Opinion | Stop the spread of vaccine misinformation

This is an open letter to Liz Willner, the subject of media attention last week when it was revealed that she was running a site that actively spread anti-vaccination misinformation.

I, like many others, have read both the Vice and Exedra articles about your website OpenVAERS. I feel compelled to write because of how strongly I feel about the issue of misinformation around vaccines. Based on the accounts I have read, due diligence is not being done on your site to ensure that the context and all relevant data are there as it relates to vaccine injuries. It does seem that the information is being posted in a biased way, through the lens of one who does not trust that vaccines are developed for the betterment of our health and safety.

It is not irrational to equate some harms with vaccines — adverse effects are rare but they can happen. It doesn’t negate the fact that the vaccines are keeping most people healthy. For example, have you watched the documentaries on the polio vaccine? You are not old enough to have lived through that, but I am. Polio was rampant, and the only thing that stopped it, and, frankly, spared me and millions of other children from the lifelong negative effects of that disease, was the vaccine.

And now we have COVID killing hundreds of thousands of people, and, again, just like in the days of polio, we have just one weapon in our arsenal — the vaccine. However, as I’m sure you know, the only way we can really get beyond COVID and back to life as we (now vaguely) remember it, is to get a large majority of people vaccinated. I’m sure you’ve read about the number of people getting ill from the delta variant, and the fact that a vast majority are them are unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated may be contracting a “breakthrough” case, but are typically not hospitalized anywhere near the rate of the unvaccinated.

The bottom line is that every unvaccinated person is allowing COVID to spread and to mutate. Your direct actions on your website are one of the causes of COVID infections being both prolonged and becoming ever more potent. I urge you to stop.

We all want to get back to our normal lives, but convincing people not to get vaccinated is not the answer. To steadfastly refuse to recognize the vaccine for the benefits it offers is not a reasonable stance in my view. We know the benefits far outweigh the risks.

I am assuming that you and your family are not vaccinated. I am also assuming that you and your family so far have not gotten COVID. I would like to remind you that you should be thanking the practically 87% of eligible Piedmont residents who have been vaccinated for helping to keep you and your family healthy.

I wish you the best and hope you stop what you are doing and get yourself and your family vaccinated.

2 thoughts on “Opinion | Stop the spread of vaccine misinformation

  1. So, I assume that “mis-information” by your definition is anything that goes against your opinion of the very new science regarding Covid-19. So when Doctors and epidemiologists publish information that you believe to go against the narrative of the moment, (that is this moment)- is that dis-information? Because it may also be considered new information that you can use to further science. When Denmark discontinued the use of the J&J vaccine, was that due to their falling prey to dis-information? When Sweden suspended the use of the Moderna vaccine for people age 30 and under, were they duped? Just today the FDA is delaying a decision to authorize Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for adolescents to assess whether the shot may lead to heightened risk of myocarditis, are they also being mis-led? Is hesitancy really so foolish? Since when is hesitancy a bad thing, I consider rash, uninformed action much worse.

  2. I totally agree. I had never heard of OpenVAERS.com until a few days ago when a vaccine hesitant friend sent me an article by Lee D Merritt MD who also provided a link to the OpenVAERS.com in her article posted on the far right thenewamerican.com website. Merritt cited some 5000 deaths from the vaccine in July so when I checked the OpenVAERS site to get the most recent numbers, I was skeptical when I saw it was up past 12000 just yesterday. I was fairly certain that our nation would have heard about 7000+ deaths in a month from the vaccine and did not trust the site. So just this morning I began researching the legitimacy of OpenVAERS.com and came across the Vice and Piedmont articles. Thank God for the good journalists in the world. The article by Lee D Merritt seemed legitimate to my friend but when I pointed out to her that if she just clicked on the links that Lee D Merritt herself provided, she would find that the portions of the data that were not included in the text of Merritt’s article were very significant and contradictory to Merritt’s claims. The links provided by Merritt herself advocated for the use of vaccines and other measures and warned about the race against viral evolution, but my friend never clicked on those links and Merritt never wrote about these facts in the text of her article. Merritt did not provide a link to Peter Doshi’s article in the BMJ in which he claims far less efficacy of the vaccines. She said his article had been “scrubbed” from the internet but a one second search on the internet turned up his original article AND the attached link to his clarification/disclaimer as to how he calculated his erroneous results based on a wide range of symptoms that HE thought should have been included in the tally. It only takes a little bit of extra clicking and research to find the faulty logic in the articles these types of articles.
    Unfortunately, there are people in this world who profit from publishing, tweeting, and posting their misinformation and they feed off the fears of the vaccine hesitant and others who feel their freedoms are at stake. These people often shade the facts with wordy, frightening scare tactics and the consumers of those news articles and websites don’t often flush out the truth and so the misinformation proliferates.

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