The slippery road to the COVID-19 vaccine uptake and vaccine promotion is fraught with dogmatism and scientific bias
In a New York Times op-ed, “Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Bobby Kennedy Says,” internist Dr. Kerry Kennedy Meltzer bashes her uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for purportedly promoting vaccine misinformation regarding the new COVID-19 vaccine.
She bemoans the data from the Kaiser Family Foundation that “roughly a quarter of Americans say they ‘probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.’”
And she ends with a plea to the American people to take the vaccine: “When the vaccine is offered to you, I urge you to take it. Do it for yourself, for your family and your friends. Do it for your country.”
Hold on Dr. Kennedy Meltzer – because you have entirely missed the boat.
This op-ed from a well-meaning doctor is an exemplar of how our medical and public health systems have fallen prey to vaccine dogmatism, substituting smoke-and-mirror responses for actual answers, having seemingly lost touch with the concerns of the average person.
Let’s examine where Ms. Kennedy Meltzer and the rest of the medical community have gone wrong in their reporting of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Make Ad Hominems – Distract from Actual Safety Concerns
Dr. Kennedy Meltzer – you deride your uncle, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, by stating, “His concern — that the Covid vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn’t been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong.”
Sure, you can make this statement provided you state what your uncle’s actual claims were, and why they are wrong. Instead, you label him an anti-vaccine advocate and promptly claim victory by your use of the label. This is an ad hominem fallacy.
It goes beyond Mr. Kennedy’s concerns, as, ultimately, those concerns are the public’s concerns. Through your use of ad hominem fallacy, you assume away our concerns with the seemingly sweeping characteristic that anyone questioning the safety of the COVID-19 is as deluded as your uncle.
While you do comment about the rarity of allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, however this is but a mere subset of the many concerns regarding the new vaccine, concerns which your uncle’s organization Children’s Health Defense has been reporting about for years.
In an attempt to simplify the vaccine decision making process for us, Dr. Kennedy Meltzer does address these numerous concerns. You don’t discuss the flawed trial design of the COVID-19 vaccine trials or the cases of Bell’s Palsy that arose among four of the vaccine trial recipients. You don’t comment upon the possible long-term effects from the mRNA technology used in the COVID-19 vaccine.
Are we supposed to believe that our concerns are diminished by her elation at seeing “social media feeds filled with pictures of friends and colleagues, sleeves rolled up, writing about how much this vaccination means to them?”
It’s time to stop assuming away concerns and actually start listening, an important skill that is used by effective doctors.
Lies of Omission – Pretending Vaccine Injury Doesn’t Happen
Dr. Kennedy Meltzer – nowhere in your article do you speak about the adverse effects of the vaccine. The term “adverse effect” is a euphemism; let’s call it what it is – a vaccine injury.
The dirty laundry of the medical profession is that vaccine injury can and does happen. Like with any medical intervention, side effects and injuries can occur. But why not be transparent and acknowledge it with regards to vaccines?
And let’s look at what is going on with the COVID-19 vaccine. What about the high rates of adverse effects amongst those receiving the vaccine? Why not tell us what the CDC and the FDA acknowledge as possible vaccine injuries, err I mean side effects, from the COVID-19 vaccine?
Surely, you must have perused their actual trial data material? Why do you omit the possible adverse effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? And what about the concerns of polyethylene glycol (PEG), an ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine, which could be linked to anaphylaxis which your uncle has been warning about?
As of today, more than 2.1 million people in the United States have already been vaccinated and only 11 have reported a serious allergic reaction.
Have you looked at this CNBC piece on adverse effects experienced by trial recipients? It reports: “Luke Hutchison woke up in the middle of the night with chills and fever after taking the Covid-19 booster shot in Moderna’s vaccine trial. Another coronavirus vaccine trial participant, testing Pfizer’s candidate, similarly woke up with chills, shaking so hard he cracked a tooth after taking the second dose.”
The time for sweeping vaccine injury under the rug has passed. We all know about the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 which grants liability protection for vaccine-injury for the childhood vaccination program. We all know about the $4 billion+ that has been paid out by government programs for vaccine injury. And we know the US government is trying to limit payout liability for injuries due to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Maybe it’s high-time for doctors like yourself to be transparent about these facts, especially when the public already knows about them.
The Appeal to Authority – Take It Because We Tell You To
Dr. Kennedy Meltzer – you implore us to place our trust in the hands of the authorities: “Being a doctor does not make me a vaccine expert, but I know whom to trust: immunologists like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who have spent their whole lives studying vaccine development.”
This makes an appeal to authority fallacy. No matter how long Dr. Fauci or Dr. Kizzmekia have studied vaccine development does not mean we should blindly obey their pronouncements. Nor does it mean we should blindly obey anyone just because they have a medical degree nor come from an Ivy League school.
But have you considered that a one-size-fits-all approach does not fit for everyone? Have you considered that we all have different genetic and environmental profiles? Or that we have different levels of risk assessment, and that taking the COVID-19 vaccine may not be for everyone? Could some of us in the population be more at risk for side effects than others?
The CDC data indicates that not all of us are equally vulnerable to COVID-19, and the infection fatality rates (IFRs) quite a bit depending on age and presence of pre-existing conditions. For example, for ages 20-49, the survivability rate from COVID-19 is 99.98%. Different risk profiles can change the cost/benefit calculation quite a bit for someone.
You embody this authoritarian standpoint yourself. You assume a priori that you know what the best answer is for all of us, and that is to take the vaccine. “Do it for your country” you say but even Dr. Fauci mentions that the COVID-19 vaccine may not prevent transmission. Certainly, this is an important detail to mention, no?
Who decides if the COVID-19 vaccine is worth it for us? We do. We know our bodies and our circumstances best, certainly not Dr. Fauci.
The dogmatic view that you advocate for, that everyone should take a given vaccine without regard to individual circumstances, is outdated.
Moving Away From Vaccine Dogmatism
The fundamental problem revealed by Dr. Kennedy Meltzer’s article is vaccine dogmatism; modern medicine and public health have taken such a strong stance regarding vaccines that it can no longer adequately evaluate them from an unbiased standpoint.
When posed with the question “Should we give this vaccine?” modern medicine blindly answers “yes.” When posed with the question “Should we allow people to question vaccines?” modern medicine blindly answers “no.”
There too many doctors like Dr. Kennedy Meltzer, churned out by a medical education system who blindly repeat the same answers to vaccine criticism without deeper inquiry, inculcated to believe in the inherent fragility of humans to infectious disease, and having a dogmatic faith in vaccination as the sole answer.
It is with this background that doctors Dr. Kennedy Meltzer cannot help but offer us ad hominem attacks, strawman representations of vaccine criticism, and obedience to scientific authorities like Dr. Fauci. She is unable to critically evaluate criticisms against vaccine policy, nor is she allowed to by the medical system in which she practices.
And so both rational thinking and science have taken a backseat to vaccine dogma – especially concerning as this time of COVID-19 requires both of the former.
The fundamental question here is: does the public have the right to make its own safety assessment and its own risk/benefit calculation regarding taking the COVID-19 vaccine?
It should. My body, my choice goes beyond just the abortion issue, and should encompass a philosophy of general human civil liberties as well. It is a problem that the medical system, in service to its own commercial interests, does not recognize this fundamental human right.
Greater reforms are needed in medical education and vaccine policy. More transparency is needed. And the time to begin is now.