My Fruitless Debate with an Anti-Vaxxer

I had to try.

A friend whom I’ve always highly respected nearly died from COVID-19 recently. He lost 75 pounds and was in the hospital for two weeks, part of that time on a ventilator. His wife was in a hospital room nearby, going through the exact same thing. You guessed it: They weren’t vaccinated. Fortunately they survived, much to the shock of their medical teams.

To make matters worse, he has lost his government job because proof of vaccination is now required. He’s under the impression that he has a chance to get it back, but as they are no longer accepting religious exemptions, I know he’s out of luck. And he was great at that job. He loved it.

This is a wonderful man whom I’m happy to call a friend, but we’ve always studiously avoided talking politics or religion, because I think we both instinctively knew that we are polar opposites when it comes to those topics. And because I value his friendship, I did my best to hold my tongue about this. Truly, I did. But the other day my crashing disappointment with his ill-informed and nearly deadly choices bubbled to the surface, and I found myself incapable of keeping my mouth shut.

You already know how this turned out. I did not change his mind one whit. And I’m quite sure I went about everything the wrong way, but I had to try.

In essence, it felt like I was trying to deprogram someone who had been a member of a destructive cult for years. Needless to say, I have no training in this arena. He kept texting me misinformation and I was able to debunk every single thing, point by point, with readily available facts. I read the information on the links he sent me in order to debunk them, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t click on any of my links, because he did not want his mind to be changed.

Oddly enough, I totally get that. Think about it. If he were to come to his senses at this point, he’d be forced to admit to himself that he and his wife nearly died, and he lost his dream job, due to his own foolish choices. He’d also have to conclude that his religious and political leaders do not have his best interests at heart, and he has been duped. His entire worldview would have to fundamentally change. That would be a very hard pill to swallow. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.

He started off by saying that God told him not to get vaccinated. I wasn’t going to get into a religious debate with the man, so I let this point slide, but I’m fairly certain that unless God showed up at his kitchen table, sandals and all, and chatted about the subject over a cup of tea, he didn’t say a word. If the God of my understanding were to encourage me to put my life, and the lives of others, at risk, I’d have a hard time with that. And if that same God encouraged me to reject science, when he theoretically was the one to give us brains for the scientific research in the first place, I’d be done with him. My friend is mistaking the word of his misguided preacher, along with a heaping helping of misinformation from Fox News and a steady diet of confirmation bias, for the word of God.

This makes me really sad, because he’s an intelligent man. I truly believe that. But somewhere along the way he never quite acquired critical thinking skills, and then was taught that blind faith is superior to any thinking at all. Beware of anyone who tries to teach you that.

He kept sending me links from obscure websites, and their articles had no confirmation or validation from any credible source. I kept asking him to provide multiple sources, and he couldn’t. For me that would be a red flag, but he was too busy being blindly faithful to see it.

He also said he had natural immunity now, so he didn’t need the shot. I sent him a report from the CDC that says that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.”

I’m sure that fell on deaf ears. He has been told not to trust the CDC, and since he’s faithful and unquestioning, he is unable to see why that’s a horrible idea. I’m quite sure he thinks that vaccinations are a part of some huge liberal conspiracy. Never mind that 163,000 unvaccinated Americans have needlessly died since June per the Kaiser Family Foundation, and all the hospitals are overwhelmed. Minor details.

Next, he hit me with a link from a website that is so suspect that I won’t even provide the link here, for fear that you’ll be overwhelmed with spam and malware. In fact, when I did a google search asking if this site was legitimate, I discovered that Scam-detector.com gives it a score of 26.9, based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the most reputable.

But the article says that 317 athletes have had cardiac arrest and 170 of them have died after taking the shot. The article comes with a really sketchy video that shows athletes collapsing during games all over the world. I watched this video. It shows different news reporters talking about athletes collapsing, yes, but it doesn’t show when these reports were done, and it cuts them off before they mention what the cause of the collapse was. It’s only the sketchy website that draws the conclusion that this is all recent and COVID related.

I pointed all that out to him, and also mentioned that my whole life, I’ve seen stories of athletes collapsing during games. It’s not particularly unusual. I also pointed out that this article is not only not confirmed by other news sources, but also that it is debunked by this article, which says that “there is no connection between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.” (And, incidentally, that website has a score of 85.6 from Scam-detector.com.)

For some reason I thought I could appeal to my friend’s under-exercised logic, too, so I pressed on. I said, “Even if that were true, it’s a small statistical sample. Let’s do the math. Using that small sample, all of us who were vaccinated would be having cardiac arrest, and 53% of people who get the shot would be dying. So far, 194,747,839 Americans have gotten the shot. If your sample were true, then 103,216,355 of us would be dead by now.”

No response to that. But then he said, “the VAERS websites for America and the UK are pretty informative.”

All right. I’ll bite. I hopped on over to VAERS, which stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and which is, indeed, run by CDC (which shows that he’ll believe CDC if their reports are twisted enough to agree with his beliefs), and I could debunk him pretty quickly. VAERS is a passive reporting system, which means it’s not statistically accurate and the site itself reiterates that on nearly every page, saying that it’s not designed to determine if vaccines cause a health problem. In Addition, even a quick look at it on Wikipedia turns up this information: “As it is based on submissions by the public, VAERS is susceptible to unverified reports, misattribution, underreporting, and inconsistent data quality. Raw, unverified data from VAERS has often been used by the anti-vaccine community to justify misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines; It is generally not possible to find out from VAERS data if a vaccine caused an adverse event, or how common the event might be.

All this information seems rather convincing to me, but his only response was, “I appreciate and respect your opinion. I hope you’ll do the same with mine.”

That made me get tears in my eyes. He’s a decent guy. And while I do appreciate that he shared his beliefs with me, I cannot respect opinions that are so easily debunked, especially when it relates to people’s very lives. I just can’t. All I could say is that his coworkers would really, really miss him.

I suspect that will be the last time I hear from my friend. I am not going to try to force it. I’d still like to be friends, but I wouldn’t want to breathe the same air that he does, and that might make things awkward. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why republicans want to kill off their base. Their misinformation and their desire to make this about the rights of individuals, even though public health impacts us all, is, indeed, killing them. The statistics bear this out. Check out the graph below, and read this article for more details.

Public Health should NEVER have been politicized. It’s too important. And it’s way too easy to prove that vaccines are important. When’s the last time you saw a child die of Polio?

In recent days, even Trump has encouraged people to get vaccinated. Such is the dire state of this pandemic. He admits that he got two vaccines and a booster himself. So did Sean Hannity, the hypocrite. But they can’t unring that disastrous anti-vax bell. People have too much pride to admit they’ve been led astray. It’s heartbreaking that so many people will die needlessly because of it.

People who don’t get vaccinated are not only foolhardy, but they are also selfish. As long as they persist in their inaccurate beliefs, this pandemic will continue to rage on. The virus will continue to morph in those carriers, and people will continue to die, all alone, even as they assert their independence. It’s all so unnecessary.

Sigh. I’m so frustrated and disappointed. I’m so sad. And most of all, I’m tired to the very marrow of my bones.

Incidentally, my blog gets a 75.7 score from Scam-Detector.com, which indicates that it is “Standard. Valid. Common.” And more importantly, safe to use. It says it would have gotten a higher score if the site hadn’t ranked zero in popularity. Well, ouch. You guys need to start sharing my posts with friends!

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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