[conspire] Not an antivaxxer, nosirree

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue May 25 15:52:52 PDT 2021

To briefly recap, what particularly annoyed me about the stream of
objections regular volunteer KT (at an unidentified-here California LUG) 
posted in opposition to his LUG expecting only vaccinated people to 
show up for in-person or hybrid LUG meetings -- and be prepared to show
their CDC vaccination record cards -- was that he made those arguments
in bad faith.

His "It's illegal to require anyone to show a confidential medical
record" and "The vaccines haven't gotten full FDA approval" objections
was _not_ his real objection, as he admitted the next day on the LUG's
Jitsi Meet conference.  Also, those objections were bunk, for reasons I
explained here.  They were also classic anti-vaxxer talking points,
making it truly hilarious that JT threw "I'm not an anti-vaxxer or
anything" into the middle of those talking points.

The first talking point was particularly galling, coming from KT, 
because it's obvious that he's attended school in California, and 
probably had relatives who've done so as well.  And anyone who's 
attended school in this state has had to produce proof of _several_ 
vaccinations as a condition of attending.  So, KT knew, or certainly
should have known, that the claim was flat-out false -- but he
advanced it anyway.  Thus _very clearly_ bad-faith discussion.

Today, looking on Snopes.com reminded me of a subsidiary objection 
KT advanced pursuant to his objection #2:  "It would be a HIPPA


  Claim:  Businesses can ask customers if they have been vaccinated against
  COVID-19 without legal repercussions.

  Rating:  True.

This is another of those anti-vaxxer talking points that are designed 
to sound plausible if you don't understand the subject or don't stop to
actually _think_.  And the thing you're not supposed to think about is:
What is HIPPA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is a
1996 Congressional statute regulating the flow of personally
identifiable healthcare information _among regulated healthcare and
healthcare insurance providers_, to protect patients' privacy.

If you are not a regulated healthcare or healthcare insurance provider, 
HIPPA does not apply to you.  Period.

If a friend, or a stranger, or a business, says to me "Hey, Mr. Moen, 
are you vaccinated against polio?  If you can't prove it, you may not
come into our clubhouse", that is not a HIPPA violation.  If I reply 
"Yes, I got the Sabin vaccine in 1965", that is not a HIPPA violation.
Neither the person asking, nor the person answering (or declining to
answer) is regulated by HIPPA.  Period.

Even if KT utterly misunderstood what HIPPA is, he should have deduced
that he was spouting bushwah, because it simply doesn't make sense that
it would be illegal to voluntarily disclose, or to ask about, medical
information.  The obvious applies:  If the person asked doesn't care to
answer, then nothing compels disclose _but_ the person might have to 
experience consequences -- like not being permitted to enter someone
else's clubhouse.  Or business.  Or school.

And even if KT really hadn't known _that_, common sense suggests he
should have looked up what HIPPA actually regulates before mouthing off
about something outside health care being made unlawful by it.  The
_most_ charitable thing I can conclude is that KT grabbed a bunch of
talking points off the Internet (from the usual anti-vaxx and right-wing
nutjob sources) and just regurgitated them without bothering to
quality-check them.  Or simply posted them in bad faith, knowing they
were dead-wrong but convenient to his then-undisclosed personal views.

I rather resent being transparently bullshitted, in that way.  It
suggests KT either thought I was a little dim, or wouldn't mind having
low-grade propaganda showed at me.  Either way, nope.

Since we're on the subject of fraudulent COVID-19 anti-vaxx talking
points, here's a related Snopes piece:

   ’18 Reasons I Won’t Be Getting a COVID Vaccine’ Post Filled With
   Reckless Falsehoods

Article covers one of the Typhoid Marys of COVID-19 anti-vaxxers, 
Christian Elliot, who published a piece on 2020-03-09 of the quoted
title, that was then spread all over Faceplant and Twitter millions of
times over this past year.  Full debunking is at the link, but here's a

#1 “Vaccine Makers Are Immune from Liability”.  No, they aren't.  
But as part of a compromise in 1986 to give vaccine manufacturers 
an incentive to keep supplying the government, any lawsuits over alleged
vaccine injury must be filed in a special Federal court, the National
Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, run by U.S. Court of Federal
Claims, which adjudicates damages and awards them if merited from a risk
pool funded by an excise tax on vaccines.  

And, by the way, this has applied to all vaccines since 1986.  If you 
don't trust the three COVID-19 vaccines for that reason, then you don't
trust any of the vaccines you must have to attend schools and colleges,

#2 “The Checkered Past of the Vaccine Companies”.  Elliot's framing of 
companies' history implies that we have to just trust them -- but that
is false, given requirement and checking of clinical trials and
subsequent regulation.  And one reasons we know these have teeth is 
that FDA has refused AstraZeneca even an emergency use authorisation, 
so far, because of flaws in its supporting data.

#3 “The Ugly History of Attempts to Make Coronavirus Vaccines”,  Elliot
repeats here, uncritically, a wild tale by anti-vaccine activist Sherri
Tenpenny that has been proven factually incorrect and to misrepresent 
older studies of SARS and MERS vaccine efforts.

#4 “The ‘Data Gaps’ Submitted to the FDA by the Vaccine Makers”.  Elliot
charges that approval reports for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines
admitted that there are "data gaps" in those reports suggesting that 
the vaccines don't actually prevent transmission or mortality.  But
Elliot ignores that those reports covered only data collected through
Nov. 2020, and data already collected in the following several months 
when Elliot wrote that filled in the apparent gaps.

#5: “No Access to the Raw Data from the Trials”.  Technically correct
but damningly misleading, as the general public doesn't ever get direct
access to raw clinical-trial data.  Hundreds of pages of summary data
are, along with selected data in two independent peer-reviewed medical
journal articles, among other places.

#6: “No Long-Term Safety Testing”.  It's technically true that, when
Elliot was writing, there was less than a year of available follow-up
data.  We don't know for absolute certain what the very long-term
effects of the vaccines are -- but we have a really good idea what the
long-term effects for millions of people are from being infected, and 
those are really bad.

Saying "We should wait a few years and find out what these vaccines'
long-term effects are" today (or in March 2020 when Elliot was writing)
makes about as much sense as saying to Jonas Salk in 1955 "Hey, sure you
have a miraculously effective vaccine against polio, but let's wait a
few more years and keep having an epidemic, to get more long-term data."

#7: “No Informed Consent”.  Basically, bunk.  Elliot tries to claim that
FDA's emergency use authorisation of the three vaccines is an unethical 
undisclosed clinical trial imposed on the public (hence 'no informed
consent).  No.  There were full phase 3 trials, and then three months of
FDA review for each vaccine.  As Snopes points out, the seriousness of
the FDA process can be seen in FDA having paused authorisation for J&J 
vaccine over a mere six blood-clotting cases out of nearly 7 million
doses administered.

#8: “Under-Reporting of Adverse Reactions and Death”.  False.  This is a
mad hand-waves from Elliot based on the fact that the Federal Vaccine
Adverse Events Reports System (VAERS) program relies on self-reporting
of adverse vaccine after-effects and making a non-sequitur claim about
data.  To wit, Elliot says that the VAERS data shows "over 2,200 deaths
from the current COVID vaccines".  No, it doesn't.  It shows that over
2,200 people died after getting vaccines, which happens because people
die, and vaccines don't render people immortal.

Elliot further hand-waves a claim that VAERS captures only 1% of the
total adverse reactions, and guesstimates the vaccines have actually
caused 110,000 to 220,000 deaths -- which is compounding a wild guess
about captured data with a wilder claim about underreporting.  The best
that can be said is that Elliot's envelope calculation is evidence and

#9: “The Vaccines Do Not Stop Transmission or Infection”.  But they do.
It's been proven that the vaccines greatly reduce asymptomatic spread
and viral load.

#10: “People Are Catching COVID After Being Fully Vaccinated”.  Well,
yes, but some of these caught it before vaccine immunity full ramped up,
but also the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be 95%
effective, which means they will be ineffective in 5% of cases.  (J&J's
vaccine's numbers are less spectacular, but still good.)  That is _wild
success_ by the standards of other vaccines.  Also, in the 5% of persons
who are subsequently infected, it's been shown that severity of
infection is far less.

#11: “The Overall Death Rate from COVID”.  Elliot claims 99.74% survival
rate from infection, without saying where he got that (wrong) figure
from.  One of the best recent estimates, from JHU, is a 1.8% death rate
in the USA from infection (98.2% survival rate).  That's about 20x more
fatal than seasonal flu.  Moreover, getting severe COVID-19 often ruins
the patient's health for life even if it doesn't kill him/her.

#12: “The Bloated COVID Death Numbers”.  More bushwah, relying on, I kid
you not, a claim in a QAnon tweet retweeted by Trump.  

#13: “Fauci and Six Others at NIAID Own Patents in the Moderna Vaccine”.
Actually, they aren't.  Dr. Fauci is listed as an _inventor_ on at least
36 patents or patent applications, but inventor doesn't mean owner, and
Fauci doesn't _own_ any patent related to a COVID-19 vaccine.  NIH
(Fauci's employer) co-owns the Moderna patents, but NIH is not Fauci.
It's the United States.

#14: “Fauci Is on the Hot Seat for Illegal Gain-Of-Function Research”.
This is a really wild personal accusation that Fauci was involved in 
(allegedly) medical experiments in Wuhan to make viruses more
transmissible and deadlier, specifically the issuance of an NIH 
$600M grant to a company called EcoHealth Alliance -- an accusation that
Fauci had approved money to deliberately develop a bioweapon in Wuhan.
Leaving aside the wild claims about EcoHealth Alliance's sponsoring of
research in Wuhan, Dr. Fauci had no direct oversight over the $600M
grant anyway, and it was just an extension of an existing grant that had
been funded since 2014.  And none of this has anything to do with the
vaccines, anyway.

#15: “The Virus Continues to Mutate”.  Well, yes, so?  We vaccinate
against viruses anyway, and so far, the three approved ones are
continuing to be spectacularly effective against newer strains --
although Pfizer and Moderna (at least) say we'll need a booster shot
next year, being worked on, because the pandemic is still a threat.
To stop needing boosters, it would be nice to cut the infections,
e.g., by enough people getting vaccinated, and then the world will
stop being a huge Petri dish to crank out new strains.

#16: “Censorship … and the Complete Absence of Scientific Debate”.
This is _so cute_!  This guy puts out a piece of misinformation that
gets viewed over 2 million times on Faceplant, and he's complaining
about "censorship".  Intellectual consistency is not his strong suit.

#17: “The World’s Leading Vaccinologist Is Sounding the Alarm…”
Who is 'the world's leading vaccinologist" according to Mr. Elliot?
A crank veterinarian (admittedly with a Ph.D. in virology) named Geert
Vanden Bossche, who for the past decades has been trying and failing to
patent something he calls a “universal vaccine” capable of killing a
wide variety of diseases.  Somehow, Elliot trusts this wack-job, but not
real epidemiologists and virologists.

#18: “I Already Had Covid”.  Non-sequitur.  "I had it and it wasn't that
bad" has been true for many but misses the point, and Elliot's belief
that he automatically got full lifelong immunity from a mild COVID case
is doubtful.  I hope he's right, but this simply isn't a reason why he,
let alone the rest of the world, ought not to go get one of the vaccines
and rejoice in one's good fortune (except those who unfortunately cannot
get them for medical reasons).  

The other big thing:  In his grand summary, Elliot asks why we don't
just trust our bodies' natural immunity that we develop by getting sick
and then getting better.  It's a stupid question, but a common one.  We
don't do that because having and using well-tested, effective vaccines
is so _very_ much better.

But hey, if you wish to follow Elliot's advice and have a very serious 
likelihood of getting very ill and possibly having your health ruined
for life, or dying slowly of suffocation in the knowledge that it didn't
need to happen at all, go right ahead.

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