Understanding of the Psychology and Sociology of Anti-Vaxxers?
November 6, 2021 9:36 PM   Subscribe

My life will be another three or four decades, if I'm lucky. I'm going to live alongside people who wouldn't take the vaccine. I've always found my ability to tolerate linked to understanding how viewpoints come about, no matter how I find that chain of thought personally. Since COVID started, I just don't understand the anti-vaxx position at all, nor do I understand why it became so embraced. I'm looking for a non-demonizing understanding of the people and the associated politics.

I'm not looking for an echo chamber; I'm pro-vaccination, pro-mask, and I understand that viewpoint, and I'd make an educated guess most people on Ask Metafilter are that way.

Even if you believe only in the maxim that someone will only act in their self-interest, their actions seems to make no sense on a personal or political party (GOP) level. Why encourage your voters to take an action that will kill them? Why take an action that will kill you? And even if you believe the pandemic's fake, etc. would that still survive your first contact with a "friend of a friend" who died?

I know there's larger sociological analyses about people who are more prone to conspiracy thinking, but I truly didn't expect this to be so close to half the country. (59% one dose, 68% fully).

I suppose I am just looking for understanding as what factors are at play in their thinking. Is it a direct line from Trump's initial personal reaction to the party standing by him post-election to the Republican voter base embracing that opinion? Or is it something more complex?
posted by MollyRealized to Human Relations (51 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You seem to be missing the "fuck you, you can't tell me what to do" position.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 PM on November 6, 2021 [36 favorites]

First, you might be conflating vax-hesitant people with hardcore anti-vaxxers. There’s a whole range of reasons why people might not be vaccinated — they don’t think they’re at risk, haven’t had the time to get vaccinated, don’t really understand the vaccine, are scared of needles, afraid of the side effects, or many other reasons. But they’re not necessarily anti-vax, they might support the vaccine in general but aren’t yet convinced to get it for themselves.

Regarding the hardcore anti-vaxxers (which studies have shown are a minority of the unvaccinated population) there’s a certain Trump-cult-following, but I think the deeper issues are much more complex. Some anti-vaxers are people who have been screwed over and marginalized by big institutions throughout their whole life. If you feel completely left out and sidelined by the entire culture then why would you give a shit about some random “scientist” who says you should get this mysterious injection in your arm? What difference does it make in your everyday life?
posted by mekily at 9:56 PM on November 6, 2021 [11 favorites]

I actually made a study of victims of fraud (i.e. participants in MLMs, Ponzi schemes, and pyramid schemes) for a few years, and there's a whole spectrum of their minds that I find very similar to that of antivaxxers.

Regarding antivaxxers specifically, there's a whole spectrum of them, from "I'm not so sure about vaccines, maybe I should wait a little" to "vaccines are evil work of the antichrist and anyone promoting it is doing the work of Satan!"

And even within this spectrum, there are a whole lot of orthogonal axis intersections that makes analyzing them difficult without making a lot of spurious associations, because of "crank magnetism" (i.e. someone who believes in one kind of crank or woo will readily fall for another).

Antivaxxers often intersect with believers of medical woo, and/or "all natural" crowd. These are the types that promote "natural immunity" and/or "natural supplements to boost your immune system", and often use the argument of "dead babies" (some mRNA vaccines are made with help from a cell line derived from an aborted fetus from a few decades ago in Europe) and/or pick out some ingredients they claim are harmful (see thimerosal) though some are outright taking the denial tactics from the other science or history deniers. The recently viral "#pureblood" hashtag was related to this axis.

Early on, Antivaxxers intersected with Qanon fodders who believe in giant conspiracy theories such as "vaccines contains tiny microchips", which itself intersected with Anti-tech luddites with fears of 5G. Some outright declared that 5G caused COVID and many 5G towers all over the world were sabotaged. But the 5G link was basically started by RT news (yes, the Russians).

Antivaxxers now also intersect with the anti-mandate freedumbers who basically sees vaccine mandate as "Big Government" instead of civic responsibility.

Then there are the people who are making money off of this. Recently the Intercept was gifted a bunch of hacked data from a black hat hacker who got records off of one of the doctor's groups that charged like $100 for a teleconference where they'll prescribe you Ivermectin without seeing you in person, which is then filled via an internet pharmacy. The amount made was pretty staggering. And that's not counting the doctors who are writing notes for mask exemptions or vaccine exemptions for money, the various naturopaths or chiros who claimed they can cure or treat COVID, the various homeopathic or herbal supplements that claim to boost your immune system... and they have every reason to keep the thing going.

It's very muddy waters indeed.
posted by kschang at 10:29 PM on November 6, 2021 [33 favorites]

Based on what I've seen, in that percentage that hasn't gotten a shot, you have people who:
  • haven't even thought about the question (really!)
  • think it's logistically difficult
  • have some unanswered question (may or may not have tried to research)
  • have some fear (needles, etc.)
  • had covid and think that's good enough
  • don't understand or believe vaccine efficacy numbers/graphs/statements
  • think antivirals or monoclonals are good enough
  • subscribe to alternate medicine theories/reject vaccinations on principle
  • don't want to be told what to do by public information campaign/government/Pfizer/Walgreens
  • don't want to be told what to do by someone they know (family, friend, employer)
  • believe in a conspiracy theory about covid
  • believe variants will win anyway
  • want to participate in a political movement
Have seen causes for these varying as well, e.g.
  • Conservative news
  • Alternate medicine news
  • Avoiding news
  • Refusing to talk to doctors
  • Listening to a skeptical doctor or chiropractor
  • Word of mouth
  • No new reason/always been like this
People are interesting.
posted by michaelh at 11:26 PM on November 6, 2021 [10 favorites]

To address your specific questions, as the previous reply was getting a bit long:

>Why encourage your voters to take an action that will kill them? Why take an action that will kill you? And even if you believe the pandemic's fake, etc. would that still survive your first contact with a "friend of a friend" who died?

To answer the last one first, the "dying change of heart" happens quite a lot in the hospital, when they finally realize they can't deny that COVID can get him/her. There had been stories about some begging for the vaccine in the hospital, but vaccines don't work on someone who already got COVID. But until then, may seem to have adopted the attitude "I'm more afraid of being wrong than being sick." You can blame the current schism (where GOP basically become the obstructionist party, oppose anything Dems do) and the distrust of media sown by Trump ("fake news!") and Tucker Carlson's crap show. Some people actually believed Trump enough that they chose to get all their news from Fox News to feed their own bias.

More than a few relatives and friends of dead antivaxxers blamed "conservative media" for feeding nonsense to the dead person.

On the other hand, they are dead because, to slightly misquote X-files, "they want to believe". And once they believe, very little can change their mind. Any facts opposing their view they dismiss as "fake news" or "irrelevant". Any fake bits agreeing with their view they endorse due to confirmation bias without critical thinking.

Most people who think they are critical thinkers... Are not. Dunning-Kruger effect at work Like Aaron Rodgers, who got fed 500+ pages of crap by his "medical team" he tried to present to NFL as "evidence" his homeopathy regimen is just as good as COVID vaccine. He got COVID any way, but he's spinning it as "I did my research" and dismissed all CDC and FDA and NFL doctors advice and rules as "not based on science" and he wants to play the martyr )

Yet it's usually often the upper middle or the ultra-rich who believe they are smarter than the rest due to their $$$, that deny facts the hardest. Nicki Minaj's "my cousin's friend" debacle is yet another example. But because they can often afford the treatment and protocols that the rest of us can't (Rodgers already got the monoclonal antibodies treatment after getting the positive test, and he was doing DAILY COVID tests, plus whatever BS he paid his "medical team" for) they also got survivorship bias. If they managed to survive COVID (61 out of 62 does) , they use that as "proof" that they didn't need the vaccine, ignoring the risks of surviving COVID, as there are chances of not just long COVID, but also potentially other problems such as diabetes and brain fog plus other problems, both physiological and mental.

>I know there's larger sociological analyses about people who are more prone to conspiracy thinking, but I truly didn't expect this to be so close to half the country. (59% one dose, 68% fully).

It's not just that, but also a bit of survival psychology. We survived well enough without vaccine for 8 whole months. Most of us didn't get vaccines until, 12-16 months after it first appeared in the US. Some people are just tired of hearing about it. Those are the minimizers: "it can't be that bad". Laura Loomer was famous for saying "it's no worse than a stomach flu" and asked to catch it. She did get it back in September? No word on whether she ever did answer if it's better or worse than the stomach flu.

>I suppose I am just looking for understanding as what factors are at play in their thinking. Is it a direct line from Trump's initial personal reaction to the party standing by him post-election to the Republican voter base embracing that opinion? Or is it something more complex?

It's multiple factors converging. Antivaxxers are already established in the US thanks to Wakefield's bogus science. But it tapped into enough parental paranoia and temporal association that it won't die, esp. when it picked up supporters like RFKjr. Add to the American spirit of self-determination, the ability of Internet and social media to create echo chambers, where even bogus info can go rapidly viral, and a bunch of random yahoos claiming to be experts (and can't read worth ****) plus a couple more genuine experts suffering from senility and joined the wrong camp, it became a self-sustaining movement (even though the "misinformation dozen" spread most of the crap on the Internet) and it just happens to align with the COVID vaccine and the hesitancy.

I am NOT a scholar in any way. I'm just a random MFite with a keyboard. And most of the stuff I discussed above are probably radically oversimplified.
posted by kschang at 11:32 PM on November 6, 2021 [9 favorites]

Why should they trust anyone?

Why do you trust anyone?
posted by amtho at 11:36 PM on November 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a handful of anti-vax friends. I'd say that the major thread that ties them together is a mistrust of "liberal establishment" sources of information. In one case that's because they're a fundamentalist Christian. In another case that's because they work in the oil industry. In another case that's because they come from a country that was a victim of US imperialism.

In all these cases (which might not be representative, since they're a small sample of my friends), they feel that information from large corporations, centrist or left-leaning media, government bureaucracies, and universities can't be trusted. As a result, they seek out other sources of information: Church leaders and friends, conservative media, and Internet communities which, like them, are suspicious of what appears to them to be a revolving-door financial/corporate/government/university elite which doesn't have their best interest in mind.

At this time, all of those alternative sources of information are full of anti-Covid-19-vaccination information.

This isn't a complete explanation, but it seems to be part of it.
posted by clawsoon at 12:05 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Even if you believe only in the maxim that someone will only act in their self-interest, their actions seems to make no sense on a personal or political party (GOP) level.

That's never been a safe assumption. Homo Economicus is a fiction invented to make economics start to look tractable, not an actual model of how real people really behave in the real world.

People are not rational creatures; we're rationalizing creatures. You can make up all the Just So stories you want about why people do the things we do, but when it comes right down to it the overwhelming bulk of what we do is always going to turn out to be habit, and our own reasons for the habitual behaviours we express are themselves going to turn out to be Just So stories more often than not.

Habitual behaviour minimizes cognitive effort: it's just easier to keep doing what we've always done, and it works well enough to be be pro-survival for most individuals most of the time. If a culture is healthy, it inculcates habits that are also pro-survival for the culture.

There are a lot of people for whom the habitual response to the idea of getting vaccinated is a hard Nope almost instantly followed by a flood of post-Nope rationalizations. And because having our own rationalizations challenged causes discomfort for almost everybody, the effect of that is to cause these people to associate preferentially with each other and start to form themselves into a subculture that cross-pollinates post-Nope rationalizations.

Unfortunately for the rest of us and even more unfortunately for the anti-vaxxers themselves, SARS-CoV-2 Delta is not capable of paying any attention whatsoever to rationalizations.
posted by flabdablet at 12:26 AM on November 7, 2021 [16 favorites]

It might help to try to find examples of irrational behavior in yourself, and see why you resist changing what you do.
For example, many people refuse to even consider changing their lifestyle (whether it's driving a car, eating meat, buying lots of things they don't need) even though they theoretically agree that climate change is real.
Maybe think about what future generations will think about how you are living now, and how you can possibly justify yourself, seeing what we are doing to the planet.
This is just an example, I don't know anything about you and your values or lifestyle, it's not meant to come across as accusing.
I just mean that all of us are prone to blind spots in our thinking, and identifying your own might help you understand other people's.
posted by Zumbador at 12:36 AM on November 7, 2021 [17 favorites]

This was pre-COVID, but the thing that made me understand anti-vaxx mindset the most was watching a random documentary a few years ago about lead paint. I mean, people (esp parents) knew the horrible effects of lead poisoning way before anyone in power did anything about it. The lead paint industry, officials, healthcare providers, were telling them nothing was wrong and misleading them. You can of course see this played out many times - Flint water crisis, thalidomide babies, etc. Asking the people in power, "is this safe?" and receiving the answer "of course it's safe!" when...it's not safe. And it is often much worse for non-white folks.

I'm a very privileged person, but I can absolutely think of ways in which my government has betrayed me or lied to me, and I absolutely believe people in power collude to retain power. What makes me not an anti-vaxxer is that I'm able to understand the subtleties at play; what are the priorities, who's thinking about my best interest, what am I able to contribute to the public good, I understand and believe the history (i.e. Wakefield) and the science as far as I'm able to as a layman, etc. But I think it only takes a shift in mindset to see the CDC and WHO as part of the establishment (throw in Big Pharma and Bill Gates if you like too) and have someone say...why SHOULD I trust these people?
posted by cpatterson at 12:49 AM on November 7, 2021 [22 favorites]

This NYT opinion article was written by a sociologist: The Unvaccinated May Not Be Who You Think
posted by panic at 1:05 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think that, in relation to any medically related issue, you have to consider the presence and the strength of the "placebo/nocebo" effect. If people think something is going to make them better or protect them - then it is more likely to do so. But conversely, if they think something is going to make them ill or worsen any effects of a disease - then that is also more likely to occur. Both these effects can be quite strong. A Cochrane meta analysis from 2010 found the placebo effect was not as strong as its reputation made out in terms of its effect on physical condition - but it did appear to have an effect on patients' perception of their condition. That should not be under-estimated.

It does seem that people like to have opinions about conditions which they believe may affect them - with Covid being a classical example. It gives us the feeling of being in control of a frightening situation. For pro-vaccine people, scientific research is our talisman: we can understand the viral mechanisms at play, the statistics, the preventative behaviours. Unless we happen to be scientific specialists in the field - then some of this is an act of faith on our part: we don't understand all the details but we trust the chain people involved. When we put on a mask or get vaccinated it makes us feel protected.

Be aware that anti-vaxers are also getting re-assured by their stance however. They scoff at the people wearing masks and being vaccinated in the same way that we scoff and people treating medical conditions by blood letting. For them, mask wearing and vaccination are steps which actively impact their health for the worse - or which are (at best) unnecessary. They may be citing conspiracies in Big Pharma - but not all of these criticisms are unfounded (see "Bad Pharma" for example) - but it is important to understand that taking the stance they do makes them feel more re-assured and safer - just as being vaccinated does for the rest of us.

The mistake is to envisage those in the other camp as being the dumb ones. Both belief systems offer re-assurance. Both involve acts of faith in believing various details. If you are not schooled in epidemiology, genetics, statistics and pharmacology - or at least willing to read up on the basics and trust the rest - then the anti-vaccine stance can probably seem tempting. And, unfortunately: if a set of beliefs is re-assuring - then it can be quite hard to shift people's opinion. Those working on Covid wards have told many stories of patients who take their denial of the disease right to be point where they are put on ventilator to prevent it and then die.
posted by rongorongo at 1:18 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

It's all but impossible to imagine who the American population is at any single time, so we give into simplifications and stereotypes. The media has only further stoked the flames of our divisions by referencing the loudest, most objectionable group. Below, I've excerpted snippets from the New York Times article linked above to emphasize populations who are too often overlooked when we talk about this subject.
It’s easy to say that all these people should have been more informed or sought advice from a medical provider, except that many have no health care provider. As of 2015, one quarter of the population in the United States had no primary health care provider to turn to for trusted advice.

One reason for low vaccination rates in rural areas may be that they are “health care and media” deserts, as a recent NBC report on the crises put it, with few reliable local news outlets and the “implosion of the rural health care system” — too few hospitals, doctors and nurses.

Prepandemic research suggests that fear of needles may affect up to 25 percent of adults and may lead up to 16 percent of adults to skip or delay vaccinations. For many, it’s not as simple as “suck it up”: It’s a condition that can lead to panic attacks and even fainting. During the pandemic, a study in Britain found that as many as one in four adults had injection phobia, and that those who did were twice as likely to be vaccine-hesitant. Research by Covid States shows that about 14 percent of the remaining unvaccinated mention fear of needles as a factor.

Countries with far higher rates of vaccination, Canada and Britain, have responded by mobilizing their greatest strength: a national health care system. Cities in Canada held clinics aimed especially at people with such anxiety, which included privacy rooms and other accommodations. Britain’s national health care system offers similar accommodations. I’ve [the op-ed author] yet to find a systematic program in the United States addressing this fear.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:47 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Sorry for thread sitting, just need to make another point:

As @flabdablet pointed out, humans are not always rational. There are many books and studies on the subject. "You are not so smart" by David McRaney (which is also a podcast) details a ton of cognitive biases and how your thinking can go astray or be led astray. Dan Ariely made his career on Irrationality and behavioral economics. Daniel Kahneman is best known for his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" about judgment and decision-making (and behavioral economics). The short of it is, our brain likes to take shortcuts (heuristics, fast thinking) which can be applied to patterns it was not meant for, leading to "wrong" decisions, but it felt right. To borrow Stephan Colbert, they are going for "truthiness", not truth.

Antivaxxers are not stupid, they are DIFFERENT. Their value systems no longer match the "consensus". The fundamental difference is distrust. They can distrust the vaccine for a variety of reasons, as @cpatterson pointed out, and I did mention a lot of disparate axis of converging factors.

They may distrust the vaccine due to race, prior victim of mistreatment / discrimination by medical institution or government, which may or may not also include personal belief in "natural" and distrust of medicine ("Big Pharma")

They may hold personal belief against the general alignment or specific policy(ies) of current administration which is projected onto the administrations' vaccine and mask policy

They may have doubts and were influenced by their leaders or peers, who may or may not have their own agenda.

Add to that the modern tech that basically reinforces your own echo chamber by showing you "relevant topics"...

And various groups that may or may not consciously want to profit off any money making opportunities from COVID, while projecting their own fears onto their opponents...

AND the existing antivax movement

AND professional trolls employed by foreign powers (such as Russia and maybe China)

And you got a mess that somehow united a lot of different groups of people into a "common" cause.

Antivax has been around for decades, and the loudest usually have the same talking points.

* The deniers -- X is not dangerous / not THAT dangerous
* The risk-amplifers -- vastly exaggerates the risks of vaccine X
* The JAQers-offers -- they were "just asking questions" and keep asking the same ones different ways
* The alt-meds -- we can treat it some OTHER way (unproven, or even PROVEN NOT to work)
* The moral objectors -- vaccines are made from dead babies! (NOT!)
* The credential flashers -- see, OUR expert says it's not good! (Never mind 99+ other experts on your side!)
* The dumpster-divers -- dig into VAERS data and pretend it's 100% accurate (it's not)
* The context-ignorers / pre-print readers -- they unintentionally or intentionally misread research reports (esp. those not yet peer-reviewed) to either discredit the vaccine or promote their alt-med
* The Dunning-Krugers -- they really think they're experts from watching a few propaganda documentaries

And probably a few more I missed. But most antivaxxers are merely vaccine hesitant because they due to their circumstances are limited to their echo chamber, and they are not equipped to truly evaluate the evidence or know who to really trust, and they may decide to trust no one, or end up trusting the wrong side.

But antivaxxers are NOT stupid. Just as victims of fraud are not stupid.
posted by kschang at 1:53 AM on November 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

Well, not any stupider than the rest of us at any rate. Mostly less lucky.
posted by flabdablet at 1:58 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

We've had two families and in the 18 years which separated them, we changed our position on vaccination. Anecdata follows:

First we had The Boy, when we were young&foolish . . . and immortal. We decided not to get him immunised against MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] because we couldn't face the thought that, by an active intervention now, we'd precipitate an adverse change in our precious. We'd take our chances with what fate delivered later. Two years later, when we were on a road trip from Dublin to Sicily, fate delivered measles, which was no fun, but he didn't become one of the 300 children who die every day from measles nor experience "blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections leading to deafness, or severe respiratory complications". When we enrolled him in a health-care plan in Boston 4 years later, the doctor looked at us like we had bones through our noses: "Measles? don't you have MMR in Ireland?". So we know that the consequences of not vaccination can be survived.

18 and 20 years on, we had Dau.I and Dau.II in quick succession and took a community-health herd-immunity position. The Boy had come through the measles because he was well-fed and well-cared for in a warm dry house [we went to stay with my parents in England because we were in that country when the spots appeared] and we had the best medical back-up if necessary. The girls were in the same status [except the warm house - it was heated only by open fires and bloody freezing] and much more fortunate than the poor and dispossessed who lived round the corner from our middle-class-ish home. By getting them vaccinated we would help boost the take-up to levels where the measles virus couldn't find sufficient unprotected children to propagate through the population . . . end of measles: it worked for smallpox , and has eliminated polio from the Western World. 13 years later, Dau.I contracted mumps, so we know that vaccines are not 100% effective: Mumps-vaxx is only 70% good

I found Zumbador's advice salutary but hard: much easier to other those folks, than look into our own murky hearts. Science Week starts today in Ireland. On Tuesday our local science caff is reflecting on "What have you changed your mind about [since coronarama]?" Answers on a postcard, please.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:45 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Tuskegee, white government vs non-white people and vaccines.... Nope.
God's will be done.
Acceleration, way to fast, it's an experiment.
Haven't been sick for more than a day in the past couple of decades.... even if I catch it (lol) it'll be nothing. Only really effects the old and weak which I'm not.
Lack of education, don't actually understand the medical biology type of stuff about immune system or how things work on any appreciable level. Not gonna let them shoot COVID into my arm on purpose.
Not gonna do it until they make me. (yay checking vax or test records before admittance).
What are you Nazi's asking for papers now?
Chicken-pox/Measles parties, get it and get over it and not worry about it later.
Look at the numbers, it's mostly them other folk. Like AIDS, it only really hits those other people for reasons that don't apply to me.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:00 AM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I expect virtually all of the antivaxers have gone for a checkup and the doc sent them to get a blood test and a flu shot or a tetanus vaccine and they did not think twice. Or once. Mainly so many don't think. So this event forced them to try to think and they're out of practice and susceptible to their trusted news organization.
posted by sammyo at 4:44 AM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Some excellent answers here - I really love that people aren't just demonizing on this thread. As others have pointed out, it's complicated and the people not getting vaccinated aren't all the same. Some things I haven't seen mentioned yet.

1. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told two things that weren't true: that masks wouldn't help people who weren't health care workers and that only the old and sick would die. The first was an outright lie because of a mask shortage. The second was because they didn't know enough about the virus yet (and as an ableist, ageist society we were fine with it). Whatever the motive, we had the government misinforming us over things directly related to the pandemic, and it's hard to come back from that.

2. People suck at assessing risk. I know flying is statistically safer than driving. I am still afraid to fly and not afraid to drive.

3. I'm in my 60s, and I can give you many examples of things that we were told by doctors were absolutely safe that turned out not to be. Science changes as new facts come to light, but often doctors will tell the public that things are safe when "to the best of our knowledge" should be added to that. Doctors are also imperfect. If you are vegan, they will attribute your health problems to being vegan. If you are obese, they will blame your health problems on that. I would be dead if I had trusted the first five doctors who misdiagnosed my cancer. My first oncologist lied to me about studies because she wanted me to take a drug I was hesitant about. What I'm saying is that people often have good reasons for not trusting doctors. This can easily extend to doctors saying they should get the vaccine.

4. I think we should eliminate the phrase "trust the science." It is simplistic and unhelpful. See above.

5. Not all vaccine-hesitant people are anti-mask. I know people who aren't vaccinated who are scrupulous about wearing masks, following guidelines about gatherings, and washing hands. They believe this is enough protection, and it has worked for them so far.

6. People who get COVID are more likely to survive than to die. Those who know someone who died probably know more who survived with no visible long-term effects.
posted by FencingGal at 5:15 AM on November 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

Today's Ross Douthat column (New York Times - sorry!) about his struggles with chronic Lyme disease addresses this issue in a helpful way.

From the article:
"On both sides of our national divides, insider and outsider, establishment and populist, something in human psychology makes us seek coherence and simplicity in our understanding of the world. So people who have a terrible experience with official consensus, and discover that some weird idea that the establishment derides actually seems to work, tend to embrace a new rule to replace the old one: That official knowledge is always wrong, that outsiders are always more trustworthy than insiders, that if Anthony Fauci or the Food and Drug Administration get some critical things wrong you can’t trust them to get anything right."
posted by FencingGal at 5:27 AM on November 7, 2021

For example:

You do realize that the New York Times fully supported the invasion of Iraq? So did Joe Biden. These are the people pushing vaccines. They are absolutely murderers. Why do you trust them?
posted by Lucky Bobo at 5:28 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

A gentle suggestion for you personally is that you ask the people you care about about their reasons and just listen. It might surprise you. It will be individual.

I have been working on getting anti-vax people I know vaccinated. Most of these are people I know through my fitness industry workplace and are under 30. They have been taking herbal products over cold meds, tiger balm over pain meds, don’t drink caffeine, have enjoyed legalization of cannabis, are vegan. I’ve convinced 5. 2 I haven’t. One is from the Philippines and had a cousin impacted by the Dengvaxia roll out. Another is scared the vaccine will impact her future unborn children, which sounds crazy but - she’s celiac and saw many doctors before the one that actually helped, so she’s suffered a fair bit with “it’s all in your head.” I would say a considerable amount of their identities are focused on the “what your doctor won’t tell you” aspects of the very profitable wellness industry.

I also have Fox News imbued family. They live in provinces with high Covid rates, but in small towns with few cases. They have bought into the freedom movement.

One of them is a homeschooling extreme Catholic family of 6 headed by…a doctor. They’ve never vaxxed their kids. Two are becoming natural birth midwives, not the highly trained kind, the other shadow economy kind. They actually never really trained their kids in the scientific method, something I’ve talked to Dr Dad about and he cheerfully told me he didn’t have time. Their oldest son and I had a long talk a few years back in which he was like, horrifically wrong about some facts. I realized after that talk that homeschooling means your kids may perceive that they are always the top student. God looks after their kids. The mum of the family was also one of six children - she and her father were sole survivors of a car accident that killed all 5 of her siblings on the same day. There are reasons this family operates as it does, some of them rooted in trauma, some in the cult — and it is a cult — to which they belong.

I myself went through a “natural” birth movement period. My first daughter was my 8th pregnancy and there was never any diagnosis that explained why I couldn’t carry to term. I was treated really badly in ERs while miscarrying. I slowly realized that in many ways we know shit about reproduction. After interviewing some (real) midwives, I went with an obstetrician who cheerfully told me about demolishing her bathroom at 7 months pregnant with her twins. The smaller, friendly hospital I chose had a low c-section rate. My baby died for lack of expertise (wrong nurse, wrong day, overloaded OBs with a case also coming through the ER) and lack of surgical room availability for a critical 10 minutes. Once it became clear what happened I was put in a room at the end of the hallway and of the 2 OBs, 2 neonatologists, and 4 nurses from that hospital I saw after The Event, none met my eyes. They lost — lost — the heart monitor tracings from my delivery although I did see them once, and sketched them on a receipt.

When my second son was born (at the huge highly medical downtown hospital full of machines that ping thank you!), I was terrified. This was peak Wakefield era. Ultimately, as a daughter of a polio survivor, I did vax him on schedule. But it was agony. Even thing I’d read in my natural birth period came back to mind.

One of the things I find hard in politics and discourse right now is the idea that people are monolithic blocks. I really suggest just talking to people - real people, not social media people. Some will be just defensive and awful. But all will have a story.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2021 [19 favorites]

don't understand or believe vaccine efficacy numbers/graphs/statements

This and the point about people being bad at assessing future risk are both related to low mathematical understanding in the general population. Not sure how big of a contributing factor it is, but very large chunks of the US population have not had an educational background that has helped them develop number sense, let alone probabilistic reasoning skills. And rates of math anxiety are also quite high, so lots of people avoid numbers, or if an argument is too quantitative they may experience anxiety and tune out or specifically distrust that argument (probably subconsciously, just from feeling uneasy on exposure to the quantitative argument due to the math anxiety, I would guess).

In other anxiety-related effects, I’ve noticed that some of my pandemic-minimizing, unvaccinated relatives seem to have that set of beliefs because they are already overloaded on fear and anxiety from other life circumstances, so are engaging in avoidance and magical thinking. So it’s, in the short term at least, an emotional coping strategy. There’s overlap here with my relatives who seem to think that humanity is fundamentally cutthroat and competitive (and use that at times as an excuse to not care about or denigrate the concerns of people outside their social group). I would expect that this ties in at least slightly to the connection that seems to exist between eg. racism and COVID-denial - it’s not in the least bit rational or based on reality, but many white people in the US are scared of Black and brown people in an actual, visceral way. (As anyone who follows the news or data on racism in the US knows, this fear ends up being very dangerous for non-white people, of course.) In my observations, this lowers their quality of life and leads to overall higher stress and anxiety levels, which may make such people more susceptible to tipping over into that sort of avoidance thinking on pandemic-related issues?

I’ve also noticed in my social circles that people’s thinking about pandemic-related topics seems to be noticeably swayed by their social milieu, and by the viewpoints of informal social leaders in that setting. When the pandemic first arrived, it was a completely new situation for the people I know in North America, and people’s general cognitive approaches to the pandemic seem to have formed somewhat early on and have hardened from there. So how people approach learning and new situations in general may be a factor, as well?
posted by eviemath at 7:18 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

13 years later, Dau.I contracted mumps, so we know that vaccines are not 100% effective

More anecdata: Measles vaccines were not available until after I'd already had measles, which is an experience I would not wish on any child; the headaches were pure misery and the itching was worse.

I also got mumps twice, so I know that natural immunity isn't 100% effective either.

We all got vaccinated against rubella (by injection) and polio (oral) in primary school.

My father worked as a high school chemistry and physics teacher, later as a deputy principal. I'd always looked up to him as the epitome of critical thinking, but after he retired he went down an alt-med rabbit hole, started hanging out with people who had swallowed the Wakefield scam hook line and sinker, and became implacably anti-vax.

Alt-med eventually killed him by inducing him to leave his prostate cancer completely unaddressed until, after he'd had a stroke, it grew to the size of a football and shut down his kidneys.

I still find it very difficult not to get furious about alt-med in general and anti-vax in particular, though I do try not to demonize those who genuinely believe in these things; my fury is reserved for the minority of total zucking arseholes who know it's all bullshit and promote it to make a buck off the rubes regardless.
posted by flabdablet at 7:33 AM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eula Biss' On Immunity had been sitting on my bookshelf unread for years until the birth of my kid and the pandemic coincided and i finally devoured it in between feeds and naps. It explores a lot of the underlying ideas that influence the discourse around vaccination both pro and anti. I came away from reading it even more sure that getting vaccinated was right for me amd my kid but it has also helped me understand some of the underlying ideas influencing anti-vax viewpoints.

I highly recommend it. A more hesitant friend active in quite esoteric circles read it following my siggestion and shared that it led to her to get the jab.
posted by pipstar at 7:42 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have involuntarily become a data point in support of the Covid antivaxxers' skepticism: My booster resulted in possibly permanent tinnitus. Tinnitus and sudden hearing loss are well-documented side effects of the Covid vaccine, but I was totally unaware of the possibility until after the fact. If I had had such a serious health impact from some prior vaccine, I probably would have had much more of a wait-and-see approach to the Covid vaccine, especially considering that I am much better able to mitigate my risk than most people (no kids, work from home, etc.).

Also, I have had a few other experiences in life where I was on the wrong end of a statistically improbable health outcome, either for myself or a loved one. Statistics are very reassuring until you know from lived experience that you can be in the 1% or whatever with a life-altering loss. Your perspective changes. You know for sure that the possibility is real, it has to happen to someone, and that someone can definitely be you.
posted by HotToddy at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

One more potentially relevant data point... The Tonga Measles outbreak of 2019. An accident in 2018 where two nurses, who was supposed to dilute the vaccine with saline, instead mixed the vaccine with expired anesthetic, managed to kill 2 children after the tainted vaccine was actually used. While the nurses were convicted of manslaughter, antivaxxers had a field day there and measles vaccination rate fell to about 40% instead of 90+%. When the outbreak started in September 2019, the Tongan Government ended up ordering a full shutdown in November and started a door-to-door vaccination campaign to push the vaccination rate back to 94%.
posted by kschang at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

do your best to ignore the reflexive "they must be stupid evil murderers" chorus.

The folks I know who aren't getting vaccinated are generally those who simply do not trust the medical establishment, generally because they have had bad experiences there which left them believing that their welfare is not a high priority in that bureaucracy. Sometimes they have other medical conditions which have been poorly treated or understood, and they believe that they'd rather take their chances with a respiratory illness that has a not particularly high fatality rate (something they do understand) than subject themselves to potential side effects that they believe are not well understood, and which their doctor would not know now to treat if anything went sideways.

The hysterical politicization of the situation, and the obvious irrationality of things like a vaccine mandate for children (who almost never experience COVID in any serious way) or for employees who don't come into contact with the public, harden their resolve. The only explanation for these mandates is that the interests of the COVID bureaucracy have become divorced from patient welfare. This does not encourage compliance for people who were already concerned about the motivations of the mandates.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:04 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

children (who almost never experience COVID in any serious way)

Please stop amplifying that particular piece of misinformation. COVID not only kills kids, it uses them to spread.
posted by flabdablet at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2021 [14 favorites]

Why encourage your voters to take an action that will kill them? Why take an action that will kill you?

People have given a lot of reasoning above which is useful/helpful. I think it's also worth picking apart your assumption, in two places, above.

1. The difference between "taking an action" and "failing to take an action" seems inconsequential but may matter in this case. When I got my first vaccination shot there was a man in the waiting room with me who only decided to get his vaccination because he had been at the hospital for another appointment and someone had suggested it and he figured "what the hell" He would not have made an appointment, figured out the stupid websites you needed to figure out, made a phone call, or whatever. So I think for a lot of people, even this friction for getting vaccinated is enough, given the other concerns they might have.

2. You use the word will but a more accurate word is might. COVID has killed a lot of people but the large majority of people who get COVID live. I do not mean to pooh-pooh the very real COVID effects people live with and all the rest, but it doesn't kill most people who get it. Contrast that to the side effect possibilities of the vaccine (both real and imagined) and people being bad with numbers so they figure their risks are higher than they are. For example, tinnitus side effects are once per every 40,000 vaccine doses - this absolutely sucks for the people who experience it, but it's also less than the people who get tinnitus from COVID which is estimated at 4-ish percent, but you can totally see why someone might avoid the vaccine for this reason.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

Also worth bearing in mind that the risk of acquiring tinnitus as a consequence of COVID itself, while still fairly low, is much higher than that for any of the vaccines.

Tinnitus also has many more treatment options available than it used to. One promising line of treatment is phone apps that generate noise you can shape to match your own tinnitus's spectral range; having an actual, audible source of noise in that range that you can turn on and off at will can apparently help the early-stage audio processing parts of the brain where tinnitus originates learn to turn it off internally as well, or those a little further downstream to get better at treating it as background noise and masking it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2021

Argh, why do I keep finding things to say? :) Another few things to add:

* Survivorship bias -- 1 in 62 who caught COVID died, so 61 lived. But that's assuming our ICU capacity can keep up. So far we are coping by transferring patients further and further away, to utilize spare capacity from different states, but several states already instituted triage (often euphemized as "alternate standards of care"). Instead of 4 patients per ICU-trained nurse, we're now seeing one regular nurse and 2 nursing assistants watching 12 patients in ICU, as there aren't enough ICU-specialized nurses around. EVEN if patients survive, they face rehab, potential for long COVID, not to mention risks of psychological and physical problems like brain fog, mood shifts, and risk of diabetes. And if they only suffered "light" COVID, they may think they are protected, but there is medical evidence that a light COVID may not generate ANY antibodies to matter, and there is plenty of proof that while vaccines are not 100%, they work TWICE as good (or even 6 times as good) than disease-derived immunity. And that's WITH evidence. But most people think COVID is like the flu... if you suffer through it, you'll be immune for a while. The antivax movement determined to undermine the medical establishment (intentionally or not) aligned with that. The delta variant changed the equation too. But those who survived COVID (61 out of 62) with their own preconceived notions will be announcing crap like "it's not that bad" and claimed their "regimen" or whatever placebo treatment they got (Ivermectin, hydro---whatever, zinc and vitamins) worked for them (ie. Mister Rodgers)

* COVID in children -- while it's true that FEWER children caught COVID than compared to adults, children can definitely catch COVID, children can be asymptomatic of COVID, and children can definitely DIE from COVID. There was a case in Texas... She died in HOURS after manifesting a fever. Her mother was already positive and self-quarantining. Her grandma gave her some fever meds, and found her dead in the morning. Yet the denialists started playing "no true Scotsman" by claiming that those kids are unhealthy or obese and did not really die of COVID but merely died "with" COVID. There was even a case in UK where they decided to pin the unexplained death of a 17-yr old beautician on the COVID vaccine... even though she never had a single dose.

* Professional trolls or Joke Gone Too Far? --- it doesn't help when the GOP and their audience seems to have lost their capacity of recognizing sarcasm... or Stephen Colbert was making fun of them, and someone may have been egging them on with ridiculous notions that were taken seriously. The case of the "dead nurse" would be funny if it wasn't so... WTF... Tiffany Dover was one of the first nurses in the US to get the COVID vaccine. She had the unfortunate fame of fainting a few minutes after getting the shot... while on national TV. She's up a few minutes later, answering questions. But someone started a rumor that she died after the COVID shot, conveniently leaving out her subsequent appearance on TV. Then when she's clearly alive and well, started to claim that she was replaced with an actress. Then other trolls started to flood the hospital's PR lines and even general lines demanding "proof" that she's alive, and some even went on to harass her family.

It's as if these are professional trolls who do NOT actually expect an answer, but instead, just wanted to make trouble... and see what sort of reactions they'd get...
posted by kschang at 10:31 AM on November 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

For example, tinnitus side effects are once per every 40,000 vaccine doses - this absolutely sucks for the people who experience it, but it's also less than the people who get tinnitus from COVID which is estimated at 4-ish percent, but you can totally see why someone might avoid the vaccine for this reason.

This is absolutely true and I console myself with the thought that if I hadn't gotten the vaccine, I definitely would have gotten Covid, and probably would have gotten tinnitus that way. My point is just that if I had had such a serious (and my case is pretty serious) side effect from some other vaccine, it would have made me more hesitant about this one. I'm sure I would have gotten vaccinated anyway. But I was not hesitant at all. Just trying to explain the psychology, which is what this thread is about.
posted by HotToddy at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

the denialists started playing "no true Scotsman" by claiming that those kids are unhealthy or obese and did not really die of COVID but merely died "with" COVID

I have heard people make that very claim, and then literally two minutes later go on a tear about how many people vaccination kills - an argument which is always based on published data about deaths following vaccination that are specifically not about deaths caused by vaccination, and often distorted and exaggerated even so.

This is how rationalization works. It doesn't need to interpret evidence reasonably, or even be internally consistent. All it needs to do is provide a readily accessible and superficially plausible excuse for the existence of some pre-existing belief or opinion.

Failure of the audience to accept such excuses leaves the rationalizer feeling exposed, and therefore threatened and often rapidly hostile. This is uncomfortable, which is why so many people have such a strong preference for associating mostly with the like-minded.
posted by flabdablet at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

One of the answers above, which I have flagged to be removed, is full of misinformation. It is conflating influenza and the influenza vaccine, with something called “stomach flu“ which is technically called viral gastroenteritis and is commonly caused by the Norovirus or rotavirus

These are completely different diseases caused by different viruses.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 12:03 PM on November 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

I also came to recommend "On Immunity" by Eula Biss. I read it last year and it really helped me understand the vaccine hesitant perspective. Like you I couldn't even comprehend it. And since her book ultimately advocates for vaccination it isn't a painful read.

I also enjoyed the book "Risk: The Science of Politics and Fear" by Dan Gardner, and "The Undoing Project" by Michael Lewis. Both of these books examine the human psyche as it relates to core beliefs, decision making, politics, health and fear.

All these books helped me feel like I had a better picture without having to get exposed too much to people's anger or anxiety in a way that I didn't think I could deal with at at time.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:19 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sorry, one last thing... Science and medicine adapt and change, based on the best evidence available, yet merchants of fear will trade on the change to claim that it cannot be trusted. Aaron Rodgers claimed that he refused all three vaccines because he claimed he's allergic to an ingredient in 2 of the vaccines, and he cited the temporary halt of the J&J vaccine due to the blot clot concern as his reason for refusing all of them, even though the J&J vaccine was allowed again very quickly.

Science does update itself when people ask questions... but PRODUCTIVE questions. Like how an aerosol scientist managed to untangle a 60-year old science screw up that lead WHO initially declaring "COVID is NOT airborne" in early 2020 only later to change its stance later.

This screwup is major because if COVID only spreads via "large droplets" then the social distancing and handwashing should be enough. Yet clearly evidence shows that it's not. But even WHO can be entrenched in the wrong positions, and the Wired article linked above shows denial can be EVERYWHERE, even within the scientific community.

A related reason is, again, distrust in the establishment or government, that any attempt to mandate something is taken as a "slippery slope" to erode their "freedom". I've actually seen this argued on Twitter, like first it was shut down, then social distancing, now it's masks. What's next? They chose to draw their line in the sand, figuratively, enough is enough and all that.
posted by kschang at 3:11 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

... a respiratory illness that has a not particularly high mortality rate ...

The low overall COVID mortality rate does not accurately reflect an individual's risk of dying from the virus.

As Arijeta Lajka and Jude Joffe-Block reported for The Associated Press on July 23, 2021 (emphasis added):
On average about 98.2% of known COVID patients in the US survive, but each individual's chance of dying from the virus will vary depending on their age, whether they have an underlying health condition and whether they are vaccinated. While people who are vaccinated can still get infected, these "breakthrough" cases are rare and vaccines dramatically reduce severe illness and death.
posted by virago at 8:03 PM on November 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am fully vaccinated and almost everyone I know is vaccinated. But my two sisters were both very hesitant to get the vaccines. Because Covid is not very deadly for people <4>
Here's my personal explanation. Once Covid became partisan people emphasized the dangers more and more to motivate society to take it seriously. As we all know the media likes to sensationalize topics. I'm not saying this to minimize Covid which is an insane tragedy. But if you watch CNN you would think Covid is a death sentence and the apocalypse. The dissonance between that and what my sisters see when they look around makes them distrust the narrative even more.

One sister has diabetes and deep resentment for the pharmaceutical industry because the constant price gouging she sees. As you might imagine she doesn't trust them at all. The other sister is very medication averse and wants to do things "naturally" (for example, refused to take any pain medication after having wisdom teeth extracted). But in both cases they believed Covid is real, didn't think it put them at much risk, and had trouble seeing that getting vaccinated really made that big of a difference for others. They both ultimately got vaccinated but were very very hesitant.

I view it like the old drug commercials. Everyone says that Covid is so deadly but then people see others around them get it and not all drop dead and start to question everything. I live in California. If I said in a conversation that Covid isn't that much more concerning for young people then the Flu I would be screamed at. But this is true (yes it's probably 2-5x worse, but it's still such a low risk that it's not very meaningful). Young people need to take Covid seriously not because they're at risk (I am ignoring young immunocompromised people which is a different story) but because we are a shared society and we put others at risk with our actions. I think that nuance is hard to communicate. And as a result everyone ends up screaming in a way that generates a lot of dissonance with what a young person actually experiences with the people they know.
posted by aaabbbccc at 9:47 PM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just one small addition to the above that I learned in a conversation with my sister. Ivermectin. I've heard this a million times by now. Horse dewormer! Lunatics take it! My sister and I had a long conversation arguing about why it's wrong for Joe Rogan to tell his viewers he took Ivermectin.

I then actually looked up and read about Ivermectin. The FDA gives a great and neutral (to me) overview of the issue.

Things I had no idea about:
1) Ivermectin is an FDA approved routine medication for worms.
2) Ivermectin was found to reduce Covid to some degree. But *CAVEAT* only at concentrations so high that it has serious and possibly lethal side effects. At the dosage you would get in a pharmacy there is no evidence it helps.
3) Because of #2 some people are consuming Ivermectin intended for horses to get the "desired" concentration levels. SURPRISE this can have very serious side effects and is a horrible idea!

This is why the conversation is so confused. There is basically two different drugs: "horse Ivermectin" and "people Ivermectin". Taking "people Ivermectin" is basically safe, a waste of money, not an alternative to the vaccine, and can cause real shortages of people who need it for worm parasites if enough people take it.

Here is what I had heard from paying not-close attention to the media:

This is both right and also incredibly misleading. It sets it up for Joe Rogan and others to say "look, it's a routinely prescribed FDA approved medication that has some studies that indicate it may protect to some degree against Covid. There's no harm in taking it when you have Covid to hopefully reduce the intensity." So my sister takes away that the media is constantly lying and exaggerating.

With the way the media operates in the US it is very very hard to have nuanced conversations. If the media wants people to not take Ivermectin (which is a reasonable objective) the only way they know how to do that is to scream that Ivermectin will kill you. That is mostly not true (unless you take horse Ivermectin) and backfires. You saw similar things early on in the pandemic where Fauci said that masks weren't helpful because he had the admirable objective of making sure masks were available for health-care workers. It's very very hard to keep that in balance. Exaggerating things to achieve admirable ends makes it easy for it to backfire when those exaggerations are exploited to "prove" that the media can't be trusted about anything.
posted by aaabbbccc at 10:10 PM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

my sister takes away that the media is constantly lying and exaggerating.

Commercial media are constantly lying and exaggerating. But most are at least somewhat selective in what they choose to lie and exaggerate about. DeathStar NewsCo notably excepted, they're generally pretty decent on public health messaging because killing off subscribers doesn't boost newspaper sales or advertising revenue, but they're dreadful on social justice and politics and business because keeping people polarized and furious as the whole capitalist shitshow trundles ever onward absolutely does.

I feel absolutely blessed to have been born in a country that has a robust publicly funded broadcaster with a charter that provides for editorial independence from the Government of the day and specifically prohibits running paid commercial advertising. The Coronacast podcast out of their health and science unit is top notch, and I commend it to your sister; the ABC has absolutely no motivation to lie to her.
posted by flabdablet at 4:15 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

With the way the media operates in the US it is very very hard to have nuanced conversations.

As someone who is employed in the media, I understand your frustration, I absolutely do. That is why the news outlet where I work is trying its best to go beyond school board mask fights and vaccine mandate protests and actually talk to local humans about the decisions they are making, as well as to health care providers and public health experts about the implications of those decisions.

In return, folks could help make the COVID discussion more productive by being clear about what they're talking about when they're talking about "the media."

When someone brings up how "the media" are covering a particular topic*, I don't know whether they mean (for example) an opinion column that someone tweeted, an online headline on a New York Times news story, or a clip from Tucker Carlson's show. Each of these news outlets has its own standards, and each of these platforms has its limitations. To refer to "the media" as a monolith is to overlook these differences and speak as though we all have the same motivations and credibility (or lack thereof).

*In this case, it's COVID, but it could be any topic in the news, and any forum, both here and in real life. In other words, please know that this comment isn't meant to single you out, aaabbbccc.
posted by virago at 6:35 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I been thinking about the broader contextual point that scientific knowledge often stands in the way of businesses doing whatever they want to do to make money. Medical knowledge of lung cancer stands in the way of selling cigarettes in an unregulated way; Scientific knowledge of climate change potentially stands in the way of an unfettered petroleum industry. It seems like this general motivation helps sustain a broad anti-science stance within pro-business politics, on a level that goes beyond vaccines but includes them in the skepticism.
posted by umbú at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2021

@aaabbbccc brought up a good point: Ivermectin is available in people version and animal version. However, you can suffer severe debilitation from Ivermectin overdose. Poison Control has gotten 3x ivermectin overdose calls than compared to normal times.

What happens if you OD on Ivermectin? Confusion, drowsiness, visual hallucinations, disorientation, difficulty following commands or even having a conversation, tremors, fast heart rate, weirdly fast breathing, as well as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, low blood pressure, skin rashes, and can go up to coma.

Currently there is no data on any LONG-TERM effects on ODing on Ivermectin. But there is a potential of intestinal interior damage.

There is absolutely NO evidence the people version of Ivermectin has any effect on COVID. That's the part Joe Rogan fuzzed over, or "neglect to mention".

TL;DR -- Somebody during the early days of the pandemic, tested a whole bunch of drugs on the COVID virus, in petri dishes. One of them in Ivermectin. And it did show results, but the concentration was so high, it's NOT POSSIBLE to achieve that sort of blood concentration in a human with the currently approved doses. The person would be POISONED before that concentration can be achieved.

Not that the Qanon Fodder give a **** about facts. They are false peddlers of hope taking advantage of some desperate people.
posted by kschang at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2021

If I said in a conversation that Covid isn't that much more concerning for young people then the Flu I would be screamed at. But this is true (yes it's probably 2-5x worse, but it's still such a low risk that it's not very meaningful).

I suppose it depends what "young people" is, but let's say 18-29 year olds. In that case, this table from the CDC shows there were 4288 COVID deaths vs. 149 influenza deaths in the 18-29 year old population. This is over 28x as deadly.

The only groups in which it's in the 2x to 5x range are under 14 years.

And, this considers only mortality, not morbidity (long covid).
posted by soylent00FF00 at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

For example, many people refuse to even consider changing their lifestyle (whether it's driving a car, eating meat, buying lots of things they don't need) even though they theoretically agree that climate change is real.

This really isn't the same thing as people who are anti-vax though. I am not anti-vax, and I believe in climate change, but I also don't really have a zero emission alternative to plastic or an alternative to driving a car. I do my bit and take public transport when I can (or walk) but it feels like a damned if you do damned if you don't thing for me. Nothing about fixing CC as a regular tiny human on this planet feels cut and dry, or as if I have any control over climate change personally. Vaccination is either/or, either you believe in the science or you don't. By comparison, everyone doing anything (even using their devices to write replies to this) are contributing to climate change among other things. Moreover, some people with anemia and other issues do need to eat meat for health reasons, so its not like its entirely for selfish reasons-- unlike anti vaxxers. Also, crops like soy and rice (which are some of the main ingredients in meat substitutes) pollute pretty heavily. They don't pollute as much, but as demand for them go up because of a shift in non-meat eating, they start to be grown in areas that are ecologically incompatible, which adds to wastage, water wastage and makes things worse for everyone. If you want to eat soy you are part of the problem. If you like rice you are part of the problem. If you drive a car at all, even one with a battery, you are part of the problem. There is no 'perfect' way or set of rules for consumers to live that will reduce climate change, its not like a 'get vaccinated or don't' kinda thing. The onus to change should still be on industries -- the majority of emissions are still industrial and its for governments to police that. It's a multifaceted issue and I don't agree its the same as people who are anti-vax.

I think anti-vaxxers are more like people who don't go to the doctor even when they are in pain. Why? 1. They either are scared of the reality-- needles or whatever or that the doctor will tell them they have something bad. If they don't go and don't find out they feel like they are fine? 2. They think they know 'better' maybe because they are woo and they 'know their body' or maybe because of a traumatic experience with doctors, or being misdiagnosed in the past ( I actually have an aversion to doctors is because as a chubby woman I was always dismissed by male doctors who told 'losing weight' was the magical answer to all my pains.)

But mostly, I think it's because of the way social media has shaped us; echo chambers to fear. Fear fed by misinformation. I still remember getting my first 'viral' email way back in the day-- it was a thing about how Nostradamus 'predicted' 911, with a bogus line attributed to him. I was skeptical immediately, looked it up and saw it was fake. I remember the person that forwarded it to me-- she was an intelligent, well educated person that believed this email enough to forward it to me, not fact check it, and simply take it as true. I was incredulous at the time, and now I'm not after seeing whats happening. I feel like people just believe the first thing they see sometimes-- I've mentioned this before but the jury is out on the whole egg cholesterol thing. But people will take the first studies as facts, and believe them forever as fact. Even when the initial study has a typo. If it aligns with their beliefs then confirmation bias ensues.

Anecdotally, my mother is scared of getting vaccinated (she's got her first dose though, she's dragging her feet on the second), and that's because she is elderly and bombarded with a lot of misinformation. Fear sells. Even reputable newsources will clickbait using fear tactics. The fact that the vaccine can give myocarditis as a side effect is true, yes.. What (some) articles aren't saying is that any virus, including Covid itself can give heart inflammation. It's not a vaccine thing. It's a virus thing. And it's been a thing with other viral vaccines. But that doesn't sell. So now people think that its the only the Covid vaccine in particular is dangerous in this way. This is now 'fact' to a lot of people. I have had to talk my mother down constantly about things she's read online-- about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, about the virus being lab created, about Israeli's getting sick despite being high vaccination rate, about the difference between antibodies and immunity. It's crazy out there, because while these things are technically true (like Israel thing) there's a 'yes but' for most of them that some articles either don't get into, or people don't read the articles all the way through.

It's a rising tide of misinformation; or even omission of facts I guess, and the root is making money. Because of the prevalence of the internet and clickbait, its now even easier to get attention with negative information. Bad news sells. And nothing is more negative than whats happening right now.
posted by Dimes at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

> You seem to be missing the "fuck you, you can't tell me what to do" position.

That’s called psychological reactance.
posted by oxit at 8:46 AM on November 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just realized I made a huge mistake.

Any previous mention of Tonga Measles Outbreak should read Samoa Measles Outbreak.

I apologize to all the Tongans. They kept their vaccinated rates up along with Fiji and did not suffer a measles outbreak. Samoa had antivaxxer propaganda who took advantage of two nurse's mistake that caused the death of two children and dropped the vaccination rate to 40%.

Again, Samoa, not Tonga. :-P
posted by kschang at 4:55 PM on November 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think one of the things missing from the vaccination rate is poverty. A huge number of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and really can't afford to get sick. Which also means that very few can say sure, I'll take 3 days or 3 weeks to feel lousy and miss work, just to not get sick later. I wish that employers had been forced to give paid leave for recovery from vaccination because I think it would have helped more people get shots who otherwise couldn't spare the time. (I work from home and still used a day of sick leave for each shot and the next few weeks weren't picnics either.)
posted by blueberry monster at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2021

It took me a couple readings to realize you mean a day or three to recover from "side effects" of COVID shots.
posted by kschang at 1:33 AM on November 17, 2021

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