Until the last couple of years, I doubt whether I’d ever spent even ten minutes thinking about vaccination issues, and probably a large majority of ordinary Americans fell into the same category. I’d had a few rounds of shots as a young child, supplemented by boosters every ten or fifteen years and an annual flu shot. I had no idea whether any of them worked, but except for having a sore arm for a day or so, none of them had produced any ill effects for me, nor for anyone I knew.
Everything changed in 2020, as the sudden Covid epidemic led our government to heavily promote a massive vaccination drive based upon a new mRNA technology. This quickly caused the once-obscure anti-vaxxing movement to grow enormously in size and visibility, suddenly moving to the center of political life. For a period of a year or more, the less mainstream portions of the Internet, including our own website, were awash with the outpourings of a vast number of fearful vaccine-skeptics, with the debate only subsiding after the February outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war diverted public attention toward an entirely different issue.
From the beginning I was extremely doubtful of all these anti-vaccine arguments and I presented my contrary views in a lengthy interview with Mike Whitney. Together with a couple of follow-up columns, it provoked some 4,600 comments totaling 850,000 words, the overwhelming majority of those responses being intensely hostile to my position:
- Are the Opponents of the Covid Injections “Anti-Vaxx Crackpots”?
Mike Whitney Interview with Ron Unz
The Unz Review • August 1, 2021 • 9,000 Words • 1,681 Comments
As more and more public health data came in, my skepticism of the anti-vaccination position hardened, and in January of last year I published an article summarizing it, followed by an additional article six months later
- Covid Deaths and Vaxxing Deaths
The Unz Review • January 17, 2022 • 2,800 Words • 1,409 Comments
- Vaxxing Conspiracies and 700,000 Rumble Views
The Unz Review • July 18, 2022 • 2,800 Words • 941 Comments
Although I certainly regard myself as a member of the anti-anti-vaxxer camp, I think my views on the issue are actually quite moderate, as I spelled out in a couple of early paragraphs in those two articles:
Anti-vaxxers come in a wide variety of different types, and I’d be the first to acknowledge that some of their arguments seem perfectly reasonable. The Covid vaccines were rushed into production without the usual lengthy testing period and the most popular versions used in the West rely upon an innovative new mRNA technology, so it seems quite plausible that the negative side effects have been far greater than from our annual flu shots. Billions around the world have now been vaccinated for Covid, and I would hardly be surprised if many, many tens of thousands have died as a consequence. But such losses would represent merely a tiny sliver of the 15 or 20 million killed by the disease itself, and if the medical experts are correct and vaxxing greatly reduces the risk of severe illness, the cost-benefit ratio is tremendously positive, at least for individuals who are middle-aged or older.
Mandatory vaccination efforts enforced by serious legal or employment sanctions are the explosive flashpoint of the anti-vaxxer movement, but these never made any sense to me. The vaccines appear ineffective in preventing infection or transmission, and their main benefit is to greatly reduce the risk of serious illness or death. So the vaccinated have little to fear from those who reject the needle, while the latter can make an informed—or perhaps emotional—choice in weighing the risks of a relatively untested vaccine against those of severe Covid illness. Given the extreme paranoia of a considerable slice of anti-vaxxers, heavy governmental pressure may even be proving counter-productive.
For years, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had been one of the most prominent public figures in the anti-vaxxing movement, and I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the positions he had taken in his massive #1 Amazon best-seller were equally moderate on the other side, as I had earlier noted in my strongly favorable review of his important book:
Surprisingly enough, and very contrary to my expectations, Kennedy’s stated position on vaccines seemed rather mild, quite different from the wild fear-mongering so regularly encountered on the Internet. He claimed that many vaccines weren’t properly tested, often had harmful side-effects, and were promoted mostly due to the profiteering of greedy pharmaceutical corporations and their subverted governmental regulators, accusations far more moderate—and far more plausible—than I had assumed he would make. While it’s not at all uncommon for wild-eyed anti-vaxxers to warn of millions—or even billions!—of deaths due to the current Covid vaccination drive, I didn’t see any such egregious claims in the carefully-documented chapters of this book…
Unlike some of his more extreme supporters, Kennedy seemed to fully admit that Covid is a dangerous disease, but correctly emphasized its extreme age-skew. He pointed out that the vaccines have proven far less effective than originally predicted, and he noted that they were rushed into widespread release without sufficient testing, which may eventually lead to major future health problems. The legal fig-leaf that allowed the normal regime of patient trials to be set aside was the claim that no other medical treatment existed, and this probably explains the widespread attacks on the use of IVM. Moreover, the vaccination of children or the youthful seems very misguided given mildness of the illness for those age-cohorts.
- American Pravda: Vaxxing, Anthony Fauci, and AIDS
The Unz Review • December 6, 2021 • 6,100 Words
It’s now been nearly six months since I last reviewed the Covid vaccination controversy, so I decided to revisit the topic, partly prompted by a new book I had recently received on the issue, published under the auspices of Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense organization.
The title was “Cause Unknown” and the author was Edward Dowd, a highly-successful former Wall Street fund manager who had become a vocal public critic of the Covid vaccines in 2021. Although only released in mid-December and priced at a hefty $34.99, the book has already become quite successful, currently ranked #274 across all of Amazon’s millions of selections, while also having touched the #1 spot in the specific categories of virology, immunity, and vaccinations.
Kennedy contributed the Foreword, but the style and presentation was nearly polar-opposite to his own. The 2020 Kennedy book had consisted almost entirely of text, with its unusually narrow margins used to squeeze hundreds of thousands of words into just 450 pages, while lacking any index or even chapter-headings and having a stark cover of pure text.
In sharp contrast, the much shorter Dowd book was overflowing with the images of extracted news clips and photos, featuring hundreds of the alleged victims of the Covid vaccine. The physical quality was extremely high, including the heavy use of colorful graphs and charts, all tastefully arranged, and the design of the glossy pages had the lavish feel of a coffee-table style book but applied those high production values to a grim subject. Nearly all the news clips and quotes were coupled with scan-codes, allowing the reader to easily verify their original source, the first time I’d ever seen such that innovative feature so widely used in a printed volume.
Books are published for many different reasons, and I’m sure that the outrage of the anti-vaxxing community will be stoked by the hundreds of photos and news stories of youthful individuals or successful athletes unexpectedly struck down during the last couple of years, often felled by fatal heart attacks or strokes. Such readers will probably follow the author in automatically blaming the vaccines for this calamity, but as a skeptic of such theories, I was left completely unconvinced.
Billions around the world have been vaccinated against Covid, including at least a couple of hundred million Americans, and even the most ardent vaccine advocates would admit there would have been some who suffered ill-effects. Almost none of the cases cited in the book can be definitely ascribed to the vaccines, but even if every single example had that cause, the numbers involved would be totally negligible, perhaps a thousand deaths out of more than 220 million vaccinated Americans. When considering public health issues, we must rely upon statistics, and based upon my simple examination, the evidence hardly supports the book’s conclusions, instead pointing in an entirely different direction.
Near the beginning of Dowd’s Introduction he emphasized the huge rise in American mortality over the last couple of years, noting that during the latter half of 2021, the death rate for people of working age (18-64) was 40% higher than for previous years, an unprecedented increase that I’ve seen widely quoted across the media. But surely this is exactly what we would expect to see during a massive epidemic, and although he claims that most of those deaths were not directly attributed to Covid itself, it is easy to imagine that the virus might still have been the ultimate cause in many of the cases.
In particular, there is a great deal of evidence that individuals infected by Covid can have serious, lingering health problems long afterward—the so-called “Long Covid” syndrome—and if these conditions eventually lead to early death many weeks or months later, the lack of current Covid symptoms might easily produced a different diagnosis. Dowd explicitly dismisses that possibility “because we know that COVID is not a significant cause of death in young people”—but we don’t actually know that, only that the virus is far more dangerous to the elderly. The same question similarly applies to the widespread rise in disability claims that the author also mentioned.
Thus, while it’s certainly possible that the hundreds of mysterious deaths documented in the book were due to Covid vaccinations, it seems equally possible that they were due to the lingering aftermath of the Covid infection itself. The best means of separating out the two effects is to consider the timing of those increased fatalities….