Vaccine Scepticism is stupid, but not for the reason you might think

Recently I was sent a video by a certain Dr John Campbell titled “Immunology of mRNA vaccines”, which I won’t link to here, but it essentially casts doubt about the safety of mRNA vaccines with no evidence or sources whatsoever. In a discussion with a fellow retired crank named Robert Campbell, he leaps to unlikely conclusions from official statistic, misrepresents the effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing disease, invokes broader concern about genetic science, ignores the overwhelming evidence of effectiveness, and fails to see wood for trees.

In this post, I want to talk briefly about the vaccine scepticism industry, of which Dr Campbell is a part, as he is evidently profiting from it.

I’ll ignore the crazy microchip and 5G conspiracies – that’s a whole new level of crazy, and Dr Campbell certainly doesn’t go that far – but the more sane output from sceptics tends to focus on the potential harms to the individual. They do this while forgoing all risk analysis and ignoring the benefits to the population as a whole, obviously.

The reason it’s effective though, is that there are kernels of truth in the idea that vaccines can be harmful. Because it’s not really disputed that there are risks in taking a vaccine. There are individual variances in response, and some individuals probably do experience real harm, no matter how rarely it happens. The decision to take one might be obvious for anyone with a sense of civic duty that understands risk, but the risk would still be greater than not taking it, in an environment where disease is not circulating.

Thus, if you deny epidemiology and the facts of circulating disease, and ignore the health of people around you, there’s the semblance of a rational position there.

Disease is circulating though, and that’s one reason that vaccine scepticism is stupid – it demonstrates a failure to evaluate risk.

But there’s another.

Say you ignore official statistics in favour of anecdata, which tells you that Covid is but a sniffle, and you believe you’re exceptional (a common bias) and will be harmed by the vaccine. If, as a rational sceptic, you kept quiet and avoided it, while 99.9% of the sheeple took theirs and did their part to suppress the disease, you could get away with it. You’d be in the dream environment where there is little to no disease, more resources to take care of you if you do get sick, and you haven’t had to take a vaccine. You benefit from vaccines with no risk to yourself (if of course you ignore the risk of getting the disease itself, which is a pretty big if).

But no, that’s not what happens… there’s money to be made!

These idiots selling scepticism to the masses are making your scepticism a problem. Because when vaccine scepticism starts to gain traction, disease does too, and then it becomes a problem for policy makers. And the last thing you want, as a rational vaccine sceptic, is attention from policy makers. You want them to leave you alone, free to avoid vaccines in peace.

Unfortunately for the true sceptic, confirming biases sells. Better than sex probably, just to fewer people.

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