Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Oz and the Antivax Movement

 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.

David Corn at Mother Jones:
In February 2021, as the new vaccines that would tame the Covid pandemic were being released to the general public, an article sourced to an osteopath in Cape Coral, Florida, claimed that the vaccines were “a medical fraud” and did not counter the disease. The shots, it said, “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”

The man pushing these false statements was Joseph Mercola, a pioneer of the anti-vaccination movement, who had a history of Covid denialism, having asserted that there was no pandemic and that Covid was a “scam.


Yet a few years earlier, Dr. Mehmet Oz, now the Republican candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania, had validated Mercola and boosted his audience, helping this anti-vaxx crusader expand his ability to disseminate false and possibly dangerous information.

In 2009, after Oz had appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show dozens of times, Winfrey set him up with a syndicated television show of his own on which he covered assorted health issues. It was a success. But four years later, in a lengthy profile of Oz, New Yorker reporter Michael Specter noted that Oz had “consistently” booked “guests with dubious authority” to challenge conventional medicine. That included Mercola, who had quit practicing as a doctor to run a highly profitable business selling alternative health products and dietary supplements.

...In 2014, Steven Salzberg, a professor of biomedical engineering and computer science at Johns Hopkins University and a columnist for Forbes, penned a similar critique of Oz’s promotion of Mercola:

Why has Dr. Oz repeatedly had Joe Mercola on his show? This is a tough one. Does Oz believe that autism is caused by vaccines, something Mercola has claimed repeatedly over the years? Does he understand that Mercola’s anti-vaccination campaign leads to genuine harm? Does he know that the FDA has repeatedly issued warnings to Mercola to demand that he stop making false claims about his vitamins and supplements, as Chicago Magazine reported?

Or does Dr. Oz keep inviting Mercola back because he knows Mercola has a big audience that will increase his own viewership?

In 2016, Julia Belluz reported on Trump's appearance on Oz's show:

Oz — a cardiothoracic surgeon — isn’t known for being a tough interviewer, particularly when it comes to vaccine deniers. In the past, he’s been criticized for lending his giant platform to anti-vaxxers, including the alternative medicine doctor Joe Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy. (Oz has already said he won't ask Trump things that he wouldn't want to answer.)