In America, conspiracy theories and alternative facts undermine public health and cause death

The insidious agenda of anti-vaccine activism and proponents of so-called “health freedom” has averted hundreds of thousands of deaths. Inexplicably, anti-vaccine activism extends far beyond novel COVID-19 vaccines. This includes childhood vaccines that have been in place for many decades.

Vaccines of all kinds prevent or reduce diseases that would otherwise kill and maim millions of people. Vaccines save lives. You wouldn’t know it if you listened to the likes of twice-elected Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who repeatedly Statement Like on Twitter:

“I demand an immediate investigation of Covid vaccines and the dramatic increase in sudden deaths!”

Here, Greene was referring to the death of Lynette Hardaway, also known as “Diamond” of the political duo “Diamond and Silk”. Ms Hardaway died last week at the age of 51. Hardaway’s cause of death is not known. It is also unknown whether he was also vaccinated against COVID-19.

The phrase “died suddenly” has become a talking point among anti-vaxxers. Similarly, reprehensible slogans, such as “Fauci lied. Talk about people dying,” they reflect a strangely unsupported belief that the COVID-19 vaccine causes sudden heart attacks.

Americans’ strange obsession with conspiracies

All this is not new. Americans have long had a bizarre obsession with conspiracies and alternative facts, particularly with regard to science and public health, but also with regard to politics.

Anti-science runs deep in America, which is ironic given how influential US-based scientific discoveries and innovations are.

According to a 2014 paper in the American Journal of Political Science, approximately 50% of Americans believe in at least one unproven conspiracy theory. Certainly, this number has increased in the last 9 years.

When I lived and worked in Europe for several years, I noticed that there was definitely an anti-science edge. But, it always remained on the periphery. There was a general consensus about much of the science and there was trust in scientists employed in both the public and private sectors.

This consensus in America is crumbling and in danger of falling apart entirely. There are many conspiracy theories spread by the internet and social media. Urban myths have gone mainstream, especially around COVID-19. First of all, it was a hoax. Then, it was considered a tool of the surveillance state. Remember those people who said that the vaccine is equipped with a microchip to track the vaccinees. And now “died suddenly” has become a hashtag, a rallying cry for an increasingly militant faction of vaccine skeptics. Cooks have been normalised. And this is a big problem.

We live in a post-truth era, which means that objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. As the astute veteran journalist Marvin Kalb puts it, without a generally accepted understanding of the basic facts on which we base our government decisions, how can we maintain and then maintain a viable, functioning society? can?

In the 19th century, French sociologist Émile Durkheim introduced the idea that a “social fact” is not necessarily true, but rather what a community – or at least a segment of it – believes to be true. Even if evidence proves this “fact” to be untrue, it will make no difference to true believers.

preparing for the next pandemic

Alternative facts are not the only reason for public skepticism. Communicating objective evidence to the public has been problematic. And not just messages by public health officials or politicians. A vaccine maker like Pfizer has done a bad job. In the winter and spring of 2021, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla posted messages on social media announcing that the transmission of the COVID-19 vaccine would stop. For example, on April 1, 2021, Borla tweeted “Excited to share the updated analysis of our Phase III study with BioNTech, which also showed that our COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 cases in South Africa. 100%!

That was a mistake, which eventually led to mistrust. It also contradicted what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had said in December, 2020, based on data presented by Pfizer. FDA said:

“At this time, there is no data available to determine how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.”

On Paxvlovid’s treatment, Borla again made an unforced error. After reports indicated that some patients taking Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) regressed and experienced symptoms again, the CEO told Bloomberg that patients could take another course, “just like you would with antibiotics.” do with.” The FDA immediately condemned Bourla’s proposed solution.

And so, preparing for the next pandemic means that everyone who has a vested interest in public health – from public health agencies to scientists to drug and vaccine makers – must fight anti-science with honesty and better communication skills.

They must explain science-based decisions to the public in a nuanced way that allays fears of government overreach. Here, they must walk a fine line when rebutting the narrative of disinformation campaigns, for example, run by anti-vaccine hardliners. Don’t sell more Inform the public on both the benefits – to individuals and society as a whole – and the side effects and potential risks, however minor, of vaccines and treatments. Be prepared to debate which age (and other) groups would benefit most from vaccines and which the least.

In this regard, it is imperative that policymakers develop a long-term pandemic preparedness strategy that is evidence-based, continually educates the population, and strives for what Dr. Margaret Chan, former Director-General of the World Health Organization, called “health security.” Do. Chan stressed that “respiratory pathogens with pandemic potential pose as serious an existential threat as climate change, environmental degradation and nuclear war.” Underscoring the point of calm, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for the COVID-19 response, warning That “pandemic preparedness and preparedness is a constant. It doesn’t start, it doesn’t end. There is no peace time. And, echoing the warnings issued by Chan and van Kerkhove, Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote in his book, rampant expansionWhy we should view public health preparedness through the prism of national security.

uphill battle

Countering the anti-science crusade, however, will be a difficult task, as Dr. Peter Hotez writes in his new book, The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: How Health Freedom Propaganda Endangers the World.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians have sown doubt among constituents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. This anti-vaccine rhetoric has contributed to hundreds of thousands of preventable COVID-19 fatalities; What Dr. Peter Hotez calls “anti-science death”.

America’s record on Covid-19 should be regretted. While there are many reasons for the mediocre performance compared to its peers, gaps in vaccination and booster coverage played a significant role. In turn, this has contributed to a continuing, decade-long troubling decline in life expectancy.

What is troubling is that public health preparedness in the US is facing more headwinds than before the COVID-19 pandemic. For one thing, it appears that US legislators are no longer prioritizing efforts to prepare for the next pandemic. In light of what has happened in the last three years, some may be shocked by this. But the apathy displayed by many lawmakers is consistent with decades of public health neglect, which has led to chronic underfunding at the local, state and federal levels.

At the very least, public health departments at the local, state and federal levels should be revitalized. However, this will be hard to come by in the face of opposition to public health interventions. Most states curtail public health powers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In these states, legislators have rolled back the abilities that state and local officials use to protect the public from infectious diseases.

Florida Governor DeSantis, in particular, appears determined to curb public health authority, even in the event of the next infectious disease emergency. He recently announced a series of policy proposals that would permanently bar public health officials from setting vaccine mandates, along with outbreak mitigation measures.

The harsh reality is that when our already weak public health agencies face further cuts, or their already limited powers are curtailed, it seriously undermines the nation’s health.


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