Vaccine hesitancy is surging again, regardless of the science – The Hill

Vaccine distrust and animus aren’t new. 
Back in 1976, operating on the theory that pigs were a mixing vessel for flu strains (they are) and had caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic (pigs did not — it developed from a bird-like creature and jumped to humans), scientists and then-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. David Sencer jumped to the conclusion that a new swine flu strain that infected several military recruits and killed one would spread rapidly among humans and cause the next pandemic. They were badly mistaken, and President Gerald Ford backed a mass vaccination program urged by Sencer, which was not only useless in protecting Americans against a virus that never actually threatened them but appeared to be associated with more than 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (ascending paralysis). 
What hasn’t been written about enough is the public protest and the lawsuits. These occurred even before the public knew that there was no pandemic and were tied to the Guillain-Barre cases. President Ford was forced to indemnify the drug companies and transfer the responsibility to the federal government. Public confidence in vaccines suffered for decades afterward.
Flash forward to now, when the COVID vaccines were indemnified under the PREP ACT because they were given an Emergency Use Authorization during an actual ferocious pandemic. I believe they have been very useful tools, especially for decreasing the severity, hospitalization and risks of long COVID. But the mandates that emerged have been a lightning rod especially once it was determined that they frequently didn’t prevent spread. Large segments of the public were alienated by this my-way-or-the-highway approach. People felt talked down to and scientists and the government touting the term “misinformation” made it worse. The science of COVID was still evolving and calling someone misinformed meant that you thought you knew the answer and they didn’t. This was and is a dangerous position to take.
Those who chose to go unvaccinated were naturally looking for science to justify their position, and they went from focusing on natural immunity from infection (which was downplayed by the U.S. as providing effective protection though not by Israel or the European Union) to dilating side effects of the vaccines themselves. Yes, myocarditis has been found to be associated with male teens at a rate of at least 7 per 100,000 vaccinated, but the rate of myocarditis is much greater from COVID itself and much more severe, and the incidence of COVID myocarditis has been shown to diminish after vaccination.
Fear of side effects has kept pregnant women from taking the jab (29 percent believe unproven claims about the vaccine), despite the fact that recent studies have shown that the vaccine decreases the severity of COVID during pregnancy and COVID can be life-threatening to both the mother and the fetus. 
And now the CDC has revealed that there is a “signal” in their vaccine safety data link that the COVID Pfizer bivalent vaccine could be associated with an increased risk of stroke in the over 65 years old group in the first 21 days after vaccination though, “there also may be other confounding factors contributing to the signal in the VSD that merit further investigation.”
The signal was not seen in data reviewed from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Veterans Affairs, VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Registry) which is generally the most sensitive since it is based on self-reporting, or the Pfizer global safety database. A high-level CDC official told me that it is very unlikely to represent a true clinical risk. The CDC website states this. Even while this is being further investigated (these data and additional analyses will be discussed at the upcoming Jan. 26 meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee), the burgeoning anti-vax group is targeting it and trying to use it to undermine the Pfizer vaccine once and for all.
The great psychiatrist Dr. Sigmund Freud would probably call this phenomenon identifying with the aggressor. Vaccine refusal was never about choice it seems, it was always about the need to vilify something that your opponents were championing and trying to force on you. Just as one side mocked you for refusal, the other side mocked you for taking it and they automatically called it poison.
The tragedy here is that once again the true science is being obscured beneath the politics and the country’s growing division. Lawsuits over vaccine side effects may follow and are sure to obscure the benefits of a useful, still effective, and essentially safe vaccine especially beneficial in high-risk groups, including those over the age of 65.
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. He is a Fox News medical correspondent and author of the new book, “COVID; the Politics of Fear and the Power of Science.”
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