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How to dissuade parents from believing in anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories can make parents hesitant to vaccinate their children.

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Older people may be more vulnerable to COVID, but in the UK it’s the young that are now driving the pandemic. Last month, school-age children in Britain were 15 times more likely than people over 80 to have the coronavirus.

Leaving young people unvaccinated partly explains why cases have been so high in this group. This is why many countries are now offering COVID jabs to children. In the UK, all 12 to 15-year-olds are being offered a first vaccine dose. Some countries – such as the US and Israel – are offering COVID vaccines to children aged five and over.

Of course, with younger children, it’s their parents that decide whether they get the jab – and vaccine hesitancy can be a problem. In a recent US poll, three in ten parents said they would definitely not vaccinate their child against COVID. Concerns about side-effects or the perceived lower risk of COVID to kids may explain this. However, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may also be playing a role.

We know that anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs can be a barrier to vaccine uptake. A 2014 study showed that British parents exposed to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, when asked to imagine that they had a fictional eight-month-old, were less likely to get that child vaccinated. Also, a more recent study across 24 countries demonstrated that anti-vaccine attitudes were highest among those who were also high in conspiratorial thinking.

Once COVID vaccines started being developed, it didn’t take long for specific conspiracy theories about them to appear – for instance that they contain microchips or make people infertile. Research has shown that believing in such theories is associated with reduced intentions to receive a COVID vaccine. It’s therefore highly plausible that believing in COVID conspiracies could prevent parents from wanting to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus.

Correcting conspiracies

Our research has looked at how to dissuade parents from believing in conspiracy theories that might prevent them from vaccinating their children – which is particularly relevant now that COVID vaccines are being offered to under-16s in many countries.

Past research has shown that people are influenced by the perceived beliefs and behaviours of other people – what are known as “social norms”. But these perceptions are often inaccurate, which can lead to people shaping their behaviour to fit a misperceived norm.

Two sets of parents and toddlers together on a play-date
When things aren’t spoken about directly, people – including parents – can misjudge the beliefs of others. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

However, we didn’t know whether this was true specifically when it came to conspiracy theories. So as a first step, we explored whether there’s a link between perceived social norms and conspiracy beliefs among British parents.

Our finding backed up earlier research. Parents in the UK overestimated how much other British parents endorsed anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. And, as before, the more people believed that others believed these conspiracy theories, the more strongly they tended to believe themselves.

Knowing this, we then attempted to lower parents’ belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories by correcting their overestimation of what other parents think. We did this using the Social Norms Approach, a simple technique that works by correcting misperceptions – for example, by giving people feedback on how they misjudged the actual beliefs and behaviours of others. The aim of this is to recalibrate people’s perceptions, and so change their behaviour so that it aligns with what others actually think and do.

We tested this approach on a sample of British parents of young children. Parents first completed measures of their personal belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and their intentions to vaccinate a fictional child. Next, they estimated to what extent “other UK parents” endorsed the same conspiracy theories and what their intentions to vaccinate would be.

Parents were then allocated to either receive feedback on their beliefs, which would correct any misperceptions of other parents’ conspiracy beliefs, or no feedback. Immediately afterwards, participants were again asked about their anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and intentions.

We found that correcting misconceptions reduced parents’ beliefs in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It also increased perceptions that other parents would vaccinate their children, which as a knock-on effect increased parents’ own intentions to have a child vaccinated.

A simple step to improve uptake

Our findings are the first to suggest that correcting inaccurate perceptions of what others think could be used to tackle anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and so improve vaccine uptake – both among adults themselves and children that they make decisions for.

Two women having coffee
Sharing what you believe about vaccines could be a very simple way of dispelling vaccine hesitancy in others. Rob Marmion/Shutterstock

When talking with people who might be persuaded by anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, a practical step could be to highlight that conspiracy beliefs are not as commonplace as people might think. Showing that it’s far more usual to vaccinate rather than not vaccinate could also be persuasive.

With vaccination levels in children still being quite low in the UK while COVID cases remain high, this simple psychological technique could be an important tool for addressing vaccine hesitancy, and one that many people could easily have a go at trying.

Daniel Jolley has received funding from the British Academy and Not Equal.

Darel Cookson, Rachel Povey, and Robert Dempsey do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Dr. Peter McCullough: Official COVID “Narrative Has Crumbled”

Dr. Peter McCullough: Official COVID "Narrative Has Crumbled"

Authored by Art Moore via WND.com,

Dr. Peter McCullough – a renowned cardiologist and highly published medical scientist whose confrontation of the government’s COVID-19 policies.

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Dr. Peter McCullough: Official COVID "Narrative Has Crumbled"

Authored by Art Moore via WND.com,

Dr. Peter McCullough – a renowned cardiologist and highly published medical scientist whose confrontation of the government's COVID-19 policies has drawn more than 40 million views on Joe Rogan's podcast – told WND in a video interview Thursday night the official pandemic narrative that has been fiercely guarded by establishment media and social-media censors is "completely crumbling."

That narrative, he said, included "false statements regarding asymptomatic spread, reliance on lockdown and masks – which obviously didn't work – the suppression of early treatment, the mass promotion of vaccines that failed."

"And now here we are, almost in complete free fall," McCullough said, referring to the record number of COVID-19 cases as officials acknowledge the vaccines don't prevent infection or transmission.

McCullough noted that in California, with the more contagious but much milder omicron variant now dominant, health care workers who tested positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms were told to go back to work.

"With that, I think that's it. I think that's the end. The narrative has crumbled. People don't want these vaccines," McCullough said.

"The vaccines should be pulled off the market. They clearly are not solving the problem."

The focus, he said, should be on "treating high-risk patients who develop symptoms" with some of the early treatments that he and other physicians around the world have found to be effective, including ivermectin and a new drug granted emergency use authorization by the FDA, Paxlovid.

McCullough cited a study from Denmark and data from the U.K.'s health agency showing that the vaccines have zero effectiveness against omicron.

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"That's not misinformation," he said. "I'm just quoting the data. All of this can be looked up. Fact-checkers can look at it. I know I'll never have any problems with allegations of misinformation, because I just quote the data."

President Biden clearly had McCullough in mind when on Thursday he urged social media companies and media outlets to "please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that's on your shows. It has to stop."

McCullough pointed out his work has been relied upon by courts across the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has testified to the U.S. Senate and will be back there later this month.

"I think America knows who is giving them the straight story."

In the half-hour video interview with WND (embedded below), McCullough also discussed:

  • The punishment of physicians who counter the official COVID narrative and use clinically indicated, FDA-approved drugs off-label such as ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients, including a colleague in Maine whose was ordered to undergo a psychological examination after her license was suspended;

  • His participation in a rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23 protesting vaccine mandates;

  • The Supreme Court's rulings Thursday on vaccine mandates;

  • The possibility that omicron could spell the end of the pandemic, serving as a "universal booster";

  • Data showing that vaccination has backfired, making the pandemic worse in nations with high vaccine intake;

  • The lethality of the mRNA vaccines;

  • His view on Biden's mass testing program;

  • His take on new FDA-approved treatments and his simple, inexpensive, over-the-counter protocol for treating omicron;

  • The unwillingness of so many doctors to "come off the sidelines" and treat patients for COVID-19;

  • The "crisis of competence" among top government health officials;

  • Where to find resources and support for physicians and patients, and for employees confronting mandates.

"I think Americans are going to understand that their individual choice is really what's going to matter in the end," he McCullough told WND in conclusion. "If Americans decide that they're not going to take any boosters or any more vaccines, it doesn't matter how many mandates or how many court decisions that happen. The vaccine program is going to crumble. I think it's just a matter of saying no."

He emphasized that the vaccines are still "research."

"No one can be forced into it," he said of vaccination. "And they're not turning out to be safe or effective. So, if  everybody just stands firm and declines the vaccines, I think that will be the quickest way for us to get out of this."

See the WND interview with Dr. Peter McCullough:

McCullough, in a video interview with WND in December, called for a "pivot" from the current policies to early treatment and "compassionate care" for those who have COVID or have suffered vaccine injuries, which have included myocarditis, neurological issues and blood clotting.

"Now is the time for doctors to step up. Now is not a time for rhetoric or harsh statements regarding scientific discourse," he said.

Many of McCullough's 600 peer-reviewed publications have appeared in top-tier journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet. He testified to the U.S. Senate in November 2020 against what he described as the federal government's politicization of health care during the pandemic, curbing or blocking the availability of cheap, effective treatments. In a speech in September, he told of having been stripped of the editorship of a Swiss-based journal after having lost his position with a major health system, "with no explanation and no due process." Baylor University Medical Center fired him in February. And Texas A&M College of Medicine, Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine have cut ties with McCullough, accusing him of spreading misinformation.

"I've been stripped of every title that I've ever had in that institution. I've received a threat letter from the American College of Physicians, [and] a threat letter from the American Board," he said in September.

All because of his "lawful" participation "in a topic of public importance."

He said there are "powerful forces at work, far more powerful than we can possibly think of, that are influencing anybody who is in a position of authority."

McCullough is the chief medical adviser for the Truth for Health Foundation, a physician-founded charity that says it is "dedicated to following the Oath of Hippocrates to serve individual patients to the best of our ability and judgement and to uphold the highest standards of medical ethics."

*  *  *

Last year, America's doctors, nurses and paramedics were celebrated as frontline heroes battling a fearsome new pandemic. Today, under Joe Biden, tens of thousands of these same heroes are denounced as rebels, conspiracy theorists, extremists and potential terrorists. Along with massive numbers of police, firemen, Border Patrol agents, Navy SEALs, pilots, air-traffic controllers, and countless other truly essential Americans, they're all considered so dangerous as to merit termination, their professional and personal lives turned upside down due to their decision not to be injected with the experimental COVID vaccines. Biden’s tyrannical mandate threatens to cripple American society – from law enforcement to airlines to commercial supply chains to hospitals. It's already happening. But the good news is that huge numbers of "yesterday’s heroes" are now fighting back – bravely and boldly. The whole epic showdown is laid out as never before in the sensational October issue of WND's monthly Whistleblower magazine, titled "THE GREAT AMERICAN REBELLION: 'We will not comply!' COVID-19 power grab ignites bold new era of national defiance."

SUPPORT TRUTHFUL JOURNALISM. MAKE A DONATION TO THE NONPROFIT WND NEWS CENTER. THANK YOU!

Tyler Durden Mon, 01/17/2022 - 23:50

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Pfizer CEO Predicts Life On Earth “Will Return To Normal” In The Spring

Pfizer CEO Predicts Life On Earth "Will Return To Normal" In The Spring

Just a few days ago, Bill Gates shared some of his (revised) thoughts on the COVID pandemic and the trajectory that omicron has left us on. Several weeks after warning…

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Pfizer CEO Predicts Life On Earth "Will Return To Normal" In The Spring

Just a few days ago, Bill Gates shared some of his (revised) thoughts on the COVID pandemic and the trajectory that omicron has left us on. Several weeks after warning that omicron's heightened infectiousness might send the pandemic into overdrive, the Microsoft founder postulated instead that omicron might hasten the end of the pandemic by leaving the human population with more antibodies against the virus. As a result, SARS-CoV-2 might enter its endemic stage more quickly, Gates suggested.

This view, that the end of the pandemic might finally be at hand after two years of suffering, has become increasingly popular as of late. Take this piece from the BBC: "Endemic COVID: Is the pandemic entering its endgame?".

While the piece mostly focused on the UK, the sense is that the developed world more broadly is closer to the end because of its access to vaccines.

So, is a new Covid-era truly imminent and what will that actually mean for our lives?

"We're almost there, it is now the beginning of the end, at least in the UK," Prof Julian Hiscox, chairman in infection and global health at the University of Liverpool, tells me. "I think life in 2022 will be almost back to before the pandemic."

What's changing is our immunity. The new coronavirus first emerged two years ago in Wuhan, China, and we were vulnerable. It was a completely new virus that our immune systems had not experienced before and we had no drugs or vaccines to help.

It even came with his handy illustration depicting the difference between "pandemic" and "endemic" COVID:

Source: The BBC

Well, it appears the CEO of Pfizer has caught on to this narrative - and he approves. Speaking to the French media, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla that while he expects COVID to continue to circulate for many years to come, he expects future waves won't cause the types of restrictions that people have become used to over the last two years, and that life will return to "normal" in the spring.

Bourla told French news outlet Le Figaro in an interview published Jan. 16 that he expects a "return to normal life" at some point in spring of this year. However, he added the caveat that the mysterious dynamics of COVID's spread make accurate predictions more difficult.

"We will soon be able to resume a normal life," Albert Bourla told the French paper. "We are well positioned to get there in the spring thanks to all the tools at our disposal: tests, very effective vaccines and the first treatments that can be taken at home."

He also credited improvements in COVID testing, vaccines, and therapeutics for his optimistic outlook, telling BFM TV that he expects the current omicron-driven wave to be the "last with so many restrictions."

But given its affinity for its human hosts, COVID will likely be "very difficult to get rid of," which is why Bourla expects it to become endemic, with the occasional seasonal flareup, like the flu.

Finally, the Pfizer CEO shared details of local partnerships that he said would help France produce more of Pfizer's COVID fighting drug Paxlovid.

With his approval rating at an all-time low, President Biden better hope the likes of Bourla and Gates are right. Ending the COVID pandemic might be the only thing that could help Biden regain some support among the tired and frustrated American electorate.

Tyler Durden Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:00

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The case for vaccine mandates is collapsing

It’s more about a grab for power than about public health “The unvaxxed, I really feel like pissing them off,” said French President Emanuel Macron a few days ago. “And so we’re going to keep on doing that, to the very end. That’s the strategy.”…

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It’s more about a grab for power than about public health

“The unvaxxed, I really feel like pissing them off,” said French President Emanuel Macron a few days ago. “And so we’re going to keep on doing that, to the very end. That’s the strategy.”

In an interview in September, an outraged Justin Trudeau accused unvaccinated Canadians of being “extremists” who are “often misogynistic and racist.” “They are a small group that occupy a loud space and a decision needs to be made,” he added. “Do we tolerate these people?”

A few days ago, a clip from an interview that Bill Gates gave to CNN’s Anderson Cooper in August went viral. During the interview, Cooper asked Gates if he thought the federal government should revoke social security from the unvaxxed. His breezy matter-of-factness did not give the impression that he thought taking away the livelihood of senior citizens is the outrageously cruel proposal that it manifestly is.

A few months ago, the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, ran a series of Twitter posts on its front page showcasing the dwindling patience of the vaccinated for the unvaccinated. “I have no empathy left for the wilfully unvaccinated. Let them die,” said one. “I honestly don’t care if they die from COVID. Not even a little bit,” read another. Another suggested that the unvaccinated be refused health care.

The Star’s public editor subsequently apologized for that catastrophically misguided feature, a blot on Canada’s reputation for kindness and tolerance. But that didn’t stop the paper from running an editorial a few days ago, urging the government to “turn the screws” on the unvaccinated, singling them out for blame for “for the restraints under which Canadians are currently required to live.”

Vaccine mandates are, of course, intended to protect public health and save lives. After all, what else would they be for? One writer, Geoff Schullenberger, has recently suggested another plausible alternative: They are – or, at least, are increasingly becoming – a vehicle for signalling belonging to a political tribe and punishing one’s ideological foes.

One doesn’t like to think that public health policy could be motivated by anything so juvenile as that. And yet, the troubling escalation of and excesses in rhetoric suggest that, in some cases, it may well be. This was always the risk with the mandates, of course. The problem with coercive measures, as Schullenberger notes, “is that they risk conflating intention and outcome.” In which case, support for the mandates comes to be driven not by empirical evidence that they are working but rather by a conviction that they are, in some abstract moral sense, “the right thing to do.”

True, there may be another, more sinister motivation at work, though one hesitates to mention it. Despite the claims of our technocrats that if everybody only did what they were told, Covid would be controlled and eliminated, the virus has so far refused to comply. Even previously successful zero-COVID jurisdictions like Australia, with all their ideal geographic advantages, are now facing the reality that, with the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant, community spread and endemicity are inevitable. In the face of this uncontrollable tsunami of infections, politicians will inevitably grope about for the nearest scapegoat. If only for this reason, we must be quick to reject any hint of rhetoric “othering” the unvaccinated.

Schullenberger is right to single out the “remarkable incuriosity” of our political and chattering classes about whether the mandates passed so far have actually accomplished what they were supposedly intended to. Are mandates having an appreciable impact in increasing vaccinations, and ultimately (the only metric that really matters) curbing the spread of disease and saving lives? Meanwhile, what are the costs: to social cohesion, to long-term trust in authorities? These questions scarcely ever get asked, let alone answered.

The only recent example I can think of – an analysis in the New York Times – found that U.S. states with mandates had no higher vaccination rate than states without. But if the case for the mandates was already shaky, in the age of Omicron it has fallen to pieces. The evidence is overwhelming that, despite initial optimism and data suggesting that the vaccines could lead to herd immunity, vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection has collapsed. Even worse, the mandates are now leading to staffing shortages in hospitals and clinics, among police, firefighters and other first responders, counterintuitively producing a public health deficit.

If vaccines no longer meaningfully slow or prevent infection, and the mandates haven’t increased vaccinations, then what’s the public health rationale for barring the unvaccinated from restaurants and movie theatres, again? There isn’t one. All that’s left is tribal virtue-signalling and (alas) vindictiveness: i.e., a desire to separate the sheep from the goats, to punish those who did “the wrong thing,” and to privilege and comfort those who “followed the rules” and did “the right thing.”

As the prime minister of New Zealand put it a few months ago in a moment of troubling candour, vaccine mandates aren’t just about increasing vaccination rates. They’re also, she said, a tool to give “confidence” to the vaccinated. “People who are vaccinated want to know that they’re around other vaccinated people,” she said while cheerily agreeing that she is creating a “two-class” society. “That is something that I think we should offer to people who have been vaccinated, that confidence that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe.”

Protecting the feelings of one group in society over another is not, of course, any way to conduct public health policy. Remarks like this do little to inspire confidence that cool-headed, empirically-driven public health considerations are in the driver’s seat or will prevail in the end. Too often, it seems as if the mandates are simply being retrofitted into the framework of our political tribalization: just one more tool to express our a priori loyalties and to “own” the other.

Hence, at the very moment that the case for the mandates is collapsing, the mandate zealots are doubling down, chasing a particularly perverse form of the sunk cost fallacy. “Turn the screw,” urges the Toronto Star. “[R]aise the cost” of this “demonstrably anti-social behaviour.” One wonders: How high? How high are we willing to raise the cost? How will we know when to stop or when we have gone too far? The Star, for its part, suggests that everything short of banning the unvaxxed from “all social services” is on the table. But then again, experience suggests that what is not on the table today may well be on the table tomorrow. After all, it was only a few short months ago that even Trudeau proclaimed vaccine mandates to be un-Canadian. How quickly times change.

At the beginning of the pandemic many of us hoped that the crisis might help people overcome these tribal divisions and unite against a common threat. Except for a few weeks in the beginning, that largely did not happen. But it is never too late.

The mandates are not doing what they were promised to do. Indeed, there are hints they are doing the opposite: provoking psychological reactance among the vaccine-skeptical, further entrenching them in their suspicion that the vaccines are less about public health than they are about power. While they may be wrong about that, the one way I can think of to prove them right is to bring down the full weight of the coercive power of the state on their heads.

Although I am happily vaccinated and believe that most people should be vaccinated, I know many who are vaccine-hesitant. None of them have gotten vaccinated in response to Ontario’s vaccine passport, which bars them from public venues and restaurants. Some, however, who were previously considering getting vaccinated have said that they will certainly not get vaccinated now that it has come down to a choice of whether or not to cooperate with an unjust mandate. Turning up the heat may eventually convince a per cent or two more to cave, but for the remainder this has now become an existential struggle against what they perceive as an increasingly totalitarian effort. Just how far are we willing to go to break the resolve of that last few per cent?

The growing impression that some pro-mandate politicians are increasingly motivated by personal animus towards the unvaccinated, and that some governments intend to double down on coercion regardless of whether or not doing so provably advances public health, is not helping. Without a course correction, there is a very real risk that the deep divisions and distrust fomented by misguided mandates will remain with us for years, if not decades, imperilling our ability to respond effectively to future public health crises.

Even if those of us who are vaccinated disagree with the misinformation being spread or the choices being made by the unvaccinated, it is time for us to unite in opposition to coercive policies that are further dividing us, sowing fear, distrust, and anger, and which have utterly failed to achieve the public health outcomes that they were ostensibly designed to achieve.

By John Jalsevac
Contributor
Cardus

John Jalsevac is currently working on his PhD in medieval philosophy at the University of Toronto, where he is a Faculty of Arts and Science Top (FAST) fellow.

Courtesy of Troy Media.

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