Monday, December 07, 2020


I don't think is America understands how hard many prominent right-wingers will fight to keep people from being vaccinated against COVID-19. Here's one of the right's superstars:

And The New York Times reports that we'll soon hear similar talk in the Republican-led Senate:
A doctor who is skeptical of coronavirus vaccines and promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment will be the lead witness at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, prompting criticism from Democrats who say Republicans should not give a platform to someone who spreads conspiracy theories.

Dr. Jane M. Orient is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that opposes government involvement in medicine and views federal vaccine mandates as a violation of human rights.

“A public health threat is the rationale for the policy on mandatory vaccines. But how much of a threat is required to justify forcing people to accept government-imposed risks?” Dr. Orient wrote in a statement to the Senate last year, calling vaccine mandates “a serious intrusion into individual liberty, autonomy and parental decisions.”
But there isn't going to be a federal vaccine mandate. President-Elect Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci have already said that. Orient is scaremongering.

I've written a lot about Orient. The Times summary of her career just scratches the surface. She's a quack and a political hack. Here's what you need to know about her and about the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons:
The AAPS ... has its house journal, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPANDS). The journal is not considered a valid, peer-reviewed journal for inclusion in major scientific databases, for obvious reasons, and has been listed by Quackwatch as “Fundamentally Flawed” ... JPANDS has for instance published (this is a short list) a rather famous and extensively debunked article on the supposed link between breast cancer and abortion, and between oral contraceptives and cancer ..., articles defending HIV denialism (a mainstay with the AAPS), ... articles defending hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat multiple sclerosis, articles (infomercials, really) pushing nutritional treatments for ADHD and herpes; [and] an article (from late 2008) claiming that Barack Obama uses neuro-linguistic programming to exercise mind control over people at his rallies....

Orient is also a creationist and signatory to the sadly silly Discovery Institute initiated petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.
Why do I say Orient is a right-wing hack? Let's see: In 2008, her organization published an article questioning whether then-candidate Barack Obama was using neurolinguistic programming as mind control:
At the web site of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons ("A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943"), there's an unsigned "News of the Day" item dated October 25, 2008, under the title "Oratory -- or hypnotic induction?". This article's disturbing message is indicated by the rhetorical questions in its opening sentences:
Is Barack Obama a brilliant orator, captivating millions through his eloquence? Or is he deliberately using the techniques of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), a covert form of hypnosis developed by Milton Erickson, M.D.?
During the 2014 midterm campaign, Orient speculated that America might experience an Ebola epidemic caused by undocumented immigrant children:
According to an Ebola expert, the porous U.S.-Mexico border is creating issues that could lead to widespread contraction of Ebola, tuberculosis and a mystery respiratory disease.

Dr. Jane Orient, the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, told Laura Ingraham’s radio show Wednesday that children who have crossed the border and are now in American schools, could spread the trio of viruses as the illegal children may not have been screened or quarantined thoroughly.

According to Orient, the current situation America faces is a “public health nightmare” and that almost all cases of tuberculosis in America are brought to the country via “foreign born individuals.”

... Orient also warned against the possibility of Ebola being spread in America, stating that illegal children “could be” infecting other students, and that “it only takes one infected child.”

“We don’t know for sure the government is being real tight-lipped about this. It only takes one infected child to infect the whole classroom. [...] One infected child can infect somebody else and eventually you have thousands of cases being admitted to the hospital,” Orient told the radio host.
And during the 2016 campaign, she warned that we were underestmating Hillary Clinton's health problems:
Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, observes that “strangely silent is the mainstream media about the fitness” for presidential office of Hillary Clinton. At AAPS’ website, Orient summarizes the concerns about Clinton’s health that she says are growing:
There’s the photograph of Secretary Clinton’s difficulty walking up some steps. Now inability to climb stairs does not necessarily disqualify a person for public office. However, neither she nor people with her apparently anticipated a problem. The people helping her seem to be preventing a fall. Did she simply trip? Or was it a seizure or a stroke?
... “Obviously, it would be very dangerous for a person subject to symptoms like this to be dealing with foreign leaders or making critical decisions,” she states. “The President of the United States may have to make world-changing decisions on a moment’s notice. For example, should we launch nuclear-armed missiles? And if the Commander in Chief is confused, who will make the call?”
(The quoted piece has been reoved from AAPS's website but is archived here.)

Whose idea was it to invite Orient to testify before this Senate committee? I'm looking at the list of committee members and I assume she was recommended by Senator Rand Paul -- he's a member of AAPS. But chairman Ron Johnson presumably okayed her.

It's a disgrace that she was invited, and I hope a Democrat grills her on her wide range of crackpot beliefs. Or perhaps Democrats should boycott the hearings to protest her invitation.


Rampant anti-vaccine sentiment is already having an effect. The New York Post reports:
More than half of New York City firefighters say they won’t be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the potentially life-saving shot becomes available to first responders in a matter of weeks, according to a new internal survey.

About 55 percent of 2,053 smoke-eaters polled in the last three days by their union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, answered “No” when asked, “Will you get the COVID-19 Vaccine from Pfizer when the Department makes it available?” UFA President Andy Ansbro told The Post. The responses account for about 25 percent of the UFA’s 8,200 active members.
This is despite the fact that the department has had more than 130 positive cases, according to the Post story.

The story reports on skepticism among transit workers, teachers, and even health care workers, but no group is as skeptical as these firefighters. I'll note that the department is nearly all male and 77% white, in a city that's less than 43% white. These are the people most likely to be receptive to a campaign of right-wing vaccination skepticism.

I see the right being described these days as a death cult. Is it that? Or do the people pushing these toxic ideas simply not believe that anything terrible will ever happen to them as a result? Watching the rapid recovery of Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and others from COVID -- Rudy Giuliani will probably be next -- I think they assume they'll get concierge care and experimental treatments, therefore it's fine for them to keep the rubes scared and ignorant. So far it's working for them.

A year from now, I assume Canda, the Pacific Rim, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU will have vaccination rates in the mid-80s -- while America struggles to reach 50%. Five years from now, America will be known as the country that still has regular COVID-19 outbreaks, years after the disease has been conquered everywhere else. I believe the right will continue to fight vaccines -- the anti-vaxx movement could become the GOP's new Tea Party. As we try to inoculate Americans against COVID, right-wingers will threaten vaccination sites and vaccination workers. They'll treat any card you get verifying that you've been vaccinated as the biblical Mark of the Beast. It's going to get ugly.

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