‘Anti-vaxxers’ and ‘Covidiots’ Are Not the Same

We must all realize that vaccines are our only chance. Without them we will lose the global war against the pandemic.

An Ohio doctor was mercilessly ridiculed after her ludicrous testimony in front of the Ohio House Health Committee about the side effects of vaccines, saying that vaccines magnetize people.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny did not even blink as she described the pain of having to constantly remove stuck forks from one’s face or keys from your hands, like a mini-Magneto. Social media has had a field day with this.

It is never too late for anyone to become a laughingstock, but it is concerning when a medical doctor begins to publicly spew garbage and gain followers among the gullible and the less-educated.

The only logical motive behind Tenpenny’s ridiculousness is her bottomless desire for fame; otherwise she would have produced at least one “magnetized” patient, avoiding both having to go to testify and becoming a laughingstock.

Yet we must be honest and admit that we have all had anti-vaccine moments. There are only a few Bulgarians willing to take the seasonal flu vaccine, and not because of a danger of becoming magnetized. Many remember feeling sick after their inoculations, and since then, prefer not to play with fire.

Others travel abroad to exotic countries, yet decide to ignore recommendations and vaccination requirements, thus failing to inoculate themselves against malaria, hepatitis and many other dangerous diseases. Even doctors admit that vaccines can occasionally have more downsides than upsides, yet there are many vaccines, for many types of disease.

And this is key: an “anti-vaxxer” and a “covidiot” are not the same.

One could somewhat understand hyperprotective mothers who believe a plethora of conspiracy theories and thus refuse to immunize their children against tuberculosis, diphtheria and many other monstrous infections.

The “I heard someone say” policy institute holds sway in our country, a place where medieval superstition makes us do things as unreasonable as avoiding black cats. The conversation about COVID-19, however, is different: There is no if or maybe. The entire world is in danger.

It is one thing to travel to the Philippines with fingers crossed and hope you will be lucky, or to convince yourself that the chances of you specifically getting the seasonal flu are low. It is quite another to proclaim yourself someone who is against vaccines during a global pandemic. It’s like refusing to shower during the plague.

I don’t chat with strangers on Facebook, but occasionally I cross paths with people who are so absurd that I cannot resist interacting. When you look at the Facebook wall of Dr. Asparouh Iliev, a molecular neuro-infection specialist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, you can find entire dump trucks of nonsense.

A Snapshot of Idiocy

Iliev writes comprehensively that yes, vaccinating yourself is a personal health decision, but it is also a matter of public safety, as the consequences of a COVID-19 infection are unpredictable and, most importantly, only herd immunity can defeat the virus. He calmly explains why the vaccine may result in stronger immunity for some, and provides wonderful examples. “If you train like a runner for six months, you will surely run faster, but it is possible that you will not become a sprinter if your body is ill-suited to running that fast. This does not mean that your training is meaningless and changed nothing,” Iliev says.

Yet a blonde woman from a mid-sized Bulgarian city, let’s call her Jane, attacked the vaccine and disease specialist like a hungry mosquito. “Why are you scaring people? Health is sacred and we must all have freedom to choose,” she said.

Jane did not seem to be a devout practitioner of any religion that prevents her from being vaccinated, so I allowed myself to engage with her and told her that nobody is creating panic, and that the entire global medical community recommends vaccinations to shield humanity from the virus. I also pointed out that there are places that are less free, such as Moscow, where vaccines are mandatory, and that we Bulgarians would be offended and feel discriminated against if we did not have enough available vaccines.

Jane was undeterred, so I reminder her that Slavi Trifonov, a Bulgarian politician and media figure whose own TV station often broadcasts programs that warm the hearts of anti-vaccine audiences, became gravely ill in April and could not join the Bulgarian parliament as a member nor make any public appearances. I specifically told her this because I suspected, without any proof, that she was someone who watches Trifonov’s station.

Sadly, after I concluded my argument, Jane disappeared, her avatar melting into the depths of the internet, which tells me that she was a simple troll, and I wasted my time and energy blindly believing I had been communicating with a human.

It is not that a person who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccines is an easier opponent. I have even met intelligent examples of these people with whom my discussions are complicated. A dear relative of mine is convinced that the virus is created in a lab and is part of a plan for the subjugation of humanity.

OK, I say, I agree. There are facts that confirm this, including Bill Gates’ famous Event 201.* So you believe that someone is controlling the pandemic?

Yes, he says.

And that a handful of the super rich are becoming even richer through the sale of vaccines? I ask.

Yes, of course, he says.

Great, I say. And do you believe that these puppet masters can stop the pandemic?

Absolutely, they are in control, he replies.

How? I ask.

No answer.

Tell me how? I repeat.

How should I know!, he replies.

Have you ever thought that the vaccines are the thing that will stop the virus? I ask.

No, he says.

Why, for fuck’s sake, do you refuse to use the cure? I ask.

My relative has no satisfactory answer, and in the end we fight like drunk guests at a wedding and have a glass of wine to calm down.

I wanted to continue pestering him until he opened his eyes, and one night I finally won a small victory.

He agreed that, since this is a global problem, a modern world war, maybe making the sacrifice and getting the vaccine would be bearable since it would be a victory for our kind. Hurrah!

One small step for man, one giant leap for the survival of the sensible!

*Editor’s note: Event 201 is a reference to a simulated outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people that eventually becomes efficiently transmissible from person to person, leading to a severe pandemic.

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