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Thursday, July 21, 2022

Dr. Hotez on Politics and Antivaxxers

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures.

 At US News, David Levine interviews Dr. Peter Hotez:

Hotez also discussed the challenges of vaccine skepticism, misinformation and outright attacks on public health experts. As the parent of a child with autism, “by default, I became an expert in vaccine anti-science,” he said. “I wrote a book a few years back, called ‘Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism,’ which put me in their crosshairs, and it’s made me public enemy No. 1 or 2.”

Hotez estimates that after COVID vaccines became widely available in the last half of 2021, perhaps 200,000 Americans needlessly lost their lives because they refused them. Overwhelmingly, he noted, the lives lost from vaccine refusal occurred in conservative or “red states,” according to analyses from multiple independent sources including health care analyst Charles Gaba. “This is the hardest thing I've ever had to talk about as a physician-scientist,” he said. “All of our training says … ‘Hey, you're not supposed to talk about Republicans and Democrats and liberals or conservatives. We’re supposed to be well beyond all that, be politically neutral.’”

But “this anti-vaccine activism now in the United States kills more Americans than global terrorism, nuclear proliferation [and] cyberattacks combined,” he noted.

Hotez said he believes the country is in a “very dark time” now, and he is writing another book with the working title “Anti-Science Kills,” which will address some of these crosscurrents. “I worry for the country, because I feel that we're a nation that's built on science and technologies,” he said. “One of the reasons we're a great nation is because of our research, universities and institutions, and now this is under threat to this far-right authoritarianism.”