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Vaccine Derangement

I’m working on a new vaccine roundup post for tomorrow – it’s been a couple of weeks, and there’s a lot of news to catch up on. But first off, a comment on vaccines in general. As the prospect of these become more real in the public mind, I’m noticing more and more anti-vaccine takes, from a variety of directions. First, there are the more traditional anti-vaccine activists, who most certainly haven’t gone away. This is the vaccines-harm-our-children faction, the group that’s been associated with (unfounded, unfounded, unfounded) concerns about autism. But it’s worth remembering that they were around long before the Wakefield autism scare, and that even though many of these people are still pushing that (unfounded!) connection, they could drop it tomorrow and still be anti-vaccination. I well recall being ranted at on USENET in 1993 about how vaccines were destroying our children’s immune systems, and this point of view is a lot older still than that – there’s a C. M. Kornbluth science fiction story from the 1950s that has an argumentative crank in a bar going on about how modern medicine is ruining the children, not one of them is healthy like they used to be, etc. At any rate, I certainly did not expect this bunch to be in favor of a coronavirus vaccine, and they are not letting me down.

We have a newer group, though, who combine dislike and fear of vaccines with a dislike and fear of Bill Gates (and the WHO, and the Powers That Be in general). As I mentioned the other day, there’s a strong overlap here with anti-mask sentiments, often phrased in the form of loud statements about personal liberty and pledges never to take the “Gates vaccine”. From there, it branches out into various crazy tributaries: some of these folks are sticking with the good ol’ poisons-in-the-vaccines line, but others seem to be convinced that the coronavirus vaccine will feature “nanochips” of some sort (“I refuse to be ‘chipped’ like someone’s pet!“) which will. . .well, depending which lunatic you listen to, they will track everyone (need I add that the 5G tower conspiracy people are well represented in this bunch), or somehow control their behavior, or (5G towers again) be used to target and kill them if they “get out of line”. There is a long, long history of pathological paranoid ideation about radio waves, TV broadcasts, and wireless transmission in general, and the 5G people are just the latest version. It was too much to expect this not to end up in the blender with the vaccines and the coronavirus. The list of ways in which all of this is nonsense is a long one, but the sorts of people who really believe this stuff are impervious to any such attempts at persuasion.

There are also people getting worked up over the mRNA and DNA vaccines under development, some of them because they believe that this will alter their own germline DNA and engineer them and their children-to-be. Some of these folks are secular, but there’s an overlap with mark-of-the-beast Christian zanies, some of whom have apparently decided that said mark will be written in the genetic code. This stuff is also wrong in a wide and impressive number of ways, for whatever good saying that will do. On the Christian fundamentalist front, there are substantial numbers of anti-vaccine activists who come at it from an anti-abortion direction. The HEK293 embryonic kidney cell line has its origins in aborted human tissue, and any use of it anywhere in a drug development project is grounds enough for anti-abortion activists to reject the end product. To their credit, some of these people are fine with vaccines and other proteins that are produced in bacteria, insect cells, etc., but others will just switch to one of the other anti-vaccine arguments if that one disappears on them.

Just recently, I’ve seen more and more Twitter posts and the like tied to the recent beginning of vaccine trials at sites in South Africa. These are going on about the evil drug companies experimenting on the African population, and some of them tie these sentiments into the recent Black Lives Matter protests. It will do no good to point out that the vaccines in question were dosed first in Europe, China, and the US, nor to mention that not testing any of these vaccines in Africa would probably be much better evidence of racism. Nope, it’s all imperialism, colonialism, and get your horrible capitalist vaccines out of here, etc. I do not recall hearing as much on this topic when the Ebola vaccine was being developed, but I’m sure if I were to look for such stuff I’d find it there, too.

Before concluding this depressing tour, I need to note that this area has long been a playground for propaganda of all sorts. There are a lot of people – who range, in my view, from misinformed through stupid all the way to deranged – who honestly believe the views mentioned above and promote them vigorously. And there are other groups, both inside and outside the countries involved, who don’t give a damn about vaccines one way or another but see this as an excellent (and inexpensive) way to sow fear and confusion for their own benefit. There is evidence of weaponized anti-vaccine propaganda in the last few years, so there are reasonable chances that some of the social media rantings you see about these subjects have been started or exacerbated by such actions.

People have always believed bizarre things, of course, but it seems to be much, much easier to get the craziness in front of the customers now and to rev them up more quickly than ever before. We have a substantial number of people in this country who are becoming increasingly unhinged by this stuff, and it’s a real problem.

172 comments on “Vaccine Derangement”

  1. myst_05 says:

    Honestly… If someone doesn’t want to get vaccinated, let them be. If they get COVID and happen to heavy consequences, it would be their own free choice. People voluntarily participate in skiing, skydiving, motorbiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and dozens of other dangerous activities. Not getting a COVID vaccine would simply be the latest one on that list. Luckily the virus seems to mostly spare people under the age of 18, so their children will not be seriously affected by their parents beliefs, unlike other vaccines.

    I’m fairly confident that we’ll keep hearing of COVID deaths in developed countries 10+ years after the vaccine becomes available.

    1. B says:

      “People voluntarily participate in skiing, skydiving, motorbiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and dozens of other dangerous activities”

      I partake in almost all of those – however, these come with very little (to zero) risk to the general population around me. If I face consequences for doing something stupid, it isn’t going to potentially result in giving tens/hundreds of people a severe, and potentially fatal illness.

      The vaccine isn’t just to protect the people getting it; rather, it is essential to protect everyone – including people like me, who are immunocompromised.

    2. David says:

      Allowing “opt-out” from the vaccine could fail to halt community spread, if either the vaccine isn’t 100% effective or a large enough fraction of the population opt-out. That leaves vulnerable the people who legitimately can’t receive the vaccine (some cancer patients, immunosuppressed patients, and people with true allergies to vaccine components). Also it’s conceivable that elderly people might not mount a protective response to vaccination. The health of the vulnerable population depends on compliance by everybody. Vaccination for epidemics and pandemics is a shared burden, not an exercise in libertarian philosophy.

      1. Please note that the nucleotide vaccines, all the protein component vaccines, and all of the killed virus vaccines, are safe for the immune compromised to take. Immune compromised people are only prevented from taking live virus vaccines.

        For immune compromised people, the nucleotide vaccines (DNA and RNA) are the most effective at raising T-cell immunity, and it is T-cell immunity that clears virus infections.

    3. Derek Lowe says:

      You are neglecting the fact that skydiving is not contagious.

      1. gippgig says:

        Skydiving probably is contagious. I’m not aware of any evidence for that, but obesity, smoking, test scores, productivity, police misconduct, hostility toward minorities, & buying stuff have all been shown to be contagious. It’s known as “peer effects”.

      2. Oudeis says:

        Epidemiologically speaking, skydiving probably is contagious, and I think you’ll find the same is true for obesity, driving without a seat belt, and anti-vaccine lunacy itself.

        Obviously there’s a difference here; the people I might infect with skydiving have a bit more choice in the matter than the ones I might infect with pertussis. But the moral questions are more complicated than just, “My skydiving doesn’t affect anyone but me”–because it does affect people other than you.

      3. gippgig says:

        If an attenuated virus vaccine is used, the vaccine could be contagious. This actually worked a little too well with polio since one of the strains in the vaccine could revert to virulence.
        If a live virus, DNA, or RNA vaccine is used it is not impossible that part of it could be incorporated into the germ line.

    4. Aleksei Besogonov says:

      I think allowing people to opt out of vaccines should be OK. But in this case if you infect someone else then you should be guilty of attempted murder and go to prison for the rest of your life.

      Harsh, but fair.

      1. Konstantinos Spingos says:

        “you had a gun in your pocket and in the next morning your wife is dead from a shot ” is not a good argument to convict anyone in a real trial, so why that would do for covid-19 ?

      2. MrRogers says:

        Nah. Just make them buy insurance to cover treatment and a generous death benefit for anyone they infect.

        1. kjha says:

          I know I’m nitpicking but I don’t personally see much benefit in dying, or obtaining a large sum of money after my own death.

      3. Lloyd Evans says:

        Opt-out for vaccines already does exist, for people who have a valid medical reason to not be vaccinated. Such as people receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer or leukaemia, people with auto-immune disorders or weakened immune systems from some other conditions. Or people who have bona fide allergies to some component of the vaccine in question, in which case an alternative might be made available to allow anyone with such an allergy to have a modified version of the vaccine.

        Therefore, whether you can opt-out or not is not a decision any person should be able to make completely on their own – it should be a decision justified by actual medical evidence, provided by a professional medical doctor. Just saying “I don’t want to”, or “I don’t believe it will work”, or “I believe it will kill me” or whatever other b*llsh*t rationalisations anti-vaxxers come up with? None of that counts as a valid reason to opt-out.

        While it is a nice idea to imprison those who opt-out (for non-valid reasons) if they infect someone else, the problem with that is a deeply practical one: How do you go about proving who infected who? Unless you can track every infected person back to exactly where and when they were infected, and know for certain who spread that infection to them, then proving who infected who is going to be damn near impossible. Especially for a disease like Covid-19 where the incubation period can be anywhere up to 2 weeks! Unless you simply assume that someone who refused the vaccine must have infected at least one other person by default, and imprison them on that basis alone – but there might well be legal impediments to doing that.

        No, anti-vaxxers should not get a pass. Anti-vaxx is becoming more and more like religious extremism: It shares the same denial of reality, the refusal to listen to reason, logic, facts, evidence or the scientific method. It shares the same kind of obnoxious apologetics and fallacious argumentative tactics that are used to promote and/or defend creationism, “intelligent design” and other completely manufactured nonsense. We don’t give creationists a pass on getting vaccinated, so we shouldn’t give anti-vaxxers the same pass either.

        1. Micha Elyi says:

          You were doing so well until the last paragraph of your comment, LLoyd Evans. At that point you slipped into a screed, one had the form of an argument against empirical materialistic science* that rests on asserting that the invalidity of alchemy and astrology proves that chemistry, physics, and astronomy are also invalid. You may wish to avoid using such a broad brush in the future.

          * something that Christians, mostly medieval Catholic churchmen invented

          1. Lloyd Evans says:

            That’s a bit of a stretch, surely? For a start, I don’t for one moment believe that chemistry, physics or astronomy are invalid, and certainly not due to the invalidity of astrology and/or alchemy. Though to be fair, while the alchemical hypotheses were mostly (if not completely) false, alchemists did develop some valuable early apparatus and techniques – retorts for distillation, for example.

            I was merely comparing the extremist positions behind both anti-vaxx and religion-derived creationism – because they are both extreme and do both involve reality denial (albeit perhaps to differing degrees), do they not? I offered a similar comparison of the bad-faith apologetics used to defend both positions, which is a valid comparison since both rely on the use of fallacious arguments. I’m not in any way suggesting that they are both wrong for the same reasons – that would be ridiculous. But they are both wrong to similar degrees, that was the main point.

            The only point I will agree on is that materialistic science was indeed created (to some extent) by medieval churchmen, who sought to investigate the mechanisms with which God created the world and/or universe. However, said materialistic science has moved on a great deal since that time – alas, the churchmen have not moved on anywhere near as far. Those who engage in religious apologetics today do sometimes delve into science, but only so far as they need to in order to manufacture fallacious and bad-faith arguments – either pro-creationism/pro-intelligent design (which are essentially the same thing), or anti-evolution.

            Oddly, you don’t find religious apologists arguing against chemistry and wanting to bring alchemy back into the classroom, or arguing against physics and wanting to bring astrology back into the classroom. No, it’s almost always evolution they are fixated with “disproving”, even though they might have an easier time going after some other subjects – string theory or particle physics, perhaps. Which isn’t to suggest that either of those are in any way invalid, just to make the comparison that there is far more tangible evidence available for biological evolution, so it strikes me as an odd choice of subject for religious extremists to attack.

          2. intercostal says:

            I think the thing with creationism is that it became “culturally entrenched” in a certain sub-set of the US fundamentalist/evangelical/whatever movement a long time ago. The origin of it I think makes more sense in the pre-WW2 context (Scopes Monkey Trial, etc.) when the public discourse about evolution (as opposed to the actual data) was pretty heavily mixed up with eugenics and a sort of utopian-rationalist strain of thought that was pretty hostile to religion.

            Also, evolutionary theory was in a pretty poor state then (the “Eclipse of Darwinism”). Sure, it was clear since the 19th century that some kind of evolution had happened, but there was little consensus on how; there had to be more to it than Darwin had said, and Mendel’s genetics had to be incorporated somehow, but it took decades to hash out what that would be.

            There was a lot more room to insert reasonable-sounding doubt.

            But it took on a life of its own a long time ago…

    5. Semichemist says:

      @myst_05 Herd immunity would like to speak with you

    6. Chas says:

      I caught pertussis in the 2012 outbreak, even though I had my Tdap booster. The outbreak was caused by anti-vax sentiment, and all it took was a small drop in herd immunity to expose the then unknown weaknesses in the then-booster. (It has been adjusted since.)

      So as a high-risk individual? There is, in fact, risk to a large chunk of people not getting the vaccine. Especially since these are the same people who don’t want to wear masks and consider this whole situation to be a hoax.

      1. Amy Norton says:

        Pertussis outbreaks are not caused by anti-vax sentiment. If you go on the CDC website itself you will find it mentioning that there is primary and secondary failure and that those who do not vaccinate are not driving the outbreaks.

    7. zero says:

      Honestly… If someone doesn’t want to walk after heavy drinking, let them drive. If they get into an accident and happen to heavy consequences, it would be their own free choice. People voluntarily participate in skiing, skydiving, motorbiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and dozens of other dangerous activities. Not walking or getting a ride instead of driving when drunk would simply be the latest one on that list. Luckily alcohol-related fatalities seems to mostly spare people under the age of 18, so their children will not be seriously affected by their parents beliefs, unlike other risky behaviors.

      I’m fairly confident that we’ll keep hearing of alcohol-related deaths in developed countries 10+ years after the taxi and payphone becomes available.

      Plays out a little differently, doesn’t it?

    8. Daniel Jones says:

      The problem with that, myst, has aways been that vaccination and immunization has never been total. NEVER. Instead, immunization programs have people work their butts off to vaccinate enough people that a disease can’t spread and (please, God) dies out entirely. This is particularly hard to pull off if it’s carried by other species and especially for the hardier viruses, so that immunity coverage, patchy as it is, must be maintained.

      Anti-vaccine nutjobs sabotage the whole dang opera.

    9. J Goodman says:

      Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that whatever vaccine we come up with will only be partially effective, and like many vaccines, that it will work much more poorly in older people. I can easily imagine an outcome where anti-vaxxers don’t get vaccinated, we don’t achieve herd immunity, and my parents, even with the vaccine, become ill.

  2. Philip says:

    “Never Attempt To Teach a Pig To Sing; It Wastes Your Time and Annoys the Pig”, Robert Heinlein. Similar quotes go way back.

    I am not an antivaxer, but a vaccine developed at warp speed does not inspire confidence that it will be effective and safe.

    1. SirWired says:

      My view is, that You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do. It should be noted that a lot of the steps that are being skipped right now are the ones that would occur *before* clinical trials. (Primarily the ones to avoid performing (expensive) human tests on something that doesn’t have a chance of being suitable.) Safety and Efficacy testing in humans is still going to happen, even with the warp-speed processes.

    2. Tim Bergel says:

      Increasingly, I feel that Heinlein’s better legacy was the prophecyof the ‘crazy years’ which I think was supposed to happen around now, and did not end well.

  3. Alia says:

    What most of these people do not take into consideration is the fact that even when the vaccine is available, they will probably be far along the line to get it. There is a lot of work going on on planning the best way to distribute the limited supply of COVID vaccines and your average celebrity ranting that “they are going to vaccinate my baby over my dead body” (there is one over here and said “baby” is 16 or something) is certainly not on the list.
    As for me, I hope that as a teacher I won’t have to wait too long. I would love to go back to teaching at my school and seeing my students face to face – but I would also want everyone to be safe.

  4. Erik Dienemann says:

    I love the wealth of nearly instant high-quality information available on the internet, but the whackos and troll factories make it harder for people – especially those not grounded in science and at least some skepticism of science (and skepticism should be built in to any good scientist) – to differentiate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak and we end up with far more people believing what used to be fringe positions than we used to have before the internet. It also doesn’t help that distrust of science and scientists is being “Trumpeted” every day by our President.

    1. Micha Elyi says:

      “Distrust of science and scientists” was around in American pop culture long before President Donald John Trump was even born.

      I’m so old that I can remember when America’s political left-of-center was the hothouse of anti-scienceism. Maybe you’re too young to have ever heard of Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI). You might be familiar with irrational opposition to nuclear power, China syndrome, and other nonsense promoted by the leaning-Left glitterati who dominate the commanding heights of pop culture.

    2. confused says:

      >>far more people believing what used to be fringe positions than we used to have before the internet.

      Do we really, or is it just more visible now?

      Consider the historical popularity of astrology in the US in the last 50 years or so, and all the New Age type pseudoscience that became very popular in the 60s and 70s. Or the many forms of very successful quack medicine.

      If anything, I think the increased distrust of authorities of any type in the wake of the 60s/early 70s (Vietnam War, counterculture movement, etc.) – JFK’s assassination was probably the first really mainstream US conspiracy theory too – is more to blame.

      But these things are really universal.

  5. M says:

    It’s the vaccine-autism link (I echo Derek – UNFOUNDED!) that really makes my blood boil. I have 2 sons with autism, and my wife and I have been advocates for them and try to help people to understand that it s a very complex genetic disorder, and when I get told that they wouldn’t have Autism if I didn’t get them vaccinated, I have to work very hard to control my anger.

    As for conspiracy theorists, well, if you think we didn’t land on the moon, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

    1. colintd says:

      I also have similar personal experience, though with other conditions.

      What it reminds me of is my grandfather’s view on seat belts (if he was still alive he’d now be about 120).

      When they were made mandatory in the UK, my grandfather went on about the risk of being trapped in a burning car, unable to get out due to a stuck seat belt. As a result of this he resisted wearing his seat belt for years after the law change.

      When I tried talking to him about it (being a concerned grandchild), the thing that came through was the way he gave much more weight to a risk brought on by an explicit action (wearing a seat belt), vs the much higher risk through inaction (not wearing a seat belt).

      I think this over weighting of “risk of bad things as a result of my actions” vs “risk of bad things as a result of my inaction” comes up in many fields, in particular in the field of vaccines.

      It is also closely related to the higher concern people have for dying in a train or plane crash (where control is with someone else) vs dying when they are driving in their own cars (a much much higher risk, both per mile and per hour, but nominally in their control).

      Essentially people aren’t very good at weighing up risks….

      1. Lane Simonian says:

        This may well get to the heart of the matter for some people at least. We don’t want to take an action that may harm us, even though not taking an action may harm us as well. The admonition of “physician do no harm” is self-applied: do no harm to oursevles.

        Effort to convince people that something is safe do little good as people remember past cases where they were told something was safe when it was not. Distrust based on past experiences colors present and the future choices.

        A few personal examples. I once was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and the doctor wanted to presribe prednisone. I remembered my father’s difficult experiences with prednisone and politely declined. I was ordered to take an invasive test which after some thought I declined as well. A nutrition student later asked when I got sick and ascertained that I had a wheat allergy. It took awhile but not eating wheat was the key to largely healing.

        My mother took almost no drugs during her life. A doctor convinced her that she needed to take Fosamax to avoid bone fractures. She did so for a year, before stopping the drug. She ended up with esophagitis, atrial fibrilation, and Alzheimer’s disease. Whether rightly or wrongly, I adivse against taking the drug–the risks are small but grave.

        Fear is a bad thing. It makes us get tests and take drugs that may do more harm than good. It can also prevent us from getting tests and taking drugs that may do more good than harm. And you can rarely tell beforehand which is which.

        1. John says:

          Well put! There’s a huge distrust and controversy over widespread vaccinations. In the last two decades it’s big money for big pharma. People need to educate themselves on how the body protects itself. Your body has been doing that forever.

          1. Derek Lowe says:

            Big Pharma could have made even more money if they’d just let people get sick and sold them multiple doses of drugs to treat them, rather than giving them one shot that keeps them from ever getting the disease at all. And if people’s bodies have been protecting themselves forever, why did polio and smallpox just sorta suddenly disappear after thousands of years? Did they suddenly get better at protecting themselves? That protection is called the “immune system” – did something happen that made it work better somehow?

      2. Julie says:

        I have LONG believed that the fourth “R” that should be taught in schools is “Risks”.

  6. Grumpy Old Professor says:

    Well, I definitely needed a noontime chuckle and you provided it for sure with that tweeted video. Thank you! The more serious link, on Russian interference with our collective psyche is equally welcome and less entertaining. I admit to imagining a room somewhere with Russian intelligence operatives betting one another as to how wild a tweet / Facebook post they can get people here to believe and react to….

    As for the vaccine, this one is likely going to be one of the most trialed vaccines around when it arrives – and that’s a good thing, whether people take it or not. What will be interesting will be to see whether employers begin to mandate it.


    1. Philip says:

      I have imagined that QAnon started as a game between a few young American friends to see who could tweet something outrageous and get the most retweets. Who ever had the least number of retweets at the end of the week had to buy the beer. Who ever had the most got to select the beer. If Trump retweeted your tweet, your meals were paid for for a month.

      The reason I think it was Americans is because no Russian would think, at least not back then, that we would be so stupid.

      1. Bryan says:

        “ It Came from Something Awful: How a Toxic Troll Army Accidentally Memed Donald Trump into Office” for a stark lesson in how teen culture without social accountability can turn toxic.

        1. Hap says:

          It’s not fair to blame teens (or their culture) for this; it’s adults with the psyches of spoiled ten year-olds. If they were teens, or toddlers, it would be easier to sympathize, but it’s adults with the theoretical ability to think about their actions and evidence and give them moral weight but unwilling to actually do so, led and facilitated by people who either want what they want and don’t care how they get it or who want to do harm without getting their hands dirty.

          1. Micha Elyi says:

            Bad news: Donald John Trump is now President of the US because (1) the other incumbent political party put forward such bad candidates in 2008, 2012, and 2016 and (2) the other incumbent party’s habit of smearing their opponent with outrageous lies began to fall on deaf ears.

            I recommend that American parents read the good old fables to their small children, making sure to include The Girl Who Cried Wolf and The Story of the Little Red Hen prominently in the bedtime story rotation.

  7. Mark from the Park says:

    Well, the current US strategy is to bet everything on a vaccine. I wouldn’t like to be lumped into group of anti-vaccine conspiracy nuts, but I do have nightmares about 300 million people all taking an untested, rapidly-developed treatment at the same time. In my nightmare, it plays out something along the lines of this video:

    1. David Young MD says:

      I get the impression that the US has given up on everything else. Even Fauci said “there will be no more lockdowns. We will wait for a vaccine.” In the meantime……..

      I have been trying to get the NIH to test out an antiviral drug approach to those who have just acquired Covid19 and have written several emails. Remdesivir is scarce, difficult to manufacture and would require a person with early Covid19 to come in to an office for an iv infusion on a daily basis for 5 to 6 days. A combination of Remdesivir (likely the best antiviral) and Favipiravir (an oral antiviral perhaps a little less effective) would allow a reasonable approach (two days of iv infusions and another 7 days of oral medication.)

      But my approach may be a lost cause, for the US is barely doing any testing on Favirpiravir (a 50 participant trial that is still going on after 9 weeks and a 120 participant trial at a single institution that after 7 weeks on “clinical trials” has still not opened. And the idea of combining two different drugs in a trial is a foreign concept to the NIH not to mention the FDA.

      In fact, there are no studies on antiviral drugs given to those who have just come down with Covid19.

      So, yes, in my opinion the NIH has given up. With the lack of people cooperating with safety measures…… well, welcome to a long, drawn out epidemic with lots of lost lives. By October there will be 5 million cases in the US. God knows how many case by next February.

      1. FoodScientist says:

        How would you justify funding this instead of a vaccine candidate? It seems like it would be a tough sell.

        1. David Young MD says:

          No. Both. Why not both? If the NIH would get their act together, then could get an antiviral study up in 3 weeks. Need about 200 clinics. It would require a change in attitude in getting things done. A vaccine might not be available for 5 months or so. I’m all for a vaccine and I would try to be first in line for a vaccine (my daughter would want to be in front of me). But by the time a vaccine is in full use, we will have 5 million cases in the US, or more. We really need an antiviral strategy to give to those who are in the very early stages. A good study would cost 25 million dollars. This is a drop compared to the 7 trillion dollars that will be lost because of the epidemic.

          1. Alan Goldhammer says:

            The US trial system is too decentralized and hard to coordinate. Look how well they are able to do trials within the NHS in the UK. I wrote a white paper back in early April on this very point and shopped it around. I got pushbacks from the academics which did not come as a surprise for me. AFAIK, the large Duke study on HCQ in healthcare providers has not been terminated. Target enrollment was 15K. I wonder how many patients they did enroll.

      2. intercostal says:

        >> By October there will be 5 million cases in the US.

        Well, we have already had far more than 5 million *actual* cases, just not 5 million *confirmed* cases.

        If IFR is 1%, 120,000 deaths means 12 million infections, plus more because deaths lag behind infections.

        Plus, from CDC excess deaths data, some COVID deaths were probably missed in the hard-hit areas in March/April.

        If the IFR is lower now because more of the infections are in a younger population than they were in March/April, or because care is better now, that would go up even more.

        Even if half are asymptomatic, that’s still well over 5 million cases.

        1. David Young MD says:

          So, we will have 15 million cases by October. Whatever. The pandemic is still escalating and we don’t have a treatment available for early disease. There is not even a study going on to treat early disease. (very soon Gilead will open a study of inhaled Remdesivir for early disease)

          1. Philip says:

            I have been watching this as well. They seem to have shot their bolt with the HCQ prevention trials. The best we can do now is take vitamin D and famotidine, on the basis of little better than rumor. Meanwhile, there is a probably effective PO med, and literally thousands of candidates in southern states with quickly confirmed positive test results at academic institutions. Houston alone could do a fully powered controlled trial in under three weeks.

            I’m just an ignorant country doctor, but I wish someone would explain to me why dexamethasone is being trumpeted as a miracle drug, while a broad range of combined early interventions is not even being brought to trial. Saving just one person from advancing to the ICU would save hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

  8. far away says:

    Thanks for the nice write-up. In fact, I have a naive view that the number of people that go into this rabbit hole relates well to the mental health of a population. I think this may connect because, under too high levels of stress, even very intelligent people cannot assess reality correctly anymore. Therefore, naming “them” stupid or condemning them seems counterproductive, and just talking would be better, with lots of patience (which I don’t have). But I am not a social psychology scientist, whom I’m sure are investigating these turbulent times in detail.

    1. Olandese Volante says:

      Regrettably, I find that trying to explain things to those who subscribe to the various conspiracy theories is like trying to wash a donkey’s head (as a local proverb goes): a waste of water, soap and effort.
      As a techie, I spend a lot of time explaining stuff to people and I’ve become quite good at it, to the point that many have suggested I should teach a “Dealing with Technology, 101” course. However, conspiracy buffs tend to be completely refractory to simple straightforward explanations and more often than not the conversation ends with the conspiracy buff going completely off the deep end, and epithets such as “serf of Big Pharma”, etc.
      So, at some point I resolved that ridicule is the only solution. At least it keeps my blood pressure within reasonable limits.

      1. x says:

        Discovering a novel source of patience might well be a humanity-altering event.

        Regardless, the internet is full of good information and bad. The fact that a lot of these people went out of their way to reject the good info and find the bad stuff means they are neither exceptionally credulous nor suspicious of all “expertise”; it further follows that they aren’t really ignorant in the naive sense as they have been extensively informed. It follows that something else compels their belief: cultural signaling, a religion-like need for a bogeyman, or maybe demons are real after all (and they infest conspiracy theorists).

  9. Steve Scott says:

    Also disturbing to me are the distinguished scientific naysayers who cast doubt on the vaccine development efforts by selectively citing test results in a misleading fashion, and purposely leaving out information that would argue against their claims. I’ve read a number of them. Most people are not likely to dig into this, find the actual facts, and judge for themselves. It undermines public confidence. Just one example: A group of scientists who say they are “peer reviewers” mentioned Moderna test subjects who had severe reactions. Their substantiation was a link to an outside article. But if you took the trouble to click on that link, you found out that it was in the highest of three experimental doses, which has now been discontinued. Some of the naysayers do raise fair and concerning questions, but if you have to intentionally distort your argument, and cast aside objectivity to make your point, it is harmful.

  10. DTX says:

    The University of Washington had a superb course “Calling Bull” (its politically correct name) on how to spot misinformation. This is obviously relevant to almost all info issued by antivaxers.

    The course references the Brandolini’s Bull*%t Asymmetry Principle – the idea that takes 10x as much information to debunk information as it takes to create it. Obviously this is just a rough guess. See Lecture 1.3 on youtube. The entire course is available on youtube.

    It’s wonderful that a university is giving its students mental tools to detect misinformation. This should be required for all high school & college students. In saying this, I realize the antivaxers will attack this idea.

    1. Micha Elyi says:

      I recommend the book How to Lie with Statistics (Huff, 1954).
      It is a classic. Your local library should have a copy, it is a must have for your university’s library. But if your favorite library is deficient and you cannot purchase a copy for yourself, browse the Internet Archive to find its copy to read and enjoy.

  11. Hap says:

    If your worldview requires immunity to evidence (no evidence external to the theory can be trusted, and so only information that fits within the theory can be accepted) to sustain itself, then the worldview is the problem because reality (and viruses) is remarkably agnostic to what anything else believes. If enough people are immune to evidence, everyone gets to validate the supremacy of physical reality to human worldviews, whether they want to or not. We seem to be seeing the weaponization of stupidity and it seems to be working well.

    Everyone’s going to be looking at a coronavirus vaccine, and its failures will be problematic for all vaccines. The people developing the vaccines know this, but it might not help because no one knows how to defeat coronavirus for sure – you just have to see. All you can do is take your best shot.

    1. Jackie says:

      Hap, I think you nailed it.

  12. Zee Bendelstein says:

    Make social media companies responsible for the anti-vaxx content they put in front of users. This is disgusting. There are gray areas around lots of aspects of reality, but there really isn’t one about this. None.

    1. I'll stick with the 1st says:

      How could you square this with the 1st amendment? As long as what they say is not libelous, how could you do this without fundamentally altering our understanding of the 1st amendment?

      1. Some idiot says:

        There’s an XKCD for everything:

        1. What? says:

          You said make them responsible for the content they put out, which I took as have the government punish them for allowing what you consider falsity to be put on the platform.

          1. Some idiot says:

            Ok, I’ll spell it out for you: a service refusing to allow anti-vax material on their site is not impeding anti-vaxers 1st amendment rights. They are just saying we don’t want it here. Just like many news services/newspapers make the decision that they do not accept contributions (eg op-eds etc) on certain topics.

          2. Derek Lowe says:

            Exactly. The First Amendment says that the government shall make no law that restricts your freedom of expression. It does not enshrine some sort of “right to Tweet”.

      2. Micha Elyi says:

        Easy, use the post-Nader consumer protection laws based on strict liability and declare that social media platforms that spread falsehoods are a defective product. Let a thousand class-action lawsuits bloom!

  13. Andrew Deacon says:

    I think that one of the problems with anti-vaccination ideas is our vaccines have been too effective, most Childhood diseases are controlled or eradicated and there is no longer the visceral fear that our grandparents had. If you talk to the elderly, they can recall such things as diphtheria, whooping cough and similar complaints. I have never had the MMR vaccine, (too old) but I did have Measles and mumps and survived, it was not fun. Perhaps we need some You tube videos of these diseases to bring hone the reality to the Unbelievers.

    1. intercostal says:

      Yes, exactly. Measles, diphtheria, etc. used to be quite frightening, but that’s pretty forgotten now (in the US). I’ve heard stories from my grandmother (who was a teacher in the 1950s) about polio outbreaks, but to most of the current US population, polio is just something from history books.

      There is very little awareness of the risk which is being prevented by vaccination.

  14. steve says:

    All the anti-vaxers are about to meet Darwin. Let him sort them out. That way there won’t be opposition to the vaccine for the next pandemic, which undoubtedly will be even worse than this one.

    1. Really? says:

      What are you talking about? The IFR for Covid-19 is at most 1%, so even if everyone who is anti-Vaccine gets exposed 99% of them will still survive.

      1. steve says:

        Do you actually know anyone who has had this? The long-term sequelae are horrendous. Don’t let false numbers get in the way of understanding what this plague is all about. Death rates aren’t everything.

        1. confused says:

          Do you have any numbers on incidence of these long-term sequelae? Every report I’ve seen has been pretty anecdotal & mostly in people who were very badly ill – often in ICU. Obviously these things happen, but do they happen often enough to change the overall picture of the disease’s severity?

          (That is, if COVID fatality is 1% or somewhat less, that’s about 10x worse [or somewhat less] than seasonal flu. If the rate of long-term sequelae is comparable to that — about 10x worse than seasonal flu — it doesn’t really change the overall picture.)

    2. aairfccha says:

      As antivaxxers arose essentially when vaccination was invented, that is when not just memories but actual outbreaks of the full diseases were very acutely present, this seems unfortunately unlikely.

  15. Anon says:

    Derek you are turning into those Twitter “journalists” posting “news” articles based on four people’s tweets. We know there are tons of crazy people out there but I do think all Twitter does is amplify stupidity .

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      A quick search across any social media platform will show you that these people are more common than you appear to believe, unfortunately.

    1. daksya says:

      Not all, though.
      (BCG vaccination in infancy does not protect against COVID‐19. Evidence from a natural experiment in Sweden)

  16. DTX says:

    To Zee’s point, Google actually changed their search process such that the credible information on vaccine appears much more frequently than the quack stuff. If you think back ~10 years (as a guess), antivax info was much more prominent.

    It’s tough for someone like Google because they need to be an arbiter of what is valid/what isn’t and sometimes amongst scientists even this isn’t clear. However, Google has made a good effort. (if they do too much, they are accused of censorship)

    Also, Wikipedia has an active group of trained volunteer “Guerilla Skeptics” who constantly remove misinformation. I actually heard a talk by one of them last year. It’s quite laudable they do this as volunteers. (and this is a big reason why Wikipedia is quite good).

    1. Zee Bendelstein says:

      These are all encouraging steps.
      Probably there are a bunch of different distinct problems that need addressing.
      Widespread critical reasoning skills, instilled early perhaps, could be helpful. Intuitions in probability assessment, use of evidence to make sense of the world. Wonderful skills that scientists have a leg up in. We would all benefit from them being more widespread.

  17. RandomWok says:

    Once again, it is important to remind the crowd that howls about “violation of my constitutional rights” when asked to wear masks/get vaccinated that the Constitution begins with “WE THE PEOPLE”…the fact that we are social creatures and get our individual freedoms due to our collective will is lost on the folks. A virus is the ultimate narcissist, all it wants is more of itself (no slight intended for a certain occupant of a big white house)…to it we are all just warm, well-nourished slabs of meat ripe for hijacking. The fact that people object to calls for collective public hygiene and vaccination must be one of the biggest educational and social failures in human history, that too playing out in one of the most affluent civilization in history.

    On a separate note, Derek, I would love to see a on-Covid post from you that explores how easy/difficult/long an undertaking it would be to strategically re-shore US capability in supplying active pharmaceutical ingredients and critical diagnostic supplies back to our nation. Are the environmental hurdles or labor costs the main issue? If this did happen in the wake of the pandemic, it would dramatically resuscitate our job market for chemists. Without being xenophobic or anti-immigrant, if this was coupled with a restriction on H1-B visas (especially those granted basically for cheap labor as opposed to those deservingly granted to “geniuses”, the outcome would be a return to vibrant STEM employment. Would love to hear your, and the blog readership’s thoughts on this provocative proposal!

    1. confused says:

      >> The fact that people object to calls for collective public hygiene and vaccination must be one of the biggest educational and social failures in human history

      There were some people opposing vaccination even in the smallpox days, and organized opposition to public health measures during the 1918-19 pandemic: but I think a large part of the “appeal” of these ideas is how effective hygiene and vaccination have been in the US.

      With the exception maybe of AIDS, most US adults under perhaps 70 or so have never really had to worry about infectious disease.

      So accurate information about the degree of risk that is being prevented by vaccination kind of feels unreal and even fear-mongering, since it is so far outside of our experience. People just don’t *get* what life was like 100 or 200 years ago, or is like now in some parts of the world.

    2. Micha Elyi says:

      “Once again, it is important to remind the crowd that howls about “violation of my constitutional rights” when asked to wear masks/get vaccinated that the Constitution…”

      …grants no authority to the federal government to force anybody “to wear masks/get vaccinated”.

      Re-read the preamble of the US Constitution. (That’s the part that begins with “We the people”.) Don’t skim, read carefully. Notice that the preamble itself is not a grant of authority of any kind to the government of the United States. Instead, in lofty phrases, the preamble states reasons for the people’s grants of specific, limited powers to the federal government that are listed elsewhere in the document.

      As for the governments of the several states, they have powers of their own granted to them by their residents through the ratification and amendment of their state’s own constitutions.

      1. RandomWok says:

        Very tedious, but I will respond. And perhaps you should argue these finer points about federal and state’s rights with the coronavirus, which rejects your locus standi since it doesn’t even acknowledge your existence. You miss the point that the act of “constituting”, is a “we the people” exercise. Multitudes agree to adhere to common behavior and rules for the collective and individual good. The rest of your argument is the standard libertarian piffle. Presidents swear to defend from “all enemies, foreign and domestic”…I wonder if that broad definition includes mobilizing and arming the population against infectious diseases as well. Like other creatures in nature, we will either adapt or perish based on our choices and behaviors. Your arguments about government’s right to “force people to wear masks” will then be consigned to moot court.

        1. confused says:

          Mandatory public health measures *are* primarily a state responsibility/power in the US.

          Sure, the coronavirus itself isn’t influenced by whether measures are state or federal, but the distinction is pretty important in US law and politics.

          But mandatory measures in this pandemic have all been state and local (except for international travel bans and such, which are obviously within the federal sphere) so the question isn’t that relevant right now.

          Talking about survival of humanity here is way too extreme. COVID is not any kind of threat to the species – the mortality rate is much lower than past pandemics which humanity survived before modern medicine. (Sure, without ICUs and supportive care, the fatality rate would be higher… but most people survive COVID without any medical care at all. It might go up to 1918 flu levels, but not smallpox/plague levels.)

          1. RandomWok says:

            “mandatory measures in this pandemic have all been state and local”
            Exactly! There’s been complete dereliction of duty at the highest federal level, i.e. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the CDC, Senate etc. All this erudition and legalese about that oldest trope (federal v/s state rights & duties) is completely irrelevant. In simple Hollywood blockbuster terms, this is an alien invasion, and now is not the time to argue constitutional and inalienable human rights, especially when the imposition requested is as trivial as being asked to wear a mask when in proximity to others. A nation and citizenry that revolts against a public health request as innocuous as that is well on its way to idiocracy.
            On your second point, yes, this disease is probably not going to wipe out humans…but the same arguments will be trotted out if there is a more severe pandemic in the future. With the permafrost layers and glaciers melting, who knows which ice-entombed pathogen awaits thawing in the decades ahead. But then I guess you probably think anthropocene climate-change is a fiction too…

          2. confused says:

            I agree that the Federal response has been terrible. They have not done their job well at all. (But “their job” is not the same as that of state public health authorities.)

            >> In simple Hollywood blockbuster terms, this is an alien invasion, and now is not the time to argue constitutional and inalienable human rights,

            a) No, this is not an unprecedented crisis on the scale of US history. It is clearly less severe than 1918-19 flu, which had IFR of at least several percent.

            b) My point is that Constitutional rights are not in fact being violated and thus arguing about the Constitution is irrelevant.

            >>On your second point, yes, this disease is probably not going to wipe out humans…

            Certainly, not probably.

            >>but the same arguments will be trotted out if there is a more severe pandemic in the future.

            Likely true… but humans will not go extinct because of any pandemic. Even a New World smallpox / Black Death level event wouldn’t drop the world population to unsustainably low levels.

            >>But then I guess you probably think anthropocene climate-change is a fiction too…

            Absolutely not! (And I find it kind of insulting that you would assume that just because I think COVID is not really that unprecedented as pandemics go.)

  18. dearieme says:

    “a dislike and fear of Bill Gates (and the WHO, and the Powers That Be in general) … a strong overlap here with anti-mask sentiments”. That’s an interesting observation.

    After all there’s no reason why I should eschew a mask – worn to protect my neighbours from me, and even me from my neighbours, perhaps – just because I suspect the WHO of being inept and corrupt. Nor need mask-donning mean that I give up a belief that the PTB would be all the better for a good culling.

    Ditto Mr Gates; what on earth has he to do with my wearing a mask? He’s just an example of that common phenomenon of a rich man dabbling in matters far beyond his field of competence. I dare say his intentions are good. Good or bad, they have nothing to do with masks.

    I can’t stand his operating systems, mind. Is that why he’s distrusted? Those bloody operating systems?

    1. MagickChicken says:

      The main “argument” against Gates is because of his vaccination work through the Gates Foundation. They think he’s part of the Illuminati.

      1. OnceaChemist says:

        Gates part of the Illuminati? A few minutes spent with Windows Vista should dispel that notion.

        1. Micha Elyi says:

          Clearly the Illuminatus operates as wheels within wheels… 😉

    2. intercostal says:

      It isn’t necessarily that direct, and certainly not that rational, of a connection.

      It’s more about the view unfortunately held by many in the US that the scientific community has been thoroughly co-opted by the government with motives against the public interest (what kind of motives are postulated depends on which end of the political spectrum the person is on).

      Thus public health authorities (at the science-government interface) are seen as inherently problematic.

      And this gets mixed with the American (especially central/interior-west US) skepticism of government interference in ordinary life.

      1. Charles H. says:

        There’s an unfortunate amount to truth in the “Scientists have been corrupted by the corporations” argument. And there’s an equally unfortunate amount of truth in the “Scientists have been corrupted by the government” argument. (Why else would the CDC have recommended HCQ?)

        The problem is that it’s difficult to tell when someone is speaking honestly. And it’s difficult to tell that someone is speaking under duress. There have been entire medical journals put out by Name scientific publishing houses that have turned out to have all the reviewers selected by one corporation whose products were discussed in that magazine. (I’d mention the name, but I’m no longer quite certain which it was. It began with an “E”.) This magazine was deceptive for years, had a decent reputation, and it was a long time before even experts in the field started to doubt it.

        Over enough time the scientific method will reveal the flaws. On an individual human time scale it may well not. So how do you judge something new? Independent replication is about the only way, and that’s often both difficult to do, and impossible to get published.

        1. Micha Elyi says:

          Q. “Why else would the CDC have recommended HCQ?”

          A. The CDC seeks to make all relevant data available to physicians ASAP. Perhaps, Charles H., you are unaware of the difference between data sharing and a “recommended” treatment.

    3. Ted says:


      You’d be surprised at just how competent he is in matters of medicine, health and public policy. I was pitching a technical project a couple of years ago, and he hit me with a question that made it clear he had actually read the background papers – probably the only one in that room of 30 people.

      More importantly, he consistently demonstrates that he knows what he doesn’t know, and asks questions accordingly. I envy the wealth and time he invests in becoming more educated.

      So, with that said, I guess if anyone was going to figure out how to stick microchips in everyone through a vaccine…


  19. neo says:

    As always, I appreciate your ability to discuss incendiary topics in measured tones.

    I sometimes worry that the distant future will have difficulty distinguishing 21st century scientists from the clergy of the middle ages. White males in white cloaks demanding that the populace respect our privileged insight into The Way Things Are, and pronouncing plagues, droughts and floods on those who disregard us.
    Honest question: if we (scientist/doctors) really are The Smart Ones, then why are we so shamefully poor at educating the world on important topics? If numbskulls from Wakefield to Jim Jones are so adept at leading people down the dark path, why aren’t we better at countering their arguments in a winsome way? Are we really content with throwing reams of data at them, shouting louder, and concluding that it’s their fault when they don’t listen? Is that the best we can do?

    1. Be less like Richard Dawkins says:

      I think part of it is the constant condescending tone from the “rational, science-based” community. Even though I agree with most everything Derek wrote in this post, the condescending tone was quite annoying, and if I were a lay man it might tip the scales in some way. It’s the same condescending tone Fauci has been taking in the recent hearings. If you don’t understand why his “we told the public masks weren’t effective because we couldn’t trust you rubes to not buy up all the PPE” explanation is part of this problem, well, you’re part of the problem.

      1. drsnowboard says:

        I think you are mistaking condescension for weariness… If you ever engage in a dialogue with an anti-vaxxer, 5G theorist, COVID denier etc you rapidly discover you are arguing rationally with the irrational. The jump between unconnected items to construct the narrative, the inability to take any objective view, the dancing from poorly argued argument to youtube supported argument, the sheer religiosity of the conviction that only they ( and their youtube friends) can see the evidence.. It’s exhausting in its mental abrasiveness.

        1. Derek Lowe says:

          That’s exactly it. I’ve engaged some of these folks by email, and find myself getting sent links to 30-minute YouTube videos about how the moon is actually a hollow Illuminati spaceship, how 5G radiation is tuned to vibrational frequencies that only amethyst crystals can protect you from, or the eyewitness testimony of a person who helped Queen Elizabeth run the cloning machine to turn out some more copies of Taylor Swift. It is difficult to retain one’s buoyancy in the face of such stuff.

          1. David Young MD says:

            And don’t forget ChemTrails

          2. Grumpy Old Professor says:


      2. D.A.R.E. to dream says:

        If we point to reams of data then we’re out of touch and unrelatable. If we offer frank summations or speak with charisma then we’re hiding something or have come unhinged. If we speak slowly and clearly in simple language then we’re elitist and condescending. How can we engage when the high, low and middle paths all lead to excoriation?

        I recently had a conversation with a psychologist who deals with ‘conflict management’ when teens run into problems with school administrators (NZ). He made the point that direct confrontation often leads to escalation of what is an otherwise inconsequential situation (student didn’t want to surrender a cell phone – teacher confronts and grabs phone – scuffles – parents, unions and lawsuits to follow). He mentioned this while discussing a different situation that escalated from a person passing a counterfeit $20 in Minneapolis… Clearly there are consequences to ‘direct’ confrontation just as there are consequences to ignoring impropriety. To effectively confront, we should have a clear goal before engaging.

        I have about as much hope for the committed conspiracy theorist as I do for the committed drug addict: not a lost cause, but certainly a tough case. I commend those with the energy to directly engage such troubled individuals with the best tools and evidence of psychology. For those of us with less time and energy, perhaps we should focus on prevention the way we do with drugs. I think a bit of open ridicule and public shaming is called for, not for the sake of converting the committed, but to give pause to the unconverted.

    2. dearieme says:

      “why aren’t we better at countering their arguments”

      Because it wouldn’t advance our careers.

    3. x says:

      “Honest question: if we (scientist/doctors) really are The Smart Ones, then why are we so shamefully poor at educating the world on important topics?”

      Sow’s ears…

    4. Anonymous says:

      I think a significant part of the issue is that doing science requires a familiarity, if not embrace, of not knowing answers and being uncertain. It’s normal to seek answers and truth, and being in the dark is scary. Easily digestible “truths” from hucksters, charlatans, and conspiracy theorists provide answers and “knowing the truth” means they’re superior to the scientists who are still working through the data and are unready to put forward a conclusion.

      1. confused says:

        >>I think a significant part of the issue is that doing science requires a familiarity, if not embrace, of not knowing answers and being uncertain.

        Yes, exactly. I think this is the main part of it. The kind of personality that is good at this is often not good at appealing to the public. Intellectual honesty and humility are, unfortunately, often unhelpful traits in politics.

        The other part, at least in the US, is the deep skepticism of ‘formal’ authorities (something that I think was always part of the US national character, but has become more prevalent and important after the Vietnam War, JFK assassination, 60s counterculture, etc.

  20. MagickChicken says:

    I work for a pharma CMO, and several of my coworkers are saying they won’t get vaccinated if we end up manufacturing it.

    There seems to some concern around the raccoon content of our products. . .

  21. Steven says:

    Several comments have said something like “why talk about this, there’s only a few people who believe this nonsense”. I’ll add my own anecdote:

    It is shocking how common Anti-vaccine opinions have become. Until recently, I thought it was a very fringe kind of thing, for left-wing nature hippies and right-wing deep-state conspiracists.

    Recently, I learned that an acquaintance, who is otherwise an educated reasonable person with a high-paying job in a technical field, is home schooling his children so that they don’t need to be vaccinated as required by the public schools. Apparently, there is a whole community of these people.

    1. Angels and demons says:

      Geniuses, Nobel winners believe in angels, ghosts, heaven etc. I don’t see any difference.

  22. Libertarians on the skids says:

    covid19 loves the Trump GOP – no shortage of the un-masked and the unhinged

  23. DT says:

    To get some historical insight on the antivax movement, read “Pox Americana, The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782” and “Scourge.” The authors discussed how much small pox impacted colonial troops because of American resistance to variolation, which was like a primitive form of vaccination. Americans were also at higher risk than the British because they generally came from low density places where small pox was rare compared its endemic presence in England. Public resistance to quarantining is also discussed.

    Variolation was dangerous because it involved the actual small pox virus, but its risk was far lower than the disease itself (Scourge notes in one situation, of 242 inoculated, 6 died versus the usual 30% mortality). Thomas Jefferson, Washington’s wife & other notables received the treatment.

    Hence, resistance to protective measures is not new and predates modern science.

  24. Joshua Schnall says:

    This is a major issue with our society that will sadly take many years to fix. Social media needs to be regulated, but so does misinformation on cable news networks etc. We need to better educate and care for people in this country in general, so that they can discern truth from fiction themselves and make wise choices. It will take years of change and hard work to repair things.

  25. loupgarous says:

    Part of the issue is that our press and influential publications want us to practice magical-religious thinkinq when Black Lives Matter and their associated groups demand we do so – they decide that modern society is permeated with implicit racial bias, no one gets to argue.”How’d you arrive at THAT conclusion?” for fear of more riots. When magical-religious thinking is Officialy Endorsed, the anti-vaxxers learn the great, big lesson – how to win arguments when you’re fresh out of facts.

    1. anon says:

      Oh, get over yourself.

      1. loupgarous says:

        That was persuasive logic.

        1. Some idiot says:

          With all due respect, there are many studies that show (in the USA, apart from other places), that otherwise identical CVs have a much better chance of being contacted if the name is an Anglo Saxon than if it suggested another race. And similar studies as regards sexism.
          In addition (in the USA) the difference in the way black Americans are treated by the police compared to white Americans suggests strongly that there are some deeply seated structural differences here.
          In short, I feel it tenuous to connect the antivax movement to the BLM.
          Just for the record, I am a white, Anglo Saxon male, middle- to late-aged.

          1. loupgarous says:

            Sociological studies are well-documented to have a lower threshold of proof before they’re published than biomedical studies. Teams from at least two different universities have successfully spoofed respected social studies journals. With due respect, before we start cutting checks to self-appointed representatives of the African-American community, we owe it to that community to make sure that we’re compensating the right people in that community for the right harms.

          2. Some idiot says:

            I accept (and am aware of) the fact that sociological journals have been spoofed. However, for your argument to be correct, it requires that every single article on this subject showing similar effects is deliberately false. We are talking here about multiple different groups, examining different areas, and approaching the subject from different angles, all reporting the same general trend. Okkam’s Razor suggests strongly therefore that structural racism and sexism exists.

            I am not suggesting that it is all deliberate and conscious. The group at Harvard does an excellent job at looking at unconscious biases. In particular, I thought it was interesting to observe that many senior female managers had a strong unconscious bias against women themselves, which, again, suggests strongly that the problems in the area are very deeply structural, in that most people of all sexes are unconsciously taught that male is good, female not so good.

            Like eub, I always enjoy reading your comments. For the most part I agree with you, but not always. I can read from your comment here that you have a beef with some of the public figures in the BLM. Fair enough, and you probably have good reasons for that beef. But that should not distract you from the (in my opinion) proven fact that structural racism and sexism is very real. Let’s go after the ball here…

    2. eub says:

      loupgarous, I like you, but you’re wrong about this.

      First, personal bias exists, as shown by RCTs such as Bertrand & Mullainathan (2004), linked from my handle, and many follow-ups. They sent out resume pairs differing only by name, and observed higher employer response rates to “white-sounding” names. There’s a large body of research in the area, and if you seriously engage with it I don’t think you can throw it all out. Some is more controlled than others, some is more naturalistic than others, but we’re accustomed to sift some value out of the cesspool that is biomedical literature…

      Second, not all bias is personal. Check out ProPublica’s “How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm” against actual recidivism in Broward County data. Bias gets built into impersonal processes and systems.

      Third, looking at current bias is missing a lot. Even in a one-dimensional system, injustice is the integral of bias. Past bias — which nobody can dispute! — has direct causal links to today, in family accumulation of wealth for example. In the real multidimensional world, past segregation and redlining encoded race into dwelling location and property value, which lead to educational disparity, leading to income and wealth disparity, multiple factors also leading to disparate criminalization (recalling that Nixon’s War on Drugs was deliberate race-baiting, you could read The New Jim Crow), leading to many harms. Current bias can now operate on non-explicitly-racial factors and yet have a causal relation with past racial bias.

      1. loupgarous says:

        Eub, I actually agree with many of your points. You may not have gone back far enough to fully trace the racist roots of anti-drug legislation – marijuana was outlawed partly because of its reputed use by Mexicans and African-Americans as a recreational drug in the 1930s.

        But people are throwing numbers around for reparations when no agreed basis for calculating them exists. Remedies for racism are being dictated by those who don’t seem to have been appointed by the African-American community as their representatives. Who knows how closely they approximate actual harms or the wishes of the African-American community? I’m all in favor of an equitable compensation for that community. That’s what I want.

        1. eub says:

          Wait, where did reparations even come into this? I responded to your comment that BLM/whoever get to decide that modern society is biased and we[*] don’t get to argue or they’ll riot. Is somebody making a claim about bias that you’d want to argue with, or are you in agreement with BLM/whoever as far as that goes?

          [our press and influential publications want us to practice magical-religious thinkinq when Black Lives Matter and their associated groups demand we do so – they decide that modern society is permeated with implicit racial bias, no one gets to argue. ”How’d you arrive at THAT conclusion?” for fear of more riots.]

          Reparations are a whole ‘nother thing, and not *typically* a core BLM concern, though it’s not like there’s a formal platform. We who say “Black Lives Matter” are more often focused on stopping the bleeding than redressing the whole backstory of U.S. history right now. I mean, I wouldn’t say I have a coherent reparations story myself, but I do say that cops have biases in where they perceive threats, which people, and whom they end up killing.

          [*] “we”, kemosabe? as they say

  26. tom says:

    I have a question? How do healthy people get other healthy people sick?

    1. Marko says:

      “Evidence Supporting Transmission of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 While Presymptomatic or Asymptomatic”

    2. David Young MD says:

      Well, in the case of Covid19, it works like this. A healthy person becomes infected with Coronavirus. There are not ill yet, but will be in two or three days. While they still feel well, they shed virus in the form of microdroplets in their breath, or perhaps virus on their fingers that gets transmitted to a door knob or surface. Then someone else catches the virus by being close enough to inhale the droplets or touch the contaminated surface. In most cases the first person becomes ill a few days after they became infected. But they transmitted the disease while they still felt well. I understand that in a few cases a young person may not get much sick at all, and yet transmit the disease. So… now you understand.

    3. “Here also I ought to leave a further remark for the use of posterity, concerning the manner of people’s infecting one another; namely, that it was not the sick people only from whom the plague was immediately received by others that were sound, but the well. To explain myself: by the sick people I mean those who were known to be sick, had taken their beds, had been under cure, or had swellings and tumours upon them, and the like; these everybody could beware of; they were either in their beds or in such condition as could not be concealed. By the well I mean such as had received the contagion, and had it really upon them, and in their blood, yet did not show the consequences of it in their countenances: nay, even were not sensible of it themselves, as many were not for several days. These breathed death in every place, and upon everybody who came near them; nay, their very clothes retained the infection, their hands would infect the things they touched, especially if they were warm and sweaty, and they were generally apt to sweat too.

      “Now it was impossible to know these people, nor did they sometimes, as I have said, know themselves to be infected. These were the people that so often dropped down and fainted in the streets; for oftentimes they would go about the streets to the last, till on a sudden they would sweat, grow faint, sit down at a door and die. It is true, finding themselves thus, they would struggle hard to get home to their own doors, or at other times would be just able to go into their houses and die instantly; other times they would go about till they had the very tokens come out upon them, and yet not know it, and would die in an hour or two after they came home, but be well as long as they were abroad. These were the dangerous people; these were the people of whom the well people ought to have been afraid; but then, on the other side, it was impossible to know them.”

      — Daniel Defoe. A Journal of the Plague Year / being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London. Never made public before

      1. D Foe says:

        From the opening page of the same source:

        We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since…

        …But such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now.

        1. F Bastian Jnr says:

          Great Man’s life story here:

          And on page 22-24 of “Defoe’s Early Life,” a piecing together of the Foe family’s movements in the first half of the Plague Year of 1665:

          …Safely holed up near the village of Little Brickhill, some 30 miles from London, where more than three centuries later a local historian records online:

          “The George is reputed to be the inn Daniel Defoe had in mind when he describes Moll Flanders’ marriage to her third husband…”

  27. Neko says:

    It gets to people, don’t try to be depressed.
    It’s safe to say that after the pandemic, lockdowns and governments involved in the vaccine,
    if you want to continue your new normal life it will be mandatory to take the vaccine.The corruption has rotten our societies from the inside and we have to fix it. We’re chasing our tail. Corporate power, to-big-to-fails, we’ve already been there in 2007. Now on top of that, we have a disease on our hands and corporate greed and AI kept developing. Education and good nutrition will help fix the problems we face.

  28. johnnyboy says:

    Growing less and less sure everyday that the human species is really worth saving…

    1. eub says:

      big mood, as the kids tell me they say

  29. MTK says:

    It’s all been said in the previous comments, but the sad part is that many parties; government, industry, non-profits, acadamia, are putting tremendous effort into developing an effective vaccine as quickly as possible and, unfortunately, it may not make as great an impact as it should due to mistrust and misinformation. Our society has become dysfunctional and its not clear how we correct that.

  30. En Passant says:

    In the main article Derek Lowe wrote:

    There is a long, long history of pathological paranoid ideation about radio waves, TV broadcasts, and wireless transmission in general, and the 5G people are just the latest version.

    There may be a historical basis for some paranoia about radio waves.

    In 1934, entrepreneur Powel Crosley Jr. (recall Crosley radio receivers) got an experimental license from the Federal Radio Commission to build a 500 kW (half a megawatt) 700 kHz AM station WLW / W8XO near Cincinnati. For comparison, 50 kW is the maximum power allowed today for AM broadcasts.

    President FDR ceremonially pressed the button that started the first WLW / W8XO broadcast on 700 kHz. Its music program got a request from Buckingham Palace.

    The downside was that people near Cincinnati heard WLW / W8XO broadcasts through their teeth fillings. Rain gutters and farmer’s fences played the broadcasts whether anybody wanted to hear them or not. Iron oxide is a decent rectifier, and metal fences or gutters are big antennas.

    The FRC finally shut down the half-megawatt broadcast experiment in 1938-39.

    The paranoid idea “they’re sending radio waves that make me hear voices anywhere I go” was actually true for a few years near Cincinnati.

    1. aairfccha says:

      This monster is fun to read about and it apparently still works. It also motivated the construction of a twin which eventually operated in Britain during the War with even more power.

  31. li zhi says:

    A swing and a miss. My opinion. I usually appreciate the clarity with which DL discusses the subject of his post. Not this one. It is … a rant. Polite, but completely one-sided. Are there reasons to distrust vaccines? If this post (and nearly all of the comments) are used to judge, then no. No mention of vaccines that went wrong. No mention of risks. That is, no balance – maybe I misunderstood it, but my take on the message of this post is: There is no circumstances which would justify anyone refusing to accept vaccination (if they’re healthy), ever. And of course, that’s not true. The same people (quote unquote, if you squint hard enough and are far enough away from Washington, D.C.) who have failed to provide adequate covid-19 testing (to the USA) are the ones we should trust to get the vaccine “right”? (FDA was complicit, imho, in the CDC snafu.) Is it irrational to distrust bureaucrats and bureaucracies? Is it irrational to suspect that the people competing to get to market first might allow greed and ego to influence their decision-making? It is irrational to suspect that the enormous pressure the vaccine developers, their management, and their regulators are experiencing might lead to mistakes? Right now a sars-cov-2 vaccine is vaporware, and as such comments about “what I’ll do when” should be heavily discounted. My opinion. And we shouldn’t forget that the amazing thing about each of our 3 pounds of cerebral fatty tissue is that it is able to learn to think at all.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      There is every reason to watch the safety trials closely and to insist on full disclosure of the data – I don’t want to take anyone’s word blindly on this, either. And there most certainly are vaccine side effects – for a discussion of them around here, though, you’ll have to go all the way back to. . .(checks notes) last week (

      The lesson of this post is that if you’re going to be suspicious of vaccines, don’t be suspicious of them because of paranoid crap. Last week’s post discussed the non-paranoid parts.

      1. A Nonny Mouse says:

        I can assure you that everything is being addressed towards safety.

        My daughter wants to Volunteer for the Imperial trial and so went to Hammersmith Hospital yesterday. The pre-screen lasted over 2 hours with a complete breakdown of every tiny medical incident even from many years ago. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs (both types). GP medical records…

        If this is pre-screening, then I am sure that there will be pretty intensive safety during the actual trial (she probably won’t get accepted due to mild hay fever).

        1. Charles H. says:

          Sorry, but no. It’s impossible to address “everything” in a trial. It’s generally impossible to address everything you know might go wrong. So you address those things that you consider most important or likely, and also those things that are easy to address. With decent luck you’ll cover most things that are important.

          To pick a wild example, how would you prove that a vaccine won’t make your fillings fall out in 5 years time? Maybe it increases the acidity of mouth bacteria, or promotes bacterial films on the teeth, or…
          Now there’s no good reason to expect that this might happen, but how would you prove that it won’t?

          As Derek often points out, drug development is complex, and has interactions we don’t understand. The vaccines will be well tested, but don’t over-promise. Each of them will have unexpected side effects in some population. This is pretty much guaranteed. What we can hope is that the unexpected effects aren’t serious.

  32. Biotech Analyst says:

    I’m wondering how the anti-GMO people will deal with an mRNA vaccine. After all, if ingesting a GMO is somehow bad for you (“the DNA gets to you”), how much worse would it be if you drop in a sequence that tells your own cells to produce a foreign protein (skipping the endothelial barrier of the GI tract)?

    1. NM says:

      I think I’m pretty rational and very much look forward to being able to take a safe and effective vaccine but I’d actually like to know a bit more about why I _shouldn’t_ be a little worried about mRNA vaccines. Is it that not many cells get hijacked to make the antigen, or only cells that I don’t care about or aren’t going to stick around for a long time, or what?

  33. Steve Scott says:

    The Moderna mRNA vaccine does not penetrate into the cell interior where DNA is located, only the outer part of the cell. So it can’t alter DNA in any way. That supposedly makes it safer. There is another form of mRNA vaccine that is “self-amplifying,” (Imperial College vaccine) that can duplicate itself, supposedly requiring far less vaccine to create a strong immune response. I don’t know if this addresses your concerns exactly, but maybe it will help.

  34. RA says:

    There’s little you can do to convince a militant anti-vaxxer. Anti-vaxxers who have no legit medical contraindication to vaccination often get away with not taking vaccines because they are able to mooch off the herd immunity produced by those who do the right thing and take vaccines. They are leeches on society, and often crazy in multiple ways. But….these COVID-19 vaccines are not like to sterilize, and so people who get them may still be able to get mild infections and spread the virus.

    People are not thinking through the ramifications of non-sterilizing vaccines…here is a good article:

    Thus far, many anti-vaxxers/anti-maskers have been able to mooch off the social distancing and masking and sacrifices of others that have reduced the probability that they personally have been exposed to COVID. They think they are invincible when in truth many have yet to be exposed! But once a vaccine comes out, responsible vaccinated people will no longer feel the need to hide at home, wear masks, etc. Then the anti-vaxxer will be surrounded by more and more people who are themselves protected from severe disease but can spread the virus. What will the anti-vaxxer do when their personal probability of exposure increases…how strong are their kooky beliefs? Will they risk it? Will they make an exception for self-preservation? While many will refuse to the end, I am guessing a number of them will cave, hypocritically get the vaccine, but not tell anyone about it, and then resume fighting against vaccines, 5G, etc.

    The sad thing is that there will be a subset of people who have a medical contraindication for vaccination or don’t raise a good response to it…it’s hard to see a scenario by which these individuals will be able to go back to normal anytime soon.

  35. eugene says:

    “There is evidence of weaponized anti-vaccine propaganda in the last few years, so there are reasonable chances that some of the social media rantings you see about these subjects have been started or exacerbated by such actions.”

    Speaking of deranged conspiracy theories being spread by Americans who think they are the height of respectable commentary or represent a ‘respectable’ media outlet… how is Russiagate working out for you? Maybe instead of accusing your fellow deplorable Americans of spreading anti-vaxxer information, take a look in the mirror and realize all of your camps that are now locked in some domestic existential struggle about toppling statues, are the biggest source of disinformation and conspiratorial garbage on the internet. Ordinary American citizens (and journalists working for the NYT) are the true agents of chaos. But that was what the internet was designed for. You know, democracy is messy.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I’ve been waiting to hear from you on this one.

      1. eugene says:

        Wait, you remember who I am? I hardly comment on chemistry anymore.

        Anyways, I’m just surprised that after three years of lies about how they were about to impeach Trump, you still believe the news outlets who pushed it. The story of internet trolls pushing agendas around the world was also ludicrous on its face, and to use it to push Democratic party agenda from the same ‘CIA sources’ should be a warning sign to you.

        Not that it really matters too much for either one of us in personal life. Your country is falling apart due to inequality that accelerated a lot in the last 20 years, tech oligarchs buying political influence and resulting political paralysis, and increasing betrayal of some imagined values. I of course am looking forward to this, since my original country has been destroyed due to a US coup, and as the US has behaved worse and worse since then, I gave up on trying to see anything redeeming about it.

        But ultimately, you and me both have PhDs in chemistry and we have good jobs and are very mobile if we have to be. I don’t live in my shithole country since a very long time ago. You’re close to retirement, but if the collapse accelerates after the November election between the dementia patient and the demented one, then you can move to the UK or Germany and get an editor/column writer job until 70. It’s those poor suckers on the wrong side of the inequality scale who will be forced to stay. Of course, it’s better to be prepared and think things through logically if you have to stay ahead of events; hence you need to realize you are being played about the Russian trolls and intelligence operations, but that’s just for personal peace of mind; the outcome for a chemistry PhD should be very good when compared to others in times of chaos.

        1. Derek Lowe says:

          Of course I remember! You have defended Russian honor several times here over the years.

    2. Olandese Volante says:

      Oh hi Evgeny.
      What’s the weather like in Leningrad?

  36. Yopod says:

    If science does not soon have a solution for the immunology of Covid, I suspect that the problem is white guys. Can we get some firing of white men in the chemistry departments just about right now?? Thanks. – everyone

  37. eub says:

    The “Gates nanochip” disinformation appears to be loosely inspired by the existence of McHugh et al. “Biocompatible near-infrared quantum dots delivered to the skin by microneedle patches record vaccination”.

    It got spun through “vaccine barcodes” where barcodes have a long American kook tradition as marks of the Beast, and then turned into chips or blockchain or something.

    1. Ted says:

      A public policy goal in countries that lack medical records, or even a means of identifying their citizens, is to be able to ascertain their vaccination status. Unfortunately, in some countries, evidence that you’ve been vaccinated can be dangerous, see the link in my header.

      This has led to various proposals for developing ‘invisible’ labels or markers to spike into vaccines, so that previously vaccinated recipients could be identified.

      You could see how this could be misinterpreted…


      1. eub says:

        I hadn’t realized the active anti-vaccination threat, but that aside it makes sense, really, to have vaccination status go along with vaccination, in circumstances where record-keeping is difficult. But it freaks people out, apparently.

        1. loupgarous says:

          When the whole concept of “chipping” people hit the press, there was the inevitable pissing and moaning from all sides.

          I, on the other hand, have a highly complex medical history and wouldn’t mind being chipped so that my medical history could be read off a central database after I was positively identified at the hospital. It would just make rapid treatment of any one of several dangerous side-effects of my cancers that much easier.

  38. Carl Pham says:

    I blame the Internet. No, stop laughing, I’m serious. What the Internet does is put facts and summaries of someone else’s understanding at the fingertips of anyone, any time. And it’s human nature to routinely mistake a familiarity with the terms of a debate with mastery of the subject of the debate. (I believe the cog sci people call this the “fluency illusion.”)

    So because everyone can google “innate immune system” and get a sketch of what it is from Wikipedia or Derek Lowe’s column, and everyone can look up the CDC’s latest numbers and hypotheses on this and that, or discover the ravings of Andrew Wakefield in 30 seconds, everyone fancies himself just as informed and competent an epidemiologist, or virologist, or physician, as people who have actually spent the decades in the lab, or the clinic, painfully learning caution and empirical skepticism.

    But to paraphrase Syndrome, when everyone’s an expert, no one is. The end result is *not* the population of better-informed and more cosmopolitan consumers of knowledge, able to digest and appreciate truly expert opinion even better than before, which the optimists always assumed would happen, but rather a population increasingly divided and paranoid, where individuals trust *nobody* but those belonging to the same tribe (actual, ideological, or emotional). Too bad.

    1. Charles H. says:

      Well, ok, that’s part of what’s happening. But you left out that people inherently prefer simple explanations. Even experts in the field (whatever field) prefer simple explanations that are “good enough”, even when they know they aren’t quite right. (NASA uses Newtonian Physics.)

      Add into that that the world has gotten too complicated for people to master what is known even in their own field of expertise. And things keep changing. When I was in high school I could disassemble and repair a car’s engine. These days…forget it. Even the professional mechanics today are less capable on today’s cars than I was (or felt I was) in high school. And it’s not because they are less competent, it’s because the device is more complicated (and more proprietary).

      Given this complexity, many people demand a certainty that is only available by fabulation.

      1. Carl Pham says:

        I agree to some extent, provided we allow for an expanded definition of “simplicity.” There are many bogus but popular theories that are actually far more factually complex than the more correct theories for which they substitute, just as Copernican heliocentrism is simpler then the full panoply of Ptolemaic epicycles needed to square observation with geocentrism. The basic principles of actual chemistry are actually simpler than the governing principles of alchemy, with its huge overhead of mystical Forces.

        Where I would agree is that people prefer theories that suit their social intuitions and tribal instincts better — which align with who they think is virtuous and who is not, with the superiority of me and my tribal group, and our ultimate success, rather than theories that align with (e.g.) the probability that I and my group are wrong and will come to misfortune unless changes are made. These are the theories that are mentally “easier” and “simpler” to accept, because they involve the least change to our social attitudes and self-image.

        1. confused says:

          >> There are many bogus but popular theories that are actually far more factually complex than the more correct theories for which they substitute,

          Yes, but this sort of thing only really becomes a problem when you actually look at the data, at a level most people don’t.

          The Ptolemaic system in Copernicus’s time was weighted down with epicycles and such, but the “high-level overview” seemed more intuitive – it’s “obvious” that the Sun moves and the Earth doesn’t. Fitting preconceptions has a lot to do with it, but there’s also a factor of explanations making a simpler “story” or being more intuitive.

          (Though, actually, the Ptolemaic/Copernican thing isn’t that great an example of irrationality; in the late 16th and early 17th century, the evidence was far from clear. The non-observation of stellar parallax by people like Tycho Brahe was a big problem for the heliocentric model**. The lack of a theory of gravity that could work with the idea was a big problem until Newton, too.)

          **of course, now we know that the distances are simply too great for the effect to be observed with their crude instruments, but…

      2. loupgarous says:

        No, NASA uses Newtonian physics to predict and model orbital dynamics. To predict precisely where and when high-frequency satellite radio signals will fall on Earth (for things like GPS), it uses relativistic physics, just like DoD does. Newton just can’t get that job done.

  39. Michael Bernstein says:

    I have a question which is related to this topic.

    It seems there is great debate whether or not you can contract Covid more than once. If possible, surely there will be documented cases where a patient contracted the disease, recovered, and then tested positive again? If not, then the answer is “no”.
    Or, my thinking is overly simplistic.

    1. A Nonny Mouse says:

      There were some early suggestions that this was happening, but it was later found to be viral particles residing in the lungs, post-infection and recovery, which were “shedding” and giving a false positive.

    2. HU says:

      Note that “testing positive” almost always means either an antibody test (these are hopefully present for quite a while after recovery! ) or a test for viral RNA via PCR.
      The issue here is, that it is currently unknown if PCR positivity means infectivity in recovered patients. It may be possible for someone to be PCR positive, but shed very few infectious viral particles, and not get symptoms again. AFAIK these details are still largely unknown.

    3. John Brimblecombe says:

      That has occurred in several cases

  40. TallDave says:

    ironically mRNA vaccines are actually touting their lack of nuclear penetration, in theory they should be considerably safer

    anti-vaxxers seem too fringe to be worth worrying over too much… never going to escape the ugliness in the long tail, can’t avoid imprisoning/institutionalizing the most violent X% of the population either…life goes on for the rest of us, mostly

  41. NMH says:

    The example of why you should get a vaccine may be the following: Before the small pox vaccine, if you were not vaccinated, and you contracted small pox, there was a 33% chance you would die, and a 95% chance you would have pock (pox) marks all over your face, and be physically scared by the virus forever.

    If you get the vaccine, if you were to get small pox, there is a far less than 1% chance you would die. Furthermore, when everybody got vaccinated for this, the small pox had no where to go, and pretty much was lost from the entire human race: herd immunity at work here.

    If the anti-vaccer’s don’t want to be vaccinated from this, that is there choice, but we may never get herd immunity to the point where it will be always with us.

    1. loupgarous says:

      Which is where we are with measles. We get tantalizingly close to herd immunity, then a clade of folks decide their kids don’t need to go through the 1/300,000 chance of serious vaccine-related adverse event – and we get measles epidemics.

      1. Derek Lowe says:

        And which is why two years ago I got my own measles antibody titer checked and found I had no immunity left at all. I promptly got a new vaccination, since I would very much like to avoid picking that one up from some passing brat who mother didn’t believe in vaccines (and measles has a ridiculously high R0 – if the new coronavirus spread like that we would be up Excretement Creek for sure).

  42. lfert says:

    My mother in law thinks that Bill Gates will put a microchip in the Corona virus vaccine when it is distributed. I don’t have the heart or strength to argue/explain that this is insane.

    1. loupgarous says:

      Mothers-in-law inhabit that privileged space of “those who gave life to our beloved spouses”. Most of them never abuse the privilege. The few exceptions keep dartboard manufacturers and distilleries in business.

  43. Sunyilo says:

    Hi Derek,
    I feel for you and share your dismay over the display of such insanity (except 5G and wireless, in general. I don’t think we can scram our biospace with shorter and shorter wavelength EM noise of higher and higher field strength unpunished. Live cells and organisms do respond to EM transients, we just don’t know the limits of this sort of abuse).

    You have been a voice of reason and emanate the air of “let’s take a step back and be reasonable” approach. This forum – despite occasional appearance of lunatics – is more like: preaching to the quire. Have you thought of taking up a more public role in the space of science and technology? It’s an opportunity – you are not that far from retirement anyways – and your opinions and communication are compelling…Just saying

    1. Olandese Volante says:

      > shorter and shorter wavelength EM noise of higher and higher field strength

      You know what sunlight is?

  44. Ted says:

    I just want to be the one that gets to read the last line:

    “And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

    Actually, my biggest fear is that ends up the headline of the last edition of the NY Times.


  45. Somhairle MacCormick says:

    of course, it doesn’t help matters when these opinions (however misguided) are spouted by people in positions of power or influence (US presidents, Tennis players, or Goopy actresses). Unfortunately, social media acts to propagate these ideas not diminish them.

  46. Phil says:

    It’s never too early to start vilifying some people who may not take a vaccine that doesn’t yet, and may never, exist!

    1. Olandese Volante says:

      It’s never too early to start applying generous amounts of ridicule to self-appointed “truth seekers” who proclaim that the covid vaccine, and indeed the entire pandemic, is just a ruse devised by Bill Gates in order to inject us all with mercury, so he can then proceed to modify the body temperature of each of us at will through 5G radiation.

      (no, I’m not making this up)

  47. Semi-Informed says:

    Island where all becomes clear.
    Solid ground beneath your feet.
    The only roads are those that offer access.
    Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.
    The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
    with branches disentangled since time immemorial.
    The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
    sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.
    The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
    the Valley of Obviously.
    If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.
    Echoes stir unsummoned
    and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.
    On the right a cave where Meaning lies.
    On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
    Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.
    Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
    Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.
    For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
    and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
    turn without exception to the sea.
    As if all you can do here is leave
    and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
    Into unfathomable life.

    By Wislawa Szymborska
    From “A large number”, 1976
    Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

  48. Ralph Casale says:

    Late reply but … JAMA had a nice ‘viewpoint’ on the ethics of immunity passports, for those either vaccinated or have immunity (hopefully) based on recovery. Worth a read and part of this conversation.

    1. loupgarous says:

      The corresponding author of NEJM ‘s essay “The Ethics of COVID-19 Immunity-Based Licenses”which promotes having been contracted COVID19 is Obama administration bioethicist Ezekiel “Why I Hope to Die at 75” Emmanuel.

      I wondered who, exactly, would predicate full freedom to travel and work upon having contracted a disease that is much more likely to kill you if you’re over 64 years of age (until a working vaccine against SARS_CoV2 infection is developed). And the answer would either be “the screenwriter of Logan’s Run” or “Ezekiel Emmanuel and his colleagues”. Dr. Emmanuel has already written at length that we ought to joyfully embrace death after reaching an arbitrary age.

  49. Philip C Evans says:

    Anti-vaxx folks should be able to decide for themselves. Their decisions not to take the vaccine will NOT affect the people who choose to be vaccinated; they will be amune. Forcing everyone to inject anything only reinforces their fear of government control. I strongly recommend vaccines as much as I support a person’s freedom not to do so. If an epidemic breaks out and only the unvaccinated die, this would certainly change the opinions many anti-vaxxers. Forcing those same people to vaccinate does the opposite.

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