Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Pity the Anti-Vaxxers

Lying At Their Own Peril

We should have a National Stupid Day when anti-vaxxers, anti-abortionists, trump conspiracists, “Stop the Stealers” and other equally uniformed, intelligence-challenged and ethics-challenged people could meet for one day to bloviate at a rally in Washington, D.C., and then give it up for another 12 months.
The day could be held in recognition of more than 800,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19, amid an overwhelming body of evidence showing that the coronavirus vaccines are extremely safe and effective and that as of October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines and a booster were 40 times less likely to die of the virus than the unvaccinated. More than half a billion doses of the vaccines have been administered in the U.S., yet reports of serious adverse reactions or deaths attributable to the vaccinations are quite rare, according to the CDC.
All of these facts aside, the massive antivax movement has only confused and frightened already frazzled Americans into not getting the potentially life-saving vaccine. As of December 2021, 15 percent of American adults 18 and older remained unvaccinated, having not received even a first shot, meaning that tens of millions of Americans remain unvaccinated and at peril.

There was a dry run on Sunday for National Stupid Day as thousands of mostly unmasked, anti-vaxxers from across the country rallied in D.C. to hear their favorite anti-vaxx delusionists and liars. There were all the regular suspects, leading with discredited anti-vaxxer, Rep. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who could say something really crass like “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you can hide in the attic like Anne Frank did…Today the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run, none of us can hide.”
Del Bigtree, founder of the anti-vaccine group, Informed Consent Action Network, who received an informed salary of $232,000 in 2019, waxed on about how vaccines are deadly and Bigtree should know, because while he has no medical training, he did produce episodes for a medical talk show. He also has a website, Highwire.com, which is “forging a new path in journalism. By providing unprecedented access to our investigations, The HighWire has become one of the fastest-growing and most trusted health news and talk shows in digital media.” HighWire.com is not on my radar but then again I don’t really want to read one of the website’s stories on anti-vaxxer, Dr. Peter McCullough, who advocated for early treatment of hydroxychloroquine, and has made a boatload of false claims, including that people under 50 years of age and survivors do not need the vaccine and that there is no evidence of asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.
Bigtree also has speculated that the new COVID vaccines may cause diabetes, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, although there is no evidence to support those claims but who needs evidence when you have a conspiracy. Bigtree also spoke at the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump rally preceding the riot at the Capitol where he dumped on federal health authorities and said that trump actually won the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Robert Malone, a prominent critic of the coronavirus mRNA vaccines, was there with both barrels loaded with untruths. Malone got COVID-19 in February 2020, and said he treated himself with famotidine, the main ingredient in the over-the-counter heartburn medicine Pepcid. Surprise, Malone was the chief medical officer for the Florida-based pharmaceutical company Alchem Laboratories, which was awarded a $21 million grant by trump to study if famotidine would cure COVID-19, even though there was a lack of data or published studies showing that famotidine could work for anything more serious than heartburn.
And yes, there were representatives of Feds for Medical Freedom and D.C. Firefighters Bodily Autonomy Affirmation Group, both bitterly opposed to the intrusion on their personal rights to get COVID-19 and infect others. Don’t these two groups know that COVID-19 was the leading cause of line of duty deaths for police officers nationally last year, killing at least 182 officers.
The sanctimonious group, “Defeat the Mandates,” sponsored the event, under the banner of “The mandates are Un-American,” though I believe shots for a whole slew of nasty diseases have always been mandated with very favorable results.
And anyone coming to the rally could buy commemorative “Defeat the Mandates” T-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, hats, mugs and paradoxically, facial masks for just $14 each, although I imagine the “Defeat the Mandates” crowd believes nobody should have to wear a mask, even if it saves their life.
And sponsors included groups like “Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance,” “Children’s Health Defense,” “Vaccine Safety Research Foundation” and a group called “World Council for Health.” Not exactly household names and notably absent from the supporters is the CDC and I ask why would bona fide health advocacy groups put their name on a program that includes proven nutjobs like Kennedy, Bigtree and Malone.
And as far as funding for the annual disinformation, fear mongering circus, one name stands out, Bernard Thierry Selz, a New York City fund manager and a major financier of anti-vaxx groups like Bigtree’s. The Selz Foundation provides around three-fourths of the funding for the “Informed Consent Action Network,” an anti-vaccination charity led by Bernard Selz’s wife, Lisa Selz, and Bigtree. In total, the Selz Foundation is estimated to have donated more than $3 million to the anti-vaccine movement.
As far as Kennedy Jr., his father would surely turn over in his grave if he heard how far out his son had traveled. The Center for Countering Digital Hate identified junior as one of the main propagators of conspiracy theories about MICROSOFT founder, Bill Gates, profiting from and controlling the use of vaccines and 5G phone technology as causing COVID-19.
But it has been a profitable adventure for junior. As his success as a conspiracy theorist grew, so has his social media impact. Between the spring and the fall of 2020, his Instagram account grew from 121,000 followers to 454,000.

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer