking.  The text of the original piece is in italics with my response in brown.

Article 1

Believers need to be as prepared for a Covid-19 vaccine as anti-vaxxers are against it

By JONATHAN M. BERMAN
SEPTEMBER 9, 2020

In the fractious public dialogue about Covid-19, one point of unity stands out: An effective vaccine is what’s needed to stop, or at least control, the pandemic.

Clearly this is not a point of unity in the public dialogue.  If it were there would be no basis for this article which is entirely concerned with the disunity of views about the need for a vaccine.  Not a good start!

During the pandemic of 1918/19, over 50 million people died worldwide and a quarter (228,000) of the British population was affected.  The case mortality rate was between 10% to 20%.  The Asian flu outbreak of 1957-58 killed around 33,000 in the UK.  The Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968-69 killed around 80,000 in the UK.  In none of these cases was a vaccine produced and in all them the disease ran its course and disappeared after a couple of years.  The idea that a vaccine is needed is an opinion that is not supported by history.

The anti-vaccine movement could derail that solution.

The implication that this would be unquestionably bad is designed to lead the reader to that conclusion without any evidence to support it.

To stop Covid-19, many people — most people, really — would need to have either survived infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, or been vaccinated against it.

The evidence, increasingly, does not support this conclusion.   Right from the beginning of the outbreak it was clear that some people do not contract the disease even when exposed to it at close quarters for many days.  Recent research in the Philippines suggests that up to 50% of people may carry T-cells which protect them against the virus.  Thus, for many people, the vaccine represents risk only, with no benefit, personal or otherwise.

By sowing the seeds of doubt and denial, anti-vaxxers could influence many people not to get a vaccine, allowing the virus to persist and be persistently infective.

The phrase, “seeds of doubt and denial” is simply a device being used by the author to discredit any information that challenges his view.  He labels anyone who raises questions about the wisdom of vaccinating against Covid-19 an “anti-vaxxer”.  The implication is that anyone who opposes a vaccine for this virus, opposes all vaccines: that is clearly not the case.  The conclusion that failing to vaccinate definitely means that the virus will persist indefinitely is also, as noted above, completely unsupported by history.

Viruses don’t discriminate among political parties. But the response by the U.S. government to the pandemic has become highly partisan, and there is little reason to think that deploying a vaccine won’t be tarred by the same partisanship, despite the typically nonpartisan nature of vaccine opposition.

Here the author blames the US government (code for the hated Trump) for the partisanship that has arisen, ignoring the fact that partisanship requires more than one party.  He also seeks to create the very division to which he objects by implying to the reader that opposing vaccination aligns one with the US government.  In fact, all the evidence points the other way.  Trump appears desperate to get a vaccine by November despite the scientists telling him that that is unrealistic.

Many in government, including President Trump, have turned to science denial. This isn’t usually wholesale denial of the utility and epistemological underpinnings of science, but rather denial of a scientific consensus on a particular topic.

Now, demonstrating his own political partisanship, he can’t resist turning directly upon Trump to accuse him of denying scientific consensus.  There is no such thing as scientific consensus.  There will always be someone who refuses to recognise a majority view; it is the very nature of the scientific method.  In c530 BC that person was Pythagoras who had the audacity to postulate that the Earth is round, and was probably killed for his view.

Climate change deniers, for example, typically see themselves as being on the side of science. A 2015 Pew survey found that 79% of adults are positive about the impact of science “on the equality of health care, food and the environment,” yet only 50% believed that climate change is mostly due to human activity.

Likewise, there’s often a large difference between the consensus among scientists who study a topic and the public perception of that topic. In the same Pew study, 88% of scientists affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science believed that it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, but only 37% of U.S. adults agreed.

These two paragraphs are so void of reason that sensible analysis is near impossible. 

First he uses the lazy put-down, “climate change deniers”.  This is a phrase employed to mean anyone who disputes the official claim.  There are many good scientific reasons to oppose the IPCC narrative without denying the obvious fact that the climate is changing. 

Essentially what he is saying here is that all scientists agree on every subject, science is never wrong and to hold different views about the validity of different sciences amounts to science denial.  This is a perspective so patently absurd that, were I reading this article for my own benefit, I would give up now.  But we’ll truck on.

The continued spread of SARS-CoV-2 is a practical demonstration of what happens when science denial supplants evidence-based decision-making at multiple levels of government, from mask mandates to reopening schools mid-pandemic. Denial has led to needless deaths and suffering.

The continued spread of SARS-Cov-2 is in fact nothing whatever to do with science denial.  The “scientific” advice has been, from the beginning, inconsistent and divisive.  In January the scientists at the World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed that there was no evidence of intra-human transmission.  They claimed that border closures would not achieve any beneficial result, but later ordered them.  We were told masks facilitated transmission and should not be worn; yet later they were recommended.  The British government was first told by the scientists advising them to allow the disease to run its course to create herd immunity, but later to lock down the country to save lives.

Not only is the author completely misrepresenting the scientific, so-called consensus, but he is utterly ignorant of the social, economic and political imperatives which also necessarily drive governments whilst they fully acknowledge the “science”.

Next, the author embarks upon a diatribe against what he calls “conspiracy theorists”.  The term was adopted in the 1960s to discredit anyone who questioned the “magic bullet” theory used to promote the single shooter explanation for the Kennedy assassination.  Numerous books and articles have, over the years, utterly discredited the single shooter idea proving, as in so many other cases, the conspiracy theorists to be right.  Nevertheless, the label is repeated with tedious regularity.

To avoid fatigue, I will point out just a few of the absurdities in the following.

How can denial be identified? In 2009, Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee defined science denial as employing some or all of five characteristic elements. All five of these have been deployed in the last few months, sometimes by the government. Public health advocates should be ready when they are deployed again.

The first characteristic is the use of conspiracy theories to frame a scientific consensus as the product of a conspiracy of bad actors. A bevy of conspiracy theories concerning SARS-CoV-2 have already been spread on social media. The president has used coronavirus briefings as a platform to share conspiracy theories, such as physicians lying about Covid-19 to hurt his reelection chances. A widely circulated conspiracy video bizarrely claims that SARS-CoV-2 is human-made, and that Bill Gates was involved in distributing it to profit from a future vaccine. Online, anti-vaxxers have begun framing a future coronavirus vaccine as a part of a conspiracy to enforce compulsory vaccination.

This is an example of conflation, a device use to ridicule serious issues by comparing them to absurd or unsubstantiated claims or discredited claimants.  The author refers, in the same sentence, to the Plandemic video in which a number of unsubstantiated claims were made alongside more legitimately-held ones.  The laboratory-made hypothesis in respect of Covid-19 is far from a fringe element claim and there are substantial reasons for considering it valid.  The only bizarre aspect here is why the author, without a shred of actual evidence, feels able to completely dismiss the possibility.

There is no conspiracy to enforce compulsory vaccination, but there are many publicly made assertions that governments wish, or intend, to make vaccination compulsory.  The WHO asserts that it is essential and a human right.  I am happy to predict that Covid-19 will in fact be used to bring about effective compulsion, probably by requiring it for anyone wishing to take part in society, whilst leaving the illusion of free choice.

Karl Popper, a philosopher of science, described these kinds of conspiracy theories as being like Homer’s conception of the gods’ behavior on Olympus as determining events in day-to-day human life. Conspiracists believe that the actions of secret puppeteers control the impersonal and otherwise unpredictable events in our lives.

No.  Increasingly “conspiracists” recognise that Cultural Marxism is driving the political agenda openly and predictably towards authoritarianism.

Conspiracy theorists are rarely effective in identifying real conspiracies or enacting counter-conspiracies for a simple reason: Things rarely go to plan. Conspiracy theories often hinge on unlikely events and large groups of people successfully keeping secrets for long periods. When real conspiracies are uncovered, it is often because secrets are hard to keep, especially when they require the coordinated actions of hundreds or thousands of people.

It is true that some people subscribe to such ideas.  There are also people who believe that the world is run by lizards.  Their existence in no way detracts from the fact that there are conspiracies at work which do not require large numbers of people to be involved.  The conspiracy of misinformation in the cigarette industry over decades is now fully exposed, for example.  As is the long-term conspiracy involving Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) made famous by the film, Erin Brockovich. 

The second characteristic of denial is the use of fake experts. These are often credentialed individuals who hold views outside the broader scientific consensus. For example, the president has shared videos of Dr. Stella Immanuel (and several other lab-coat-attired individuals) to promote false claims that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid-19, and that masks do not slow transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Similarly, science denial marginalizes legitimate experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has become a trusted voice about the pandemic for many Americans.

Fake experts exploit the dual nature of expertise. An expert is someone who is highly skilled and knowledgeable, and is identified as an expert by the perception of skill and knowledge. That perception, created by language, dress, and other accoutrements, is not always accompanied by actual skill. Given the number of people carrying credentials like M.D., R.N., or Ph.D.,” it will always be possible to find “experts” who speak outside of their domains of knowledge, or who create the perception of knowledge without truly possessing it.

Here is another well-worn device to mislead the reader.  The author seeks to undermine the credibility of fellow scientists who disagree with him by attacking them personally.  This enables him to discredit any opposing narrative without ever having to make a real defence of his view.

A third characteristic of science denial is selectivity. As more and larger studies are published, it has become clearer that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for Covid-19. But it will always be possible to select weaker elements of research to attempt to discredit a larger body of research, such as those who cherry-pick papers to discredit the use of masks.

None of the studies published on the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine have replicated the conditions, co-medications and dosages that doctors around the world claim to be beneficial.  Thus they are doomed to fail.  Nevertheless, the sheer weight of medical opinion as to the effectiveness of the drug has caused both scientific and political opinion to shift.  The author appears unaware that, increasingly countries and provinces are promoting treatment with Hydroxychloroquine.

Prior to the emergence of Covid-19 it was difficult to find any research that claimed masks to be an effective defence against airborne viruses.  With breathtaking hypocrisy the author blames science deniers for cherry picking papers.  This, only weeks after the WHO was caught using a now thoroughly discredited study by the marketing company, Surgisphere Corporation, to halt studies into Hydroxychloroquine.

Anti-vaxxers have now spent more than two decades selectively reading the scientific literature to cast doubt on vaccines, centering their arguments around ever-smaller minutiae. A prominent 2016 anti-vaccine documentary implied a “cover-up” over a minor disagreement about the interpretation of a statistical study of measles vaccination, premised on a now-retracted reinterpretation of the statistics, which had made a number of errors.

We should expect to see no less than a fully dishonest misinterpretation and mischaracterization of whatever clinical trials are conducted in the lead-up to the approval of a vaccine to prevent Covid-19.

It is true that increasing numbers of people are doubting the safety of vaccines despite the fact that published data does not support their fears.  This is largely due to the sharing of anecdotal evidence in social media which suggests that deleterious results are much more common than the data implies.  From experience in my own family I know that a wealth of unpublished evidence exists in respect of the numbers harmed by the MMR vaccine.

The fourth characteristic of science denial is the creation of mobile goalposts, or unreasonable expectations for what research can accomplish. Whatever the results of clinical trials for whichever vaccines come to market, anti-vaxxers will find new standards for what research they believe should be completed.

For a time, anti-vaxxers tended to focus on mercury in a vaccine preservative as what they believed to cause injury. When out of an abundance of caution that preservative was removed from almost all U.S. vaccines, many moved on to aluminum as the enemy toxin.

Anti-vaxxers will frequently demand double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to prove safety and efficacy (believing, I suppose, that such studies do not exist) and when shown those studies, they retreat even farther — to demanding a saline solution placebo, or some other control. These demands are not being made honestly, and meeting them would only be met with a new goal post.

The fifth sign of science denial is the use of logical fallacies, such as mischaracterizing other’s arguments to make them easier to refute, or making arguments that are orthogonal to the point being made. (It is also true that pointing out another person’s logical fallacies is the fastest way to make people hate you.)

Although logic is a tool that can be used to determine if a conclusion follow from its premises, the rhetorical use of fallacies is a time-honored political tradition. Anti-vaccine arguments frequently attack people instead of ideas, confuse one vaccine for the entire category of vaccines (which often use very different technologies), or draw unwarranted conclusions.

Well this is certainly the pot calling the kettle black.

To address denial, advocates of vaccination need to do more than treat denial as stemming from an information deficit, a strategy that is often ineffective. They will need to untangle the partisan threads that have characterized pandemic policymaking to date. When vaccination is made partisan, the truth of the “facts” will matter less to many people than whether those “facts” support their partisan leanings.

Overcoming science denial requires addressing its emotional underpinnings, not its justifications. This means listening to people’s concerns, both legitimate and illegitimate, and addressing them with patience and kindness. Russia has already approved a vaccine tested on just 76 people, stoking concerns from Western scientists not only that the approval is premature, but that it could further undermine trust in the approval process.

Public trust of scientists is hard earned, and constantly faces erosion. Those who believe in science must stand vigilant against science denial, recognize it, and address the concerns that underlie it.

Jonathan Berman is an assistant professor in the Department of Basic Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, national cochair of the 2017 March for Science, and author of “Anti-Vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement” (MIT Press, September 2020).

If this article represents the standard of intellectual rigour being brought to bear on Covid-19, then we all need to despair. 

Article 2

This spring saw the first death from measles in the United States in 12 years.

Measles infections there are at their highest since the disease was supposedly eradicated. The reason for this is that the number of people vaccinated against measles has been falling.

More and more parents have been refusing to immunise their children. The influence of a loose group of fringe campaigners against immunisation – “anti-vaxxers”, as they’re known – has been spreading. And with it, disease.

Vaccines can cause adverse reactions in a small number of people, like many medicines, but the accepted science is that the benefits far outweigh the risks. And that’s why none of our expert witnesses this week is an anti-vaxxer.

Instead we’re asking why, given the body of scientific evidence and the advice of national and global health authorities, has childhood immunisation become so controversial? What’s behind the anti-vax movement? Four key players in the story share their thoughts.

Of course any death is regrettable and crushing for the affected family.  That said, measles is often assumed to be a much more deadly disease than it actually is.

There are a number of points to make about this article:

  1. The article dates from 2015 and there has not been a death in the US since.
  2. The woman in question suffered from a number of comorbidities.
  3. She HAD been vaccinated against measles, but it didn’t protect her.
  4. The exact Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for measles can only be guessed at with estimates varying from 1 in 10,000 cases to 1 in 1000.
  5. The CFR in third world countries is significantly higher than in first world countries due to better health care facilities in the West.  This raises the question as to whether vaccines simply mask poor health services which has implications far beyond measles.
  6. Agreed figures for damage done by measles vaccines are hard to come by, if they exist.  Without those, an honest evaluation of the value of vaccines for measles either in the first or third world, is impossible.
  7. The measles vaccine is usually given as part of the MMR vaccine the constituent elements of which are attenuated or live strains of the diseases.

The vaccines currently under development for Covid-19 are RNA vaccines and therefore entirely different from the measles vaccine.  There is no widespread experience of RNA vaccines and consequently comparison with the measles vaccine has no merit.

Article 3

Here we have an article that seeks to conflate the attitudes and experience of one couple with anyone who questions the official narrative and figures relating to Covid-19.  Of course there are people who believe whatever they read online.  That goes equally for those who read the opinions of their friends on Facebook or who assume that the BBC or the Guardian have a reliable perspective.  Responsibility for our health, and everything else in our lives, is ours and ours alone.  What we choose to read and to believe is also our responsibility alone.  That is one of the most compelling reasons not make vaccines compulsory.

The counter argument of course is that our behaviour affects others.  But it isn’t your Facebook page or my decision not to be vaccinated that has the potential to harm you, it is a virus.  You have the freedom to determine to what extent you put yourself in harm’s way.

Man who believed virus was hoax loses wife to Covid-19

BBC News  24 August 2020

A Florida taxi driver, who believed false claims that coronavirus was a hoax, has lost his wife to Covid-19.

Brian Lee Hitchens and his wife, Erin, had read claims online that the virus was fabricated, linked to 5G or similar to the flu.  The couple didn’t follow health guidance or seek help when they fell ill in early May. Brian recovered but his 46-year-old wife became critically ill and died this month from heart problems linked to the virus.

Erin died from heart problems exacerbated by Covid-19.  It is not uncommon for flu to cause the death of vulnerable people.  Objectively, there is no evidence in this article that the couple’s beliefs had any impact at all on the outcome.

Brian spoke to the BBC in July as part of an investigation into the human cost of coronavirus misinformation. At the time, his wife was on a ventilator in hospital.

Doctors have now recognised that ventilator use, in many cases, actually reduces the possibility a favourable outcome.  It may well be that if Erin had refused inturbation she would have survived.

Deadly conspiracy theories
Erin, a pastor in Florida, had existing health problems – she suffered from asthma and a sleeping disorder.  Her husband explained that the couple did not follow health guidance at the start of the pandemic because of the false claims they had seen online.  Brian continued to work as a taxi driver and to collect his wife’s medicine without observing social distancing rules or wearing a mask.

They had also failed to seek help as soon as possible when they fell ill in May and were both subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19.

Brian and Erin both came across conspiracy theories on Facebook.  Brian told BBC News that he “wished [he’d] listened from the beginning” and hoped his wife would forgive him.

“This is a real virus that affects people differently. I can’t change the past. I can only live in today and make better choices for the future,” Brian explained.

“She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”

‘This thing is real’  Brian said he and his wife didn’t have one firm belief about Covid-19. Instead, they switched between thinking the virus was a hoax, linked to 5G technology, or a real, but mild ailment. They came across these theories on Facebook.

“We thought the government was using it to distract us,” Brian explained, “or it was to do with 5G.”

But after the couple fell ill with the virus in May, Brian took to Facebook in a viral post to explain that he’d been misled by what he’d seen online about the virus.

“If you have to go out please use wisdom and don’t be foolish like I was so the same thing won’t happen to you like it happened to me and my wife,” he wrote.

People make bad decisions in their lives and when they do they feel regret afterwards.  Personal stories like this are a distraction from the real world.  A current story running in social media now is that of a man who received a letter to his wife who suffered from an unrelated illness and passed away, and was cremated in February.  The letter claimed that the Covid test she took in June was positive and she should self-isolate.  This single incident is being used by some to claim that the government is manipulating the Covid figures.  It is as ignorant to take that single case as a an example of anything, as it is to take this article.  It will always be possible to find a basis for anything one wishes to prove.

Many people still think that the Coronavirus is a fake crisis which at one time I did too and not that I thought it wasn…

In May, a BBC team tracking coronavirus misinformation found links to assaults, arson and deaths.

Doctors and experts have warned that the potential for indirect harm caused by rumours, conspiracy theories and bad health information online remains huge – especially as anti-vaccination conspiracies are being spread on social media.

While social media companies have made attempts to tackle misinformation about coronavirus on their platforms, critics argue that more needs to be done in the coming months.

A Facebook spokesperson told the BBC: “We don’t allow harmful misinformation on our platforms and between April and June we removed more than seven million pieces of harmful Covid-19 misinformation, including claims relating to false cures or suggestions that social distancing is ineffective.”

Facebook and the other platforms upon which people now rely for information are no better placed to determine what is misinformation or what is harmful, than individuals.  Covid-19 is being used to justify censorship and the freedom to express views.  That is far more dangerous than any virus.  When people lose the means to challenge the official narrative and hold power to account we have a direct route to totalitarianism.

Article 4

This article is similar to the last one.  Here a woman made a decision not to vaccinate her son and then regretted it when he became ill.  Does that prove she made the wrong decision?  No, she played the odds and lost.  That’s life!  Tens of thousands of other people did not vaccinate their children and have no regrets.  That is the beginning and end of this story.

Articles like this have no educational merit.  They are emotional propaganda, designed to lead the reader to a preferred irrational response.

Set against it, I can personally reference at least a dozen parents who took the advice to vaccinate and now bitterly regret it as their children are experiencing life-long health issues which they are convinced result directly from the vaccine.

There are also reports of people who had a vaccination and assumed they were immune, only to find that they became sick with the disease some time later.

These are life’s hazards and life’s choices.  We should grieve the day when the choice is taken from us – because the hazards never can be.

The CFR figures given at the end of the article do not concur with numerous other online sources.

A self-proclaimed “anti-vaxxer” from New Zealand revealed on-air that she nearly cost her son his life after she chose not to vaccinate him.

In an interview with radio station The Hits, Ally Edward-Lasenby, who had vaccinated one of her children but decided not to vaccinate her son Cameron, said that she chose not to because she had seen research that linked vaccinations with autism.

“I made what I thought was an informed decision at the time, and I chose not to immunize Cameron,” she explained.

When pressed by the radio hosts on what specific study convinced her to do so, Edward-Lasenby did not cite one but expressed her regret at not doing her due diligence in investigating the supposed connection more.

“My biggest mistake … that I’ve been sharing since has been that if you make a decision based on the information that you hear at the time, it’s really important to revisit that,” she said. “I didn’t do that, and consequently, my son contracted the measles virus … It was not a very pleasant experience at all.”

Edward-Lasenby said she initially noticed that Cameron exhibited flu-like symptoms and took him to a doctor, who reportedly diagnosed the child with the flu. Three days later, however, her son’s condition deteriorated — he became lethargic and was suffering from both a rash and conjunctivitis.

“[The doctors] took one look at him and said, ‘You can get him to the hospital first or we can get an ambulance here,’” she recalled.

Edward-Lasenby said she drove “like a madwoman” to get her son to the hospital, where the staff there isolated him and a doctor confirmed that he had the measles.

“Initially, he had white spots on his mouth,” she said. “He had conjunctivitis. He was really unwell. He continued to deteriorate, and a rash came all over his body. Then they were talking about brain damage — potential brain damage — and the potential loss of life too because it was quite serious.”

Though Cameron was eventually treated, he came down with pneumonia, his mother said.

“We found that his immune system was compromised for 12 months afterwards,” Edward-Lasenby said. “He was in and out of school on a regular basis.”

When asked whether vaccinations were important, the mother stopped short of encouraging everyone to immunize their children but admitted that she had learned her lesson.

“I played Russian roulette with my son’s health, which I’m not proud of,” she said. “He understand that I made the best decision at the time.”

The measles is a highly contagious virus that can lead to serious health complications for children, especially those under the age of 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between one and three out of 1,000 people with measles die every year, the agency further notes. Common symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, red eyes and a rash.

 

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