Forceful Vaccine Messages Backfire With Holdouts – How Can It Be Done Better?

Lambert here: I think Biden rang the bell on this one, and now the bell can’t be unrung. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, messaging like “Stupid animals, shut up and get the jab!” will be seen as less than ideal. And of course we can always try to hold those who butchered the job accountable.

By S. Shyam Sundar, James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects & Co-Director, Media Effects Research Laboratory, Penn State. Originally published at The Conversation.

With the FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the continued surge of the delta variant, governments across the world have renewed their push to increase the number of vaccinated individuals by persuading the holdouts. On Sept. 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced sweeping vaccine mandates, expressing frustration at the vaccine holdouts: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

As a communication scientist who has studied the effects of media and health campaigns for the past 30 years, I worry that a fevered pitch in vaccine messaging may make the holdouts even more resistant. The direct, blunt messages to go get vaccinated that worked on three-quarters of Americans may not work for the remaining one-quarter. If anything, they might backfire.

Research has shown that some health communication techniques work more effectively than others depending on the audience. It’s a lesson that not only policymakers can apply but also members of the media, industry and even parents and relatives.

When it comes to embracing new ideas and practices, research has identified five categories of people: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. With COVID-19 vaccination, it’s come down to the last two, and they are the most resistant to change.

This group of unvaccinated people is substantial in number – there are nearly 80 million people in the U.S. who are vaccine eligible yet remain unvaccinated – and they are the ones who could help the U.S. achieve herd immunity. But, research suggests that they are also the ones who will take offense at forceful exhortations to go get vaccinated.

Strong Messaging Can Backfire

Public health messaging can and does often influence people – but not always in the intended direction. Back in 1999, I testified in the U.S. Congress about how powerful anti-drug messages may be turning adolescents on to drugs rather than off of them. Likewise, the strong language of current vaccine messaging may be evoking resistance rather than compliance.

Consider this headline from a recent New York Times editorial: “Get Masked. Get Vaccinated. It’s the Only Way Out of This.” This follows 18 months of public-health messaging urging people to stay home, wash hands and maintain social distancing.

They may be well intentioned, but research in health communication shows that such directive messages can be perceived as “high threat,” meaning they threaten the free will of the message receiver by dictating what they should do. They are likely to trigger what psychologists call “reactance”. In other words, when individuals sense a threat to their freedom of action, they become motivated to restore that freedom, often by attempting to do the very thing that is prohibited or by refusing to adhere to the recommended behavior.

Recent research by my communications colleagues at Penn State shows that even advertisements that include directive slogans such as “No Mask, No Ride” – from Uber – and “Socialize Responsibly to Keep Bars Open” – a Heineken message – can irritate consumers and make them less likely to engage in responsible behaviors.

Reactance to COVID-19 messaging is evident in the form of widespread protests around the world. Many have gone to the streets and social media, with slogans such as “my body, my choice,” “let me call my own shots” and “coercion is not consent.”

These responses demonstrate not simply hesitation to get vaccinated, but rather active resistance to vaccine messaging, reflecting an effort to protect personal agency by asserting one’s freedom of action.

Flipping the Script

Freedom is a critical concept in the anti-vaccination rhetoric. “Freedom, not force” is the battle cry of the protesters. “If we lose medical freedom, we lose all freedom,” reads a poster. “Choose freedom,” urged Sen. Rand Paul in a recent op-ed expressing his resistance to mask mandates and lockdowns. “We will make our own health choices. We will not show you a passport, we will not wear a mask, we will not be forced into random screening and testing.”

One way to counter such reactance is by changing the communication strategy. Health communication researchers have found that simple changes to message wording can make a big difference. In one study by my Penn State colleagues who study health persuasion, the researchers tested participants’ responses to sensible health behaviors such as flossing: “If you floss already, don’t stop even for a day. And, if you haven’t been flossing, right now is the time to start. … Flossing: It’s easy. Do it because you have to!” Study participants reacted to such messages by expressing their disagreement through anger and by defying the advocated behavior.

But then the researchers reworded the same advocacy to be less threatening, such as: “If you floss already, keep up the good work. And if you haven’t been flossing, now might be a good time to start.” And “Flossing: It’s easy. Why not give it a try?” They found that the participants’ reactance was significantly lower and their message acceptance higher.

In the same way, softening the message and using less dogmatic language could be the key to persuading some of the unvaccinated. This is because suggestive, rather than directive, messages allow room for people to exercise their own free will. Studies in health communication also suggest several other strategies for reducing reactance, ranging from providing choices to evoking empathy.

Bandwagon Effects

Perhaps more important – given people’s reliance on smartphones and social networking – is to make better use of the technological features of interactive media, which includes websites, social media, mobile apps and games. Clever use of digital media can help convey strong health messages without triggering reactance.

Research in our lab shows that people’s responses to media messages can be influenced by the approval of anonymous others on the internet, in the same way that consumers rely on other people’s opinions and star ratings for making purchasing decisions online. In a recent study, we discovered that freedom-threatening health messages can be made more palatable if they are accompanied by a large number of likes on social media from other people. When a lot of others were seen as supporting the advocacy message, the forceful language did not seem any more threatening to their freedom than the gentler version.

In other words, we found that the number of likes has a strong “bandwagon effect” in reducing reactance. We also discovered that providing an option to comment on the health message imbues a higher sense of personal agency and greater acceptance of the message.

In another recent experiment, we found that customization, or the ability to tailor one’s phone or online site to one’s liking, can also aid health communication. Whether it is a phone app, dating site or social media feed, customizing a digital space allows people to reflect their personality. Seeing a health advocacy message in such a personalized space does not pose as much of a threat in such venues because people feel secure in their identity. We found that customization helps reduce negative reactions to health messages by increasing one’s sense of identity.

A communication strategy that is sensitive to psychological reactance could empower the holdouts to willingly get vaccinated instead of grudgingly comply with a mandate.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. PhilJ

    To take the authors own framing and connect it with their suggested solutions:

    Were those studies really successful at significantly improving the uptake of “late majority” and “laggard” category members?

    I’m not sure spin is going to cut it. What do you do if the softly softly approach still doesn’t convince people?

    1. Eustachedesaintpierre

      I have been reading the comments on various articles around anti-vax, Ivermectin etc & judging by that there are 2 very polarised positions neither of which for the most part make much sense, with the majority of the comments being in the form of insults. The most recent event that I checked out 4 MSM newspapers for involves a lady named Veronica Wolsky who apparently was a QAnon follower who died in hospital after been refused ivermectin. She or a fella named Lin Wood had about 850,000 followers on Telegram who might or might not agree with his assertion that the hospital is guilty of murder.

      The split between the camps judging by likes is sometimes more to the Left & sometimes the other way. Obviously a bit of a crap survey but there does appear to be a lot of people out there from one polarised position or the other who are very very angry & good luck getting the anti vax crowd to take vaccines as it seems to me that the die has already been cast.

      1. MK

        ivermectin – Cannot figure out why it is SO HATED by the Vaccine crowd. They go out of their way to make sure to make fun of anyone talking about it, and refuse to allow its use in those deathly ill with Covid. If it does nothing, then what is the harm in using it at the end stages – wouldn’t that use prove that it’s useless?

        What are ‘they’ afraid of if they start using ivermectin in great numbers around the country and track the results? Either it helps or not, but at least there would be scientific evidence one way or another.

        It’s almost as if they fear it might work!

        1. polecat

          The death of their retirement plans paying into stock funds helled close to the trea$ured che$t$ of Big pHARMA?? .. That feared factor?

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well, since Ivermectin is considered an identy-marker for the Trump Community, the Liberal Community would hate it because of whom they percieve to be supporting it.

          The vaccine-industrial complex operators would hate it out of fear that if properly used, it really might make the disease milder over its course and lower demand for vaccines.

          The American Health/Therapeutics Gatekeepers who condemn Ivermectin are now wedded to that condemnation and could not bear the embarrassment if Ivermectin were discovered to work if used correctly. So they want to prevent any genuine studies from ever being conducted.

          1. Jim

            Ivermectin is being MADE into an “identity marker” for the Trump Community, despite plenty of leftists also in favor of – at the very least! – giving a serious hearing to the doctors who have used it successfully with Covid patients, and to the many studies that show it is useful, and safe.
            (I say all this as someone who has had both Pfizer shots, but is not keen on being forced to take a third, when the evidence of its efficacy against the Delta variant, let alone those yet to come, is very weak.)

            The outright dishonesty in the portrayal of Ivermectin (“horse paste” being the dead giveaway) is truly Orwellian. The Seattle Times, yesterday, ran an editorial calling for any doctors who prescribe it to be stripped of their licenses. No mention that Ivermectin is on the the WHO’s list of “essential medicines.” For humans! To whom it has been given almost 4 Billion times. Barely noted that Ivermectin is an approved drug – which means it can be prescribed “off label” as so many other drugs routinely are. No mention that it’s off patent; when it wasn’t, it was produced by Merck. Which, oh sweet coincidence, just happens to be developing a variant of Ivermectin, that will of course be patented, and thus very lucrative. Meanwhile, the useless Remdesivir, pimped by Fauci, is still held up as something wonderful.

            And here we’re seeing this all discussed in spinmeister terms. How about we discuss, research, and actually utilize, prevention and treatment approaches that are readily available, inexpensive, and have significant evidence of actually, you know, working?

          2. m

            If a medication is shown to work against CV, then there is no emergency use authorization for the vaccines. That is why from the start alternative medications, like dissenting opinions, were brushed under the rug.

        3. Soredemos

          The hate is coming from pharma because if it works then we have a cheap treatment, which renders the drugs currently in development moot. For all the subservient goodthinkers, they’ve been manipulated into hating it and seeing advocating for it as a sign of degeneracy. “Follow the science!” they scream, while ignoring science and treating it like a cult.

        4. Deb Pasoto

          Ivermectin is at least a potential treatment, and while it isn’t good to generalize, those who insist on vaccines consider anything that is not vaccine promotion to be misinformation. Treatment is forbidden. Howard Stern referred to the vaccines as cures. I think you’re right; they would not want ivermectin to work. I also don’t see them as having an interest in science or information. They use the word science and claim they follow it, but were that true, they would have needed information prior to vaccinating and continually. Instead, it seems to me that the pro-vaxers act and believe based on assumption, faith and emotion. Words matter to them; meaning, not so much.

    2. MonkeyBusiness

      “What do you do if the softly softly approach still doesn’t convince people?”

      Executive Order/Health Mandate

    3. QuicksilverMessenger

      “I’m not sure spin is going to cut it”. Exactly. Maybe it isn’t better PR, or a more passive aggressive, Lumbergian approach (“Yeah, well, it’d be good if you took the shot….”) that’s needed, but instead how about actually addressing things like myocarditis, potential fertility concerns, changes in menstrual patterns, other side effects that many people are hearing about vaccines. I’m sure there are a number of people that will not get the shot no matter what, but reading that Atlantic article that was posted here at NC last week, there are a large number of people not getting the vax because of the potential issues mentioned above, other side effects, potential and unknown long term effects. In other words, the persuasion that they are looking for is not in better words and better presentation. It’s in addressing actual, real world concerns they have.

  2. Cocomaan

    help the U.S. achieve herd immunity.

    This framing is not quantified. Is the goal one hundred percent compliance? It will fail.

    In terms of the early/late/etc adopters of tech, there are many who are opting out of having smartphones at all. E readers have fallen off. Tablets hit their niche and never expanded beyond that.

    In a recent study, we discovered that freedom-threatening health messages can be made more palatable if they are accompanied by a large number of likes on social media from other people.

    Facebook has been trying this daily. When I log on I have plenty of propaganda advertisements with likes on them. Been tried for a year now on any number of subjects.

    1. Kris Alman

      From my neck of the woods, this article finds all sorts of ways to offend readers when they typecast the villain of this story.
      “A Progressive Biologist From Portland Is One of the Nation’s Leading Advocates for Ivermectin; Because of people like Bret Weinstein, a drug meant for 1,000-pound animals is flying off the shelves in feed stores.”

      This husband and wife “Bernie Bro” team lives in Multnomah County, where the vaccination rate is approaching 80%! Gluten intolerant, helmet wearing cyclists, paddleboarders and food and nature lovers, they are wolves in sheeps’ clothing responsible for horse paste flying off the shelves of the Linnton Feed & Seed Store.

      Rather than taking a deep dive into ivermectin, Willamette Week shoots the messenger–which will do nothing to get the 20% of Multnomah County “laggards” to change their minds.

      And the Darwin Awards go to???

      1. Chmeee

        The stories about ‘horse paste’ causing medical issues and ‘flying off the shelves’ has been overstated in the media. I read one article on the CDC website that said ‘ivermectin hospital intakes rise 169% over previous year’.

        OK, that sounds really big, right? But it’s not – the previous year saw less than 800 cases, so it went up to a little more than 1,300 cases. Hardly an ‘epidemic’ of uniformed idiots as the stories suggest.

        This, and the entire ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ is is yet another way of ‘othering’, transferring blame to the unvaccinated for absolutely everything going wrong. It’s scapegoating, and frankly, I think that’s disgraceful and needs to stop.

  3. The Rev Kev

    I’m sorry but I can’t buy this. The author may be a professor of Media Effects but what he is saying is that it is mostly a matter of ‘massaging’ the messaging. This is how leaders like Obama came unstuck. If there was a serious problem blowing up, then you just use pr to make it go away. Anybody remember when Obama held the White House ”beer summit” in the Rose Garden back in 2009 to deal with a race problem? It solved nothing but was an exercise in pr and messaging to make a problem go away – which it didn’t. The BLM riots are proof of this.

    What we have here is a problem of trust, not messages. People have lost trust in their governments to do the right thing and when they are threatened, that just confirms that lost of trust. You can’t threaten people to make them trust you. It does not work that way. Only deluded people trust Dr. Fauci for example due to his track record of lying but these reluctant people are told that they have to trust what he says and are then abused when their opinion of Fauci is different. And money don’t buy you trust.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Fauci needs to go. The fact he’s been with us for so many years and is clearly a sociopathic incompetent ethics-free “scientist” is some MKUltra/DrMengele level nightmare fuel.

          Also, why is no one comparing the likelihood of getting covid AND getting seriously ill to the danger from the vaccines themselves — not just the comparative likelihood of getting seriously ill IF you get covid…

    1. Duke of Prunes

      This is so true. It was this behavior that soured me on Obama specifically and the Dems in general. It doesn’t matter what horrendous things we’ve done (say, not prosecuting anyone in the home loan fiasco), but it’s all about the messaging. The messaging was wrong, they said. No, the behavior was wrong, and no amount of messaging is going to change that. Of course a Media Effects professor will say it’s all about messaging just as a hammer sees every problem as a nail.

      Then again, there are still many who revere St Obama so maybe messaging does work, and I’m an outlier (or maybe someone else’s messaging is working better on me)?

    2. Milton

      You mean Y’all keep’n us from getting rid of Covid. Git vaccinated now! is not working? I thought the path that has never worked in the past would work this time.

    3. hemeantwell

      The authors made no attempt to assess comparability between their examples and what currently informs resistance. Although resisters may frame resistance around infividual rights, resistance at this point is heavily overdetermined socially and politically. For many resisters refusal to take precautions allows expression of a collection of grievances and affirms solidarity with others who share them. That’s what is enacted when someone punches a store employee insisting on mask wearing. Unless there’s a hidden history of a hard fought campaign to promote flossing that I’m not aware of, the authors are guilty of pretty careless self-promotion.

    4. Glossolalia

      What we have here is a problem of trust, not messages. People have lost trust in their governments to do the right thing and when they are threatened, that just confirms that lost of trust.

      And we’re not talking about a loss of trust like, “last time you chose the show to watch and it was terrible so I’m going to choose now”, it’s more like, “I found out you’ve been having affairs behind my back for 20 years so no, I don’t believe you that you’re just going out with the guys”. In other words, permanent loss of trust.

    5. Skip Intro

      For the PMC, all problems are messaging problems. The loss of trust applies not just to their intentions, which they can live with, but to their competence. I don’t think they can admit to themselves, let alone the unwashed masses, that they are inept, that all their projects are Afghanistan (Calpers in the vernacular), that pushing a dysfunctional vaccine as a panacea will not be successful, regardless of messaging.

      1. notabanker

        Bingo, this is it right here. Just the fact the ‘the social engineering is not quite right’ argument is being used is damning enough. None of them are believable. Pharma, Fauci, Biden, TV media, print media and especially big tech and government. They cannot and should not be trusted one iota.

        They will do and say anything to keep the fiat money flowing to the top. It is their only purpose in life. Lives can be destroyed, millions killed, whole economic sectors systemically destroyed, the largest swathes of land masses in America left in economic ruin, entire classes of citizens left to fend for themselves, people living in make shift tents in what were once thriving cities, forests burning, hurricanes leveling, but no, the problem is the unvaccinated. There has to be a bogeyman to blame it on.

    6. Sean

      Messaging may have worked decades ago. Now people get thousands of crafted messages from advertisers, the government, and many others.

      It made them aware to manipulations.

  4. Tom Stone

    The fifth paragraph states that the holdouts are preventing the USA from achieving herd immunity.
    The other day I had KGO radio on and heard a commentator ask why holdouts were refusing a shot that would make them immune to the Corona Virus.
    Herd Immunity.
    We have a failure to communicate and not just to the holdouts.

    1. Ahimsa


      Summary of article:

      Professors of Media Effects drink Kool-Aid, theorize best practices to convince holdouts to join them.

  5. Silent Bob

    It was suggested the other day that after a period of 75 days I may be put through “counseling” prior to separation. I look forward to listening to some HR halfwit reading me bullet points that failed to convince me the first time. I will never bow down to coercion. I bend over this time it will only make it easier for them in the future to mandate some other bullshih half-baked experimental chemical cocktail. There is literally nothing they can say that will convince me to get that “vaccine.” Good luck replacing me.

    1. Glossolalia

      Good luck replacing me.

      It will come down to this. I keep reading stories about how hard it is to find workers. But these mandates and decisions are coming from management levels who for the most part won’t have to deal with the day to day issues of staffing at lower levels. And I’m sure there will be all sorts of hush hush exemptions. If Scotty is your top sales guy 5 years running are you really going to fire him for not getting the vaccine?

      1. fajensen

        If Scotty is your top sales guy 5 years running are you really going to fire him for not getting the vaccine?

        Not exactly: Scotty’s boss is gonna let HR fire Scotty for insubordination over not following company policies and getting the vaccine, then Scotty’s boss, boss is gonna tell Scotty’s boss to “Make the numbers with what we have” and Scotty’s boss is gonna make those numbers and it will be like poor old Scotty was never there!

        I have seen “irreplaceable people” getting replaced all the time. The machine grinds on regardless.

        1. JBird4049

          >>>The machine grinds on regardless.

          This reminds me of people who not only never checked the oil level, they ignored the warning lights, forget about even adding any oil…

          An engine can take a lot of abuse with regards to the oil, until it can’t, and then Bad Things Happen.

          I have this feeling that too many companies are doing “the more with less.” Less pay, less training, less benefits, less workers, less everything, but more work as has been advised by MBAs over the past fifty years. At best it is treating as an exercise in massaging the numbers to make it look right and not as an emergency or a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with.

          It works until it doesn’t and before that, the ability to actually get the routine business done, forgetting about emergencies, goes way down. Just look at the hospitals or the many retail stores before epidemic.

          Personally, I am an advocate of vaccinations and excepting the occasional yearly flu vaccine, I get them all. My own mother is a retired nurse who impressed upon me the need for them since I was child.

          Yet this demand that people must take one of this imperfect, non sterilizing vaccines, vaccines that are only partially tested, and are very likely to cause health problems of their own, is making me want to reject any of them. At least any future boosters of the one I had. Or any improved ones. Foolish as it might be.

          Then there is this deceitful campaign against drugs that are not only safe and approved for people, but truly might work against a deadly disease.

          It is as if we have no right to our personal autonomy, to decide what I will do with my body. Neither society or the state has the right to demand me to do whatever they want. This is true especially if what is demanded provides no benefit to the society at large. This is not about Typhoid Mary, but more like Senator McCarthy’s Red Scare of the 1950s

          1. Sub

            My educational background is in microbiology, and I find myself in the same shoes. I find the concept of vaccines sound, and received all of them growing up and boosters where needed as an adult.

            But the way these things have been rolled out and pushed has made me so distrusting of health authorities that I don’t know how to feel. My tetanus shot was up and I discussed getting the booster with my doctor, and found that I no longer trusted them not to stick an experimental genetic injection in my arm at the same time. Even more worrying for me is if they authorize this crap for use in children, then I will have to decide my trust level for my kids who have received all their vaccines thus far.

            It’s a shame, the damage they are doing to a public good will last for a generation.

            1. T_Reg

              My tetanus shot was up and I discussed getting the booster with my doctor, and found that I no longer trusted them not to stick an experimental genetic injection in my arm at the same time.

              That makes a good epitaph for Western Civilization. The rulers have lost all legitimacy, and the rot extends throughout society.

  6. petal

    They’ve really blown the messaging, and there’s no remaking that window once it’s broken. I think until there are vaccine options other than mRNA and adenovirus, there won’t be a shift. Maybe they should back off a little, not force the current options that people don’t trust, and support progress of the other vaccine platforms. They may(ha! read: will/are) do more long-term damage hard forcing the mRNA vaccines-damage to public health and medical messaging and trust for decades to come.

    1. YankeeFrank

      My wife’s grandmother was a nurse back in the 20th century. She told us medical professionals had to work long and hard to convince people to trust medical science since hospitals used to mean the place you go to die. That trust has worn thin and it’s looking like it may very well go the way of the Dodo before this fiasco is over.

      I’ve recently heard two eminent and ethical doctors, Robert Malone and Peter McCullough, state that virus escape from leaky vaccines (like the coronavirus) is helping cause all these horrible variants. Malone takes it further and says that all vaccines are leaky within a large spectrum and only really fully work to purge a virus from a population prior to a large outbreak, not during one.

      The idea that sick people are being sent home from the hospital without being given ANYTHING to fight this virus and told to come back if they have trouble breathing is medical malpractice on a mass scale. If not monoclonal antibodies, then at least ivermectin, should be given as the anecdotal evidence is getting stronger all the time (ask Peruvians and Indians whether ivermectin is helping).

      1. petal

        I know this has been mentioned before, but there also needs to be a large scale “encouragement” of some fashion to lose extra weight, etc, like IM Doc has talked about. I know of another one departing from covid that has this issue(obesity) and other comorbidities due to smoking. All emphasis seems to be being put on these mRNA vaccines to save everyone and ignoring or blocking anything else that can be done to possibly help before things go wrong. Will there be a backlash against PH and the medical community in the future about this as well? Yes, I agree with what you said.

        A hole is being dug that is going to be mighty hard to get out of. I fear the coming 12 month period. I got slammed by a close friend today for bringing up those issues. They just don’t want to hear it. You’re either pro-vax or evil. One must not question the current mRNA vaccines in any way. I was accused of being biased because I had had a bad reaction(not even to an mRNA vaccines), and yet I had to explain to this person I was speaking as a scientist, and those were my scientific concerns. It didn’t matter. The accusations fly right away. I’m so ready for this to be over. Every day I get closer to go being a hermit. Guess I just have to keep my mouth shut.

      2. Tim

        Then get the mRNA vaccine. They can’t leak because they don’t use the virus in any way:

        mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

        1. Yves Smith

          Please stop. I have no idea what you or YF mean by “leaky” but if you mean “escape” the mRNA vaccines do not prevent escape. Data from Israel in early July, as we have stated repeatedly, showed that Covid infection, even when stratified finely by age, was PROPORTIONAL across the vaccinated and unvaccinated. That means as of then, the Pfizer vaccine was not preventing infection at 5-6 months out. That is due to a combo of waning immunity and Delta partly escaping vaccines based on the “wild type” Covid.

          1. YankeeFrank

            Leaky means non-sterilizing or yes, escape. Though sterilizing itself is somewhat of a misnomer because no vaccine is 100% effective, or fully sterilizing. So all vaccines leak, escape, or fail to provide protection against infection to some extent. The percent effectiveness is of course extremely consequential. As you note Yves, the covid vaccines are not very effective after 4-6 months (somewhere between 25 and 60% seems to be about where we are currently), so very roughly a coin flip as to whether you will get infected on exposure if vaccinated.

            A key insight from Dr Malone is that vaccines are not very good at preventing infections during a pandemic even if they are “sterilizing” because even at 95% effectiveness against infection and 90% uptake (even that’s ambitious) large swathes of a population will still get infected and it will not be possible to contain and eliminate the pathogen, which is the goal of vaccination. Hence the need for actual treatment for disease symptoms and avoidance of serious disease, via monoclonals, etc.

            And yes, I totally agree petal. In fact, Grandma also told us that being overweight seriously exacerbates risk with most every medical condition and this one is no exception. Who knew poisoning the American people with salt, sugar and fat would have consequences? Oh yeah. Everyone knew.

      3. jhallc

        “I’ve recently heard two eminent and ethical doctors, Robert Malone and Peter McCullough, state that virus escape from leaky vaccines (like the coronavirus) is helping cause all these horrible variants.”

        The statement that the vaccines are enhancing/causing the rise of variants is common. Is this a correct statement? Is this what the experts are really saying? I’m not a biologist but, the fact that a large majority of the variants arrived on the scene in 2020, well before the vaccines were even in use, suggests to me that there are other things at play. I’ve read that what really drives the rise of variants is simply the large number of cases (both in vaccinated and unvaccinated) and the math, that with each virus replication there is a chance for a more advantageous mutation. To stop the development of new variants what we really need to do is stop the spread of cases. We’ve done a terrible job on that score.

        1. YankeeFrank

          I don’t know. Its what they both said (and in the current anti-science climate stuck their necks out far in doing so), and its why I also wrote “is helping cause”, not “is causing”.

          The idea as I understand it is that like anti-bacterial soaps that kill the weaker bacterium and allow the stronger (more virulent?) variations more likelihood of genetic success, a similar phenomenon occurs with leaky vaccines during a pandemic, where the antibodies effectively combat the weaker strains…

  7. Sawdust

    Someone who thinks that you have no judgement of your own and can be made to agree with them if they just say the magic words is not someone you want to agee with.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Thank you.

      Rather hilarious that it takes a confluence of social science and marketing research to determine that a large percentage of people don’t like to be told what to do. These think tank types could have saved a lot of effort by simply calling up Captain Obvious.

    2. hunkerdown

      Did you just annihilate rhetoric, politics, and social organization itself, in one stroke of transpersonal exclusion? Cheers to ya if you did. To be honest, I never expected it would be quite so easy as that…

  8. Kris Alman

    When Operation Warp Speed took off at full throttle, my brother-in-law and I (both trained in Internal Medicine) were skeptical about mRNA vaccines because of unknowns regarding the long-term safety profile. While I was long retired (worn down in my specialty of Endocrinology by fast foods and PhRMA that conspired to create an unhealthy society), he continued to work in the hospitals. He was an early adopter. And I get it! The desperation and fear of anyone working at the front lines of early Covid have left battle scars that I am glad to have not suffered.

    At a distance and in the safety of my home, I continue to be a skeptic about the entire process of responding to Covid. There’s a website devoted to retracted Covid-19 papers!

    I take great aim at communication experts like this person, who reduces me down to either being of the late majority or a laggard, while continuing to make the false claim that I “could help the U.S. achieve herd immunity.” This lie perpetuates the myth of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

    I avoid the herds and ALWAYS mask up when I join a flock (indoors and outdoors). I take great joy in long walks outdoors, taking advantage of solar radiation that sanitizes and bolsters immunity through Vitamin D production, while diluting aerosolized pathogens and other small particulates (like those from fossil fuels).

    I am paying more attention now to Dr. Robert Malone, whose skepticism about these vaccines comes with his expertise as the “Inventor of mRNA vaccines and RNA as a drug.”

    So what if I eventually can’t travel by train or by air! It’s healthier for our climate to stay put and communicate with loved ones through the internet, mitigating surveillance and hacks as best as one can.

    Life is a gamble only when there is choice.

    1. KLG

      Thank you, Dr. Alman! Many are skeptical of mRNA vaccines for good and sufficient reason, but there is no public evidence these vaccines have an “inventor.” The approach has been obvious in principle since the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology was first stated in about 1957 by Francis Crick. For the past 30 years as techniques have caught up with principle, a multitude has been working on RNA as a therapeutic for many diseases; cancer vaccines may result from this research. Dr. Robert Malone was the first author on the first paper to describe transfection of mammalian cells with RNA in 1989; he made cultured mouse cells glow in the dark by transfecting them with firefly luciferase mRNA and this was a remarkable achievement that paved the way for many advances, including using various luciferase genes as markers of gene expression! He subsequently published a number of papers on the incremental improvements of such techniques, which are now standard in every molecular biology laboratory. His more recent published work on “vaccines on demand” doesn’t even mention mRNA. Nor does a 2016 paper on Zika virus. Dr. Malone’s current published work is on famotidine (Pepcid) as a treatment for COVID-19. Now that would be an advance!

        1. KLG

          In my first scientific job as an undergraduate I purified luciferase from a soft coral that glows in the dark. The graduate student who taught me always said “mephistophelase” would have been the better name ;-) He was fluent in German, naturally.

    2. Kris Alman

      Then again, is life a gamble? And do we really have choice?

      The RNA of a simple virus like SARS-Co-V-2 challenges a complex mortal soul, like me.

      We humans are influenced by cultural norms that are manipulative and that can be very oppressive. We survive day to day with cognitive dissonance, challenged by the existential threats of Covid-19, climate change and capitalism. We are understandably confused when we have to evaluate pseudoscience from science, rife with jargon (such as net-zero emissions) that is either ill-defined or intentionally coined to game the process. Information asymmetry banks on this, further enriching the wealthiest.

      Information peasants seek solace from higher orders. The MSM silos further divides us. So we resort to religion, mind-numbing substances and maladaptive behaviors such as scapegoating and blatant hypocrisy in order to cope with cultural norms (and ab-norms) that are shaped by “the elite.” Is that life?

      Back to gambling on life. In casinos, the house always wins because of the large number of bets placed. Our house is our universe. Scientists are not sure whether viruses are living or non-living (abiotic). And statistics can’t explain that leap from non-life to life through randomness:
      Emergence of life in an inflationary universe
      Therefore, if extraterrestrial organisms of a different origin from those on Earth are discovered in the future, it would imply an unknown mechanism at work to polymerize nucleotides much faster than random statistical processes.

      This brings me to a 2008 essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose bestselling 2007 book, “Black Swan,” warned of highly improbable events and their potential for severe consequences.

      by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

      Critical thinking, knowledge, beliefs—everything needed to be probabilized. Until I came to realize, twelve years ago, that I was wrong in this notion that the calculus of probability could be a guide to life and help society. Indeed, it is only in very rare circumstances that probability (by itself) is a guide to decision making. It is a clumsy academic construction, extremely artificial, and nonobservable. Probability is backed out of decisions; it is not a construct to be handled in a stand-alone way in real-life decision making. It has caused harm in many fields.

      Taleb said he believes everyday citizens and government leaders have, for the most part, failed to grasp the potential consequences of the pandemic. “I’m seeing a lot of denial in social life, everywhere, about this virus from the beginning,” he said. “Now we’re 10 months into this virus, and people are still hoping for a vaccine, something that will cancel it.”

      While developing vaccines and therapeutics is important, Taleb said people should not operate as though they will be widely available right around the corner. “This kind of denial is what is causing us to incur such a high cost, in GDP, in many things, even social life.”

      As we reach the tipping points of these existential crises, the tendency is to blame the individual versus the collective. This happens when technological solutionists that profit from a collective crisis recognize their limitations over nature.

      After the tipping point, wealth and information asymmetry won’t matter. That’s where I fear we are headed.

      1. Mikkel

        This is sadly, beautifully true.

        As someone who was very much part of the techno-elite crowd, I came to understand that we were headed towards the abyss shortly after Obama’s response to the GFC. That was the obvious death blow to liberalism as a governing principle, with implications far beyond comprehension.

        I was young at the time and felt both infinite betrayal and confusion that the ruling classes were signing not only their own death certificate, but probably the majority of current life on this planet. With time, and many many conversations across society, I now understand the message of the Greek tragedy.

        As the brilliant King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – a Jungian lensed book to masculinity states – we do not live in a patriarchy, we live in a pueriarchy. For we are not ruled by the wisdom of the father, but the capriciousness of boys.

        In particular they list four boy archetypes that are widespread: the bully who uses force and boasting to dominate others; the conniving trickster obsessed with manipulation through intelligent yet unwise schemes; the narcissistic, vanity obsessed hero who believes only they can save the world; and the everyday innocent child demands to live in oblivious feel goodism.

        These archetypes are coping strategies for scared lonely children to survive amidst parental failure. If they fail, the ultimate fallback is the high chair tyrant who demands every whim is met or breaks down crying for mommy and daddy/refuses to obey any directive no matter how much it’s in their interest.

        I will leave that impression lingering in the air without further commentary, other than to state that the book’s deep wisdom was itself twisted by the various pathologies it sought to shine light on, and is now mythologized by “men’s rights” groups displaying the epitome of toxicity.

        As you state, the problem lies in the collective, and it astounds me how much the individual can twist and turn to avoid accepting the culpability in that.

        I do not know what the way forward is, but in the words of MLK, we are in the fierce urgency of now. Although googling that phrase gives the top two results as being from the Carnegie Foundation and Department of Defense.

        Such is life when everything is reduced to messaging.

        1. Kris Alman

          I had to look this one up: puerarchy

          From the Subreddit, “The Red Pill”
          “The Puerarchy, for those who are new to the term, is a Manosphere term-of-art used to describe the phenomenon most recently called out as “ExtendedAdolescence” (as this harsh assessment of the group by the Guardian Angels, of all people, points out): the tendency for young men to spend a decade or so getting drunk, high, laid, and wiped out from video game exhaustion and porn marathons instead of applying nose to grindstone, getting a college education that will allow them to support their future ex-wives.”

          The four boy archetypes reminds me of the four sons of Passover, except that in addition to the the Wicked Son, the Simple Son, and the One who does not know how to ask, there is the Wise Son.

          “Who is wise? He who learns from every person (Pirkei Avos 4:1).” Indeed, the classical title for a Torah scholar is ‘Talmid Chacham’ – a wise student.

          What is the idea behind this definition? In order to learn from others, one needs two crucial insights. First, “I am lacking. There is much that I do not know.” And second, “Others possess the knowledge which I need.”

          1. mikkel

            Ah yes, that’s a great recognition. Thanks!

            If you’re interested, the book also goes through positive archetypes. Here is a summary from a site that is very manosphere but in a decent way, not the “red piller” types.

            The Talmid Chacham is what they call the precocious child.

        2. Dr. R.k. Barkhi

          “we do not live in a patriarchy, we live in a pueriarchy. For we are not ruled by the wisdom of the father, but the capriciousness of boys.

          In particular they list four boy archetypes that are widespread: the bully who uses force and boasting to dominate others; the conniving trickster obsessed with manipulation through intelligent yet unwise schemes; the narcissistic, vanity obsessed hero who believes only they can save the world; and the everyday innocent child demands to live in oblivious feel goodism.”

          Thanks for the quote-among other things its as close 2 a perfect description of the M.I.B.C.*/War Machine and a significant part of the American psyche as I’ve ever seen in 2 paragraphs.


  9. Jesper

    Another aspect might be that some people (me, maybe others as well) have had a very definite understanding of the meaning of the word ‘vaccine’. For me vaccine is something that provides immunity and this meaning of the word is something I have had with me since childhood. It seems my understanding of the word was wrong.
    As is then the use of the word ‘vaccine’ came with certain expectations – immunity. Those expectations were not met. Possibly I had the incorrect expectations.
    Using the word ‘vaccine’ as it has been done might have increased the pace of the uptake of the shots. But using the word as it has been done might be a cause of confusion. Some people might have had the same expectations as I had. The expectations were not met so some might wonder if they had been lied to. If it is believed that one lie has been told then some might believe that other things are also lies.

    Booster-shot might have been a more accurate name. The shots provides boost to the immune-system. But maybe a more accurate name would not generate the uptake that it has.

    1. Big River Bandido

      They should have, from the get-go, used the same language they use for “flu shots”. That’s essentially what the COVID “vaccines” are.

      Of course, if they had done that, they would not have been able to *mandate* them, and it seems that was the only intent all along.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        They could possibly have done that, and it does seem like it would have been a good idea, however the authorities early on in the pandemic spent a good deal of time reprimanding anyone who compared the rona to the flu.

        Kind of shot themselves in the foot with that one…

  10. Zachary Smith

    A communication strategy that is sensitive to psychological reactance could empower the holdouts to willingly get vaccinated instead of grudgingly comply with a mandate.

    And what if the fancy “communication strategy” doesn’t work? What then?

    I’m not qualified to comment about the vaccines, so I won’t. My concern is that the “Freedom” types are refusing masks and the other necessities of a pandemic.

    Around early summer last year, masks were “mandated” in my part of Indiana. Immediately afterwards the county Sheriff sent his deputies to all local businesses to hand out fliers declaring they wouldn’t enforce the mask mandates. And they got away with doing it!

    Suicidal Freedom people are reducing access to the medical system, in part by filling the hospital beds needed by others. Also by making life-saving elective surgeries and other treatments difficult or even impossible.

    If vaccine mandates aren’t a good idea (and they may not be – I wouldn’t know), then I have no problem making the lives of the Freedom boys and girls darned difficult with full-time & properly worn masks while off their own property. And they’d be subject to frequent non-free Covid tests.

    1. Cocomaan

      You could make the same arguments about obesity. That someone’s freedom to eat anything they want impinges on your access to a hospital bed when you need it most.

      The fact is that this line of thinking doesn’t get you anywhere closer to solving problems. Hence why this article was written and why it does a poor job of conceiving of a solution.

      shockingly, people generally don’t respond well to threats.

      1. Randy

        Exactly. Taking this sort of thinking to the extreme (liberal talking point), why do we bother administering medical treatment to convicted felons? Just let them wither away and die in place.
        Barbaric i know, but so are todays PMC liberals. If you dont agree with them you deserve to die.

        1. polecat

          Implied by a certain squad leader

          ‘Hey all you avoxes! .. you’re supposed to ‘Do As You’re TOLD!’ ….. and serve ME my $30,000 Met plate of phony whine & cheesyness, whilst I spew forth, unencumbered … and Don’t you dare to contradict!
          Speak nothing, and Mask Up, you Chumps!’

          I’ve seen too much of this kind of hypocrisy to care what they say or think.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’d put them on the new Fox TV series, The Masked Scofflaw where the studio audience of limousine liberals heckles them in a series of jeers that culminates in a platoon of Proud Boys cracking masked eggheads after crashing the party.

        2. cocomaan

          There is no “solution” besides your suggested “final solution”, which is not a great road to go down.

          There is no such thing as 100% compliance. People still murder each other every single day despite the penalties.

          The time to convince people is WAY past and the CDC bungled it by rejecting masks in March of 2020. The trust is gone. They had one chance.

        3. BCD

          Solution I’ve been mulling over to address the mask kerfuffle. The CDC last week finally recommended N95 style masks, the problem is the strap on the back of the head not being appropriate for everyday non-medical use. There is no KN95/KF94 ear loops mask standard in the US so as a result the CDC recommended foreign masks screwing American manufacturers and workers yet again.

          Step 1. Create an officially approved US standard USA95 mask with ear loops so American manufactures can brand their masks and the CDC can promote them. Demetech in Florida just released their new D95 masks in this format, they can’t say its KN95 because its not approved in China, they can’t say its N95 because its not so that leaves D95, KD95 and 59UF which means nobody knows high quality American masks exist or how to find them.

          Step 2. Require the official seal of the United States of America as part of the new USA95 mask standard. Require USA95 mask ONLY be made in the US. US manufacturers are given up front financial assistance to massively ramp up capacity.

          Step 3. Send a kit of 20 USA95 masks (plus other goodies like rapid tests) to every resident of the US with a fact sheet stating these masks are official US masks paid for by the US government and made by US workers for the benefit of the American people. The literature encourages people to try on and wear the masks daily in public settings as part of their patriotic duty and symbol of their pride for the nation’s workforce and products. The kit also includes information on how to fit the masks properly, where they can get more USA95 masks and how they can get tax credits or financial assistance to receive more.

          Step 4. Expand mask manufacturing capacity until we can begin supplying cost competitive best quality masks to the entire world as goodwill that hopefully earns a tiny bit of forgiveness and mercy for the terror we unleashed over the last 20 years. Every company in the US is required to purchase a USA95 mask for every employee every day they are asked to be exposed to the public or shared working areas for work purposes. Every public school student and government employee will be provided a new mask for every day they are expected to be at work or present in a classroom. No person will every be “required” to wear a mask or ever receive a penalty for not wearing one.

          Step 5. implement a disposal and recycling program for masks

          1. Mike Elwin

            I think health insurance policies should not cover the costs of illnesses and injuries that result from neglecting to follow broadly adopted health measures, such as COVID-19 vaccination and wearing safety gear on 2-wheeled vehicles.

            That said, it’s been understood for a long time that persuasion is a matter of hitting the sweet spot between complete agreement and complete disagreement. Humans are generally pretty good at this, but on COVID-19 vaccination, they have failed.

            Personally, I doubt vaccination is the issue, so well-tuned messaging about it is irrelevant. Just read the remarks here. Most objections are about disillusionment with government and experts. Refusing to be vaccinated has become a blow for personal freedom that, oh yeah, threatens the health and life of the freedom-fighter, his/her family, neighbors, co-workers, co-shoppers, co-everyone. But, hey, they’re striking a blow for freedom!

            1. T_Reg

              You might as well just say, “I think people should not receive medical treatment for illnesses and injuries that result from neglecting to follow broadly adopted health measures, such as COVID-19 vaccination and wearing safety gear on 2-wheeled vehicles.”, because that would be the effect for the overwhelming number of people in the U.S. OK, some people would still get treatment – until they went broke. And “broadly adopted” is a political decision, not a medical one.

              P.S. I’ve heard of studies saying that people in motor vehicles need helmets more than people on bicycles. Yet helmet mandates for people in cars are not only not broadly adopted, they’re nonexistent.

    2. hunkerdown

      >Suicidal Freedom people are reducing access to the medical system

      Are you just here to make excuses for neoliberal privatization and blame others for your support of medical freedom at the business level? I’m actually okay with the entire hospital industry going to zero. Then we can renationalize them.

      1. Zachary Smith

        So far as I know, I’m not a neoliberal anything.

        For many years I’ve favored Single Payer health care. Still do. We have a dreadfully crappy health care system in the US, but at the present time it’s all we’ve got. Clogging it with needlessly hospitalized Freedom Freaks to the point others are denied the care they need is insane – at least from my viewpoint.

    3. Geof

      And what if the fancy “communication strategy” doesn’t work? What then?

      You adapt. Life does not owe you ideal solutions. Afghanistan is an example. The options were all bad.

      Communication is my expertise. I think good communication is essential. And I think it must be founded not on the words you use or the framing you choose, but on the much more difficult task of figuring out what you mean, and meeting your audience where they are (not where you want them to be).

      To do that, it is essential that you respect your audience. Which means that you are not simply telling them what to do. If you can’t respect them, you’re reducing to trickery. If you try to persuade, but your real intent is to force, they will find out, this time or next, and then you will not be able to reach them.

      The idea that everyone will comply with vaccine mandates is a fantasy. If enough force were deployed to make it happen, social cohesion would be shattered for a long time to come. Good communication means choosing a different meaning – a different intent – and following through. That entails respecting their freedom to choose. Freedom always includes the freedom to make bad choices.

      Communicate that respect clearly and honestly, and you may be surprised at who you can reach. But it won’t be everyone. You need to accept that up front: otherwise any appeal to freedom or respect is hollow.

      If you accept the freedom of people to choose, psychology that was working against you will suddenly work for you. Now it is the protesters in front of the hospitals who are denying the freedoms of others. Now you can truly and sincerely identify with your audience. Your communications can get inside their lives, show them you understand their struggles, and see how they connect to the action you think they should take.

      I don’t think the PMC is capable. They fundamentally do not respect people outside their echo chambers. I see this with my PMC friends, for whom the goal of vaccine mandates is not the safety of other restaurant or movie patrons, but punishment of the unvaccinated to make them comply. That will never work. No self-respecting person would submit to such paternalistic abuse. But because in some sense they don’t really think their opponents are fully realized humans, I cannot make them see it. I can only try to reach them where they are, demonstrate that I am “one of us” who does not agree, and hope I can inspire doubt.

      1. Zachary Smith

        The idea that everyone will comply with vaccine mandates is a fantasy.

        If you’ll review my post, you’ll see I was talking about non-vaccine pandemic procedures, and specifically masks. I’m not going to “respect” people who willingly endanger bystanders any more than I’ll “respect” people who knowingly drive while intoxicated.

  11. Synoia

    Freedom is a critical concept in the anti-vaccination rhetoric.

    Question: If you are risking me because of your beliefs, does that become an Intent to Assault?

    Take your anti-vaccination beliefs to your home and stay there, or face a civil lawsuit for intent to Assault.

    Freedom does NOT include intent to harm.

    1. Milton

      Do you have your facts straight? CDC’s own study shows that there is virtually no difference between vaccinated vs unvaccinated persons as far as committing “assault” on the innocents.

      1. Mike Elwin

        But isn’t it true that, if the “innocents” are vaccinated, as well, the transmission doesn’t take!

    2. Eric377

      The condition of not being vaccinated is not the same as having contagious COVID and being vaccinated is increasingly not the same as not having contagious COVID

      1. Jim

        Yes. THIS. Which is deliberately obfuscated in the mass campaign to force everyone to not only get the two Pfizer shots, but any and all future shots – all while we now have clear evidence that “vaccinated” people are every bit as transmissive as “unvaccinated” people. (I put the words in scare quotes, because the definition of “vaccine” keeps getting shifted, away from what the common person understands it to mean.)

        And always, always: the inability to understand (or the deliberate refusal to admit) that hesitancy or opposition to THIS particular shot is not necessarily, or even mostly, equivalent to opposition to any and all vaccines.

    3. hunkerdown

      Lol, sure. Every econ and poli sci prof in the country would be up against the wall.

      Now that your language of moral self-righteousness has been revealed as a cynical attempt to manipulate me to your own and your party’s private ends, maybe you should explain why you don’t want masks to work.

  12. Larry Y

    The problem is that there’s been too many own goals, squandering credibility and confidence. Then there’s a lack of admitting mistakes, acknowledging root causes, and addressing systemic/structural barriers.

    Talk is cheap. Leadership is treating this as problem of messaging, propaganda, and ideology. If we want more vaccinations, need to address structural problems: bringing vaccines to people (transportation or lack of local provider), providing childcare, and replacing lost income due to getting the shot with paid time off for the subsequent aches, chills, and fever. Everyone should have easy-to-access medical care and disability insurance for any long term effects.

  13. Randy

    At this point i just cant shake the belief that this is a culling/genocide. That there’s a variant waiting in the wings that will produce ADE/OAS in the vaccinated. “How could we have known.” Even though many years of research warned of this possibility. This is the only way our mendacious govt and media’s response to this makes any sense. When viewed through this light it all makes sense.

    1. juliania

      I don’t have to suppose intent of such nature to be scared stiff of the following for my dear family members who have succumbed to the threats of loss of income.

      “…there’s a variant waiting in the wings that will produce ADE/OAS in the vaccinated. ‘How could we have known?’”

      This is something IM Doc has worried about, and we really do not know if this is a possibility.

      I am a senior, and I follow all the protocols double masking when around others. Have done so since we knew the virus was airborne early on (thank you UCSF team). And as a low income senior I’ve had to live as healthfully as I can, thanks to the merchandising of healthcare in this country. As healthfully as I can means all the natural solutions I can find to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune healthwise. I don’t need the praise of the politicians, but neither do I need their insults.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Quite likely IMO. I don’t think that the legality of it is a slam-dunk “yes” as some political pundits are speculating. Multiple conflicting rulings at the appeals courts are likely followed by the ultimate SCOTUS ruling perhaps by Christmas? Although the eviction moratorium slap-down by SCOTUS took a lot longer than 3 months, IIRC. Depends on how aggressive litigants can get in fast-tracking a case and how the appeals courts want to frame this – temporary injunction vs. letting the suits play out.

      However, in the meantime lots of companies will probably forge ahead and cause angst for some of their employees.

  14. Wukchumni

    I was told the hospital in Visalia has 29 unvaccinated staff, and this being the CVBB, its probably all evangs not jabbing on account of dogma.

    If they were to be let loose, the hospital probably wouldn’t function.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Why do people assume that health care workers are ignorant about health, even if they use a proxy like “evangelical” for “ignorant”?

      I always thought nurses might actually know something about health and vaccines, etc. Silly me.

      1. Wukchumni

        I wouldn’t call them ignorant, but more like history scholars of a brief time a few thousand years ago.

        1. clarky90

          Many theorize that the vaccine is “the life-saving jab”, but, perhaps not? What if it is the Neo-Thalidomide? The truth of it will eventually be revealed.

          As a teenager (early 1940s), my Mom was enrolled in the Johns Hopkins radium experiment. The “researchers” put a vile of radium down her throat. It was for the war effort. Many years later, she developed metastasizing thyroid cancer, She died, horribly, 25 years ago. By rights she should still be alive today. (Her mom lived to 98 yo and her dad to 97 yo).

          The loss of our Mom, GM, GGM, by medical malfeasance (know-it-all cowboys), has been an ongoing tragedy for our family.

          “Pioneered at Johns Hopkins 70 years ago, nasopharyngeal irradiation was prescribed to correct hearing, sinus and adenoid problems in children. The treatment involved inserting radium-tipped rods into the nose to shrink excess adenoid tissue that had caused the ailments.

          The treatment also was given to about 5,000 submariners and more than twice as many airmen…..”

  15. Darthbobber

    I’ll leave it to others to judge how close the analogy really is between adoption of tech gadgetry and adoption of recommended public health measures. I’m guessing not very.

    He also seems to take no account of the fact that the UNofficial messaging (and some of the official variety) largely takes the form of haranguing, berating, and shaming. Which only works at all on groups far smaller than the one in question. Really goes beyond not working, as it tends to set off a solidarity instinct and an inclination to push back among those you’re ostensibly trying to persuade. Rather like “deplorables”, or “Berniebros”.

  16. JohnMc

    Not a word about risk v benefit? It’s an easy determination to make for a 65 yo like myself, but I’m sure i’d come to a different decision as an 18 yo.

    So i find it offensive to characterize those who have evaluated their personal risk/benefit differently as ‘holdouts’. And doubly so when it seems apparent that vaccination does nothing to prevent infection and transmission and therefore has no community benefit other than possibly mitigating hospital overcapacity in some situations.

  17. marym

    Along with the messaging and practical failures of the elite neoliberal PCM blob, there have also been been anti-vax, anti-mask, pandemic denial etc. messaging and actions from the elite MAGA right: a former president, governors, state and federal legislators, religious leaders, and media. Some of these messages and actions have also been misleading and divisive, particularly the notion — not unique to this particular issue — that “freedom” is an unconstrained right to do anything anyone feels like doing no matter what harm it may do to others.

    There’s at least some segment of anti-vaxxers who are more than willing to give credibility (and votes) to these elites.

  18. Darthbobber

    Difficult to separate peoples’ response to pandemic messaging from their preexisting confidence or lack thereof in the regulatory framework.

    The FDA’s history is absolutely littered with clear cases of regulatory capture and fronting for the industry, from my childhood when miracle drugs like Valium were passed out to suburban housewives for little to no reason on through the feckless Oxycontin approval, which has stacked the bodies up like cordwood ever since.

    Even in the midst of the blaring “follow the science, you troglodytes” blather, we got the politically dictated approval of an Alzheimer’s drug over the objections of 10 of the 11 physicians on the advisory board, and then Biden’s initial booster boosterism, in advance of ANY science that one could propose to “follow ”

    What really needs to be explained is why public cynicism about all of this is not even higher.

  19. Mike Furlan

    One of the Iron Laws of the internet:

    murc’s law

    The widespread assumption that only Democrats have any agency or causal influence over American politics.

    By attacking the Democrats for not stopping right wing kooks from committing suicide by Covid, you revealed yourself to be a firm believer in Murc’s Law.

  20. Donna

    I am like the canary in the coal mine when it comes to prescription drugs. I have been having adverse reactions to prescriptions medications since I was in my early 20s in the 1970s. It started with anaphylactic shock to a medicine administered in an emergency room.

    I realize that adverse reactions to the vaccines are rare. But, I know my body and my experiences. I will not be getting this vaccine. But, I do not stand opposed to any safety measures from masking to lockdowns. And for the most part I have been locked down since last March.

    It is insulting to be lumped together with a group of extreme anti-maskers and deniers. I wonder how many citizens who have decided against this vaccine really are the extreme freedom fighters and not just people like me who have serious concerns about their own difficulties with medications over the years.

    1. Tom Stone

      I have also had numerous adverse reactions to medications since my youth and finally gambled on taking the shots due to my health issues and age (68).
      My background pain level had been stable for more than a decade until I took the Moderna Vaccine, it went from 2/3 with an occasional spike to 4 to 4/5 with the occasional spike to 6.
      About all I can handle, it’s why you see me commenting at 4 AM
      And when I finally got to the point of asking for pain relief Butrans was prescribed and within days I started to experience severe Angina.
      Bad enough to catch an ambulance ride and spend 6 hours in the ER.
      My only safe choice now is to suck it up.

    1. Glen

      Wow, don’t treat people because they haven’t been vaccinated?

      WHAT ABOUT MONEY? I never get treated for all sorts of stuff BECAUSE I HAVE NO MONEY.

      But I guess that’s OK.

  21. David

    Yes, it’s a blinding statement of the obvious. But my impression is that the US is the only country in the world which is actively trying to insult and hector people into doing what the government wants. As several of us from Europe have pointed out, governments here have had greater success with a sticks and carrots approach, promising people, in effect, a relatively normal life if they get vaccinated.

    But there’s another dimension that I would have hoped out eminent experts would have covered. Messages like this cannot be seen in isolation : they have to compete for our mental space with all the other messages of the day, and with all the received ideas and slogans, even if they are from completely different areas. Up until the 1960s, there was an accepted discourse of responsibility and duty and collective effort, which meant that public information campaigns emphasising these ideas could achieve some traction. Nobody would dare to run such a campaign today. The vaccine-hesitant have in most cases grown up with discourses and slogans along the lines of, your highest duty is to yourself, become who you want to be, it’s your body, you are a consumer you can have what you want, don’t believe the government, it’s all a conspiracy, your rights are sacred, and so forth and so forth. Politicians no longer try to appeal to anything except naked short-term self-interest. And they wonder why the propaganda doesn’t work.

    1. juliania

      “The vaccine-hesitant have in most cases grown up with discourses and slogans…”

      How do you know this? Have there been interviews? I suggest that it is in most cases people who have been concerned about their health, period. They are people who value discourse, who respect rational thought, who even have investigated issues pro and con and made decisions that do not harm other people, contrary to some of the slander being suggested against them. And who are reluctant to cast the same sort of blame upon those who think differently, even while we fear it may be they, the vaccinated, who help the virus reproduce.

      Time will tell. At present we are all, vaccinated or not, capable of catching the virus or its variants and passing it on. Take precautions; mask up. Be well.

    1. outside observer

      I like someone else’s idea I’ve seen here earlier – how about free healthcare for life? That might help to allay some of the concerns about immediate or long term effects from both the vaccine and the breakthrough infections. Without having to ‘prove’ that it was the vaccine that did it.

  22. Ol' Ben Lucas

    I’m picturing job advertisements posted in Red States with no state vaccination or masking mandates for businesses under the 100-employee Federal limit owned by anti-vaxxers with messaging like “no vaccine required” or even, “vaccinated need not apply” and “masks prohibited” getting flooded with applications. Getting insurance may be problematic I’m guessing and that may be the least of their problems.

    I spoke again this morning with my MCU nurse friend who has been dealing with a recent Covid surge at her hospital, which thankfully seems to have peaked about a week or two ago at which time almost every ICU bed in her hospital was occupied by an older, unvaccinated Covid patient. She’s a professional and treats all patients the same regardless but isn’t at all happy about it. 12 hour shifts in full protective gear are rough. She watches them go into the ICU knowing very few will leave it alive.

  23. Big River Bandido

    With school back in session and my workload absolutely nuts, I only now finished plodding through yesterday’s yellow-waders analysis and today’s related piece on “Forceful Vaccine Measures Backfire With Holdouts”. I can’t add much to Altandmain’s outstanding comment yesterday. I would only add one point and my personal take.

    Nothing in medicine or government can be more important than maintaining trust. In contrast, we have:

    • a PhARMA-corrupted process (FDA protest resignations)
    • a non-sterilizing “vaccine” (scare quotes intentional)
    • censorship and outright lies about nearly every other type of intervention (“horse paste”)
    • shifting goalposts — overselling of “vaccine” benefits
    • suppression of info on adverse reactions (menstrual bleeding)
    • shaming / shunning / otherness
    • all from people who lacked any cred to start with because of all their *other* failures

    This is not Science™, this is Propaganda. Many comments panned the premise of the “Forceful Vaccine Messages” piece. But doctors, nurses, and teachers have long understood how the hectoring, punitive tone usually backfires, especially among Americans. If you want people to assume some level of personal risk for the benefit of all, you must *ask* them. This is really, really basic stuff. No, communication style is not everything. No, it doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always work *immediately* — the subject needs time and space to reflect. None of this is new to anyone in these professions, and to simply pooh-pooh the importance of tone in such communications just because it’s a PMC concern is really quite shortsighted.

    My own take? I’m a well-read 54 year old gay man, a professor at a large art college in the Northeast, and the son of an OT who constantly taught me about health and physiology. My partner and I both had COVID in March 2020 and we both got the J&J “vaccine” this past April. Based on these shallow profile factors, I should be gung-ho about Biden’s speech. Instead, I find it absolutely repugnant and I am completely disinclined to trust “our leaders”. I’m sure I am hardly alone in that judgement.

    So…how are “we” doing in the “War on COVID”?

  24. Edward

    Something that might help with the anti-COVID effort is more public involvement in the policy decision making process. IM_Doc has commented on this blog that doctors were pressured not to express any reservations about the vaccines. This is the opposite of transparency and inclusiveness. Was there something to hide? What if the people expressing reservations were correct about something? I think the best course would have been to allow people to air their concerns and to respond to the legitimate ones. I wish we had access to non-American vaccines, although this doesn’t seem to be a big issue in the U.S.

    This push for vaccination in a way may be misguided, though. The vaccines don’t prevent transmission, although they might reduce the risk of acquiring COVID. Yet people seem to think once they are vaccinated life is back to normal and they can be close to strangers. Would there be less COVID in America if there were no vaccines, since then people would be more careful? The only way to stop COVID so far seems to be with strict lockdowns, quarantining, and widespread testing. At a minimum, it should be emphasized to the vaccinated that they are still at risk.

    1. Louis

      The only way to stop COVID so far seems to be with strict lockdowns,

      Lockdowns are not a sustainable strategy unless you are retired or work from home–for everyone else lockdowns mean a loss of livilhood and food and housing aren’t free.

      1. Edward

        I think the key here is that lockdowns must be thorough and comprehensive enough to halt COVID and therefore have a short duration. They need to be coupled with testing everywhere. This is what China did. The downside of their approach was that it was drastic and onerous– but only for a limited time. The upside was that after the virus was halted they could enjoy the fruits of their effort and lift the lockdown. The U.S. has had the worst of all possible worlds. We have had lockdowns, but they were not thorough enough to stop COVID and we have basically gotten nowhere.

        On the other hand, perhaps with a careful study and understanding of COVID transmission a lockdown could be refined so only genuinely dangerous activities are banned. With measures like air circulation and masking it might be safe for people to meet. The bottom line, I think, is that a big, cooperative effort by everyone is going to be needed to move America from where it is now to where China is.

        1. Jeff

          You believe China is telling you the truth about their covid data? Because when has the CCP lied about anything.

          1. Temporarily Sane

            You have the internet, no? Instead of parroting idiotic talking points about “muh CCP” do a bit of research into what’s happening in China at the moment.

            There’s a YouTube channel called Walk East that does street videos from various parts of China. It’s just a person walking and filming what he/she with a 4K camera. No narration or gratuitous editing, you see what they see.

            Watch videos from this channel and you will notice crowds of people going about their business.



            These were both filmed in the last few weeks. There are many more videos like this.

            And do you really think if there was any sign at all that “the CCP” was covering up massive Covid outbreaks, that the western media wouldn’t be all over that?

            Stop drinking the paranoid western supremacist Kool Aid and use your brain.

            1. Jeff

              Why defend a country running re-education camps for ethnic minorities? Would you like to talk about organ harvesting?

              Please, use the internet.

              1. hunkerdown

                Don’t be a “moderate” head-chopping US-financed merc in Syria and you won’t need to be re-educated. Why do you believe Uighurs need to be protected from their bad choices to run with a bad crowd? It’s obvious that the only US interest in “muh reeducation camps” is to ensure that their paid terrorists can go home and safely spend their ill-gotten gains.

                As for organ harvesting for capital crimes, that’s positive for society, helps remind their PMC they aren’t inherently special. The West should be so wise as to do the same.

  25. Maritimer

    “Forceful vaccine messages”? Isn’t that a nice, sweet name for Propaganda. Please, call it what it is, Propaganda.

    It seems that we now live in a society where it is acceptable, depending on one’s issue, to spend $$$$$$$ to shape/modify/wash the human mind with one’s message until the message is accepted.

    What about convincing one with Science and facts and logical argument?

    In that regard, the Convincers/Messagers in all the $$$$$$$$ already spent have yet to
    address the facts regarding the legal records of AZ,JJ and PFI. I guess they hope nobody will research those at:

  26. Big River Bandido

    Lambert, may I suggest the hoisting of a comment tomorrow for readers who may have missed it yesterday?

    Altandmain’s comment (re: Lambert’s yellow-waders analysis of the Biden speech) was great food for thought for me today. Pandemic is not merely an issue in its own right, it’s also key to a larger story — the massive, total failure of the American elite. I was impressed by the variety of angles Altandmain explores and the holistic view expressed in the comment. I think this idea could be carried a very long way.

  27. Arakawa

    Speaking of forceful vaccine messages… did you know that povidone iodine is the new pony paste? I read it in Men’s Health Magazine! It’s “the latest anti-vaxxer tactic you should avoid at all costs”!

    In short, it doesn’t matter if before this started you drank an MMR smoothie every day after taking a swim in a pool of DPT. Anything less than total intellectual submission to the vaccines makes you an anti-vaxxer. And yes, subscribing to the heresy of other treatments or mitigations is failure to submit intellectually to the vaccines.

  28. Kris Alman

    From my neck of the woods, this article finds all sorts of ways to offend readers when they typecast the villain of this story.
    “A Progressive Biologist From Portland Is One of the Nation’s Leading Advocates for Ivermectin; Because of people like Bret Weinstein, a drug meant for 1,000-pound animals is flying off the shelves in feed stores.”

    This husband and wife “Bernie Bro” team lives in Multnomah County, where the vaccination rate is approaching 80%! Gluten intolerant, helmet wearing cyclists, paddleboarders and food and nature lovers, they are sheep in wolves clothing responsible for horse paste flying off the shelves of the Linnton Feed & Seed Store.

    Rather than taking a deep dive into ivermectin research, Willamette Week shoots the messenger–which will do nothing to get the 20% of Multnomah County “laggards” to change their minds.

    And the Darwin Awards go to???

  29. Kfish

    My reasons:

    a) It’s a non-sterilising vaccine. The entire premise of a vaccine mandate is that it will make everyone safe, but this vaccine has already proven to be incapable of preventing transmission.

    b) I’m under 40 and in good health. My risks associated with Covid are tiny and knowingly accepted. If infected, I will quarantine, wear masks and do everything possible to reduce my impact on others.

    c) I’m female, with a history of awful period issues (try bleeding twenty-one days a month and then talk to me about how Mother Nature always gets it right). I would rather be in the ICU with a tube down my throat than go back to that, and I have knowingly accepted that risk too.

    Calling me ignorant is a non-starter, especially from people who have already lied about the vaccine’s efficacy, its potential side effects and therapeutic alternatives.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I’m under 40 and in good health. My risks associated with Covid are tiny

      This is out of date with delta. Risks of serious illness and long covid are no longer tiny for the under 40s, among whom I also count myself

      Can’t disagree with what else you wrote but thought you should know.

        1. Basil Pesto

          to be honest, I had thought it was common knowledge at this point. That’s a journey you’ll have to take yourself my friend. A good starting point might be this website, whose Covid coverage I have found reliable for a while now.

    2. Mike Elwin

      You left out the most important point:

      d) No matter how ill I might be from COVID-19, I will not go to a hospital for treatment. I refuse to be admitted to an ICU.

  30. VietnamVet

    This post so misunderstands reality that it makes one throw up their hands and give up. The pandemic has been mishandled in Europe and the Americas from the first outbreak in Wuhan China.

    Borders were not closed, air transport of people was not stopped, and only now are quick cheap accurate test to detect the infected starting to appear for sale. There is still not sufficient contact tracing, paid safe quarantines for all of the infected, nor work/school bubbles. A complete lockdown for two months could exterminate the virus. But it is impossible in the current “profit over lives” economic/political system

    The Trump Administration was too corrupt and incompetent to control the coronavirus outbreak. The Biden Administration is the same. The neoliberal managerial class messaging failed and has turned into propaganda. The mRNA vaccines were all that they had. Plus it made nine more billionaires. From the get-go the ruling class said that “mRNA vaccines are safe and effective”. It is a big lie. Only short-term phase I/II data was available. The definition of vaccines was changed. Blood clotting and heart inflammation are proven mRNA vaccine side effects. Efficacy fades in months.

    This is now a crisis because data from UK, Israel and Iceland show the mRNA vaccines do not prevent transmission. Indeed, the number of COVID cases are increasing in all three highly vaccinated nations and in the USA, too. There are indications from England that vaccinated hospitalized delta breakthrough cases are more deadly than the unvaccinated ones; Table 5 page 22: 1,091 vaccinated deaths verses 536 unvaccinated.

    It is clear now than the only thing that will work is doing what should have been done at the very start. Reopening schools in the USA with no fallback at home education and without functional national/local public health systems is a disaster sure to happen. Either government by and for the people is restored or “Let ‘er Rip” pandemic chaos engulfs Europe and the Americas.

  31. Iseeyoudock

    I’ve always admired Yves for her big beautiful brain and wonderful command of the language and rhetorical acumen. Thank you for this blog.

    The messaging maven in the article above is overlooking some very basic issues.

    The policy responses to this have been absolutely atrocious, inconsistent and prevaricating pieces of propaganda. This has caused a lack of faith in the message.

    To review:

    There is no human to human transmission
    It’s contained in Wuhan
    Busses and cars can’t leave Wuhan
    Planes can fly from Wuhan
    There is maybe human to human transmission.
    There is possibly some human to human transmission.
    Planes can’t fly from Wuhan.
    Shutting the borders is racist.
    There is human to human transmission.
    You don’t need to wear a mask.
    You should maybe wear a mask.
    There is no airborne transmission
    It’s definitely droplet transmission.
    There is fomite transmission.
    We don’t know how the diamond princess passengers got infected. It was not the air ducts.
    You need to wear a mask.
    Wear a mask.
    This came from a bat soup
    This came from a pangolin.
    This did not come from a lab.
    Definitely bat soup wet market.
    Shutting the borders makes no sense.
    Shutting the borders is racist.
    Wet bat market pangolin stew with spices. For sure.
    Hand sanitizers and bleach wipes.
    There are very few cases here and it looks as if this won’t be an issue.
    There might be a hundred cases in Seattle , maybe a few in San Francisco
    Wear two masks.
    Chloroquine might work.
    Chloroquine doesn’t work.
    Articles which say chloroquine doesn’t work have been retracted.
    It still doesn’t work, we think, because. Yes, well, because Gilliad.
    Wear three masks..
    You don’t need to wear a mask.
    Wear a mask.

    Need I go on?

    The above to simply highlight the very very early epidemiological incompetence, illogic and curious incuriosity by the experts who were leading the policy responses when this emerged.

    This does not even begin broach the issues around therapeutics.

    A complete review of the varied messaging, backtracking, inconsistencies and downright incorrect application of basic scientific principles would take an entire book to define.

    In a thousand words or less, please explain how do you prevent a five micron particle from traversing a two hundred micron hole when the barrier has mass air movement? You cannot use the word magic in your essay.

    People who are well educated and trained in the basic and biological sciences have been sitting with their mouths agape, trying to reconcile the obvious inconsistencies in atmospheric science, epidemiology and medicine with policy responses which have not addressed what to me was obvious airborne transmission back in March of last year.

    Credibility has been shattered. Broken. Irrevocably and unequivocally destroyed.

    What were once August institutions of great gravitas have been rendered into political cudgels with which cavemen bash the brows of their foes.

    The injection of politics into this has ruined a response which should be objective, measured and internally consistent and effective. It has become another pulled thread in strained social fabric which is quite intentionally being used for political ends.

    Intelligent well educated professionals have lost faith in the institutions which have promoted such nonsensical drivel, at least those who are four or five sigma and still capable of critical thought. It may also apply to the clerk who works the night shift at pilot flying J truck stop who is trying to figure out which color bedazzle she wants to apply to her two ply cloth mask, and whether to wear it to work tomorrow.

    Manipulating the masses with micro dopamine dosing thru social media likes won’t cut the cake.

    This can’t be fixed by messaging.

  32. disc_writes

    Reluctantly vaccinated here.

    Articles of this sort are appallingly patronizing and condescending. Do you want to convince me that vaccines are safe and effective? Show me the data. I am educated enough to understand statistics, and so is the largest majority of the population.

    It does not matter how authorities communicate their gospel, or what psychological tricks they use to force people into taking their holy-grail vaccine, what communication strategies they pursue, what marketing agencies they outsource their propaganda to. I do not care which VIPs support vaccination and which do not, I do not want a lottery ticket or free beer to get vaccinated, and I do not want authorities to turn my acquaintances into Stasi agents.

    It is simple: give me large, independent (funded by the public!), comprehensive, detailed, peer-reviewed (no pre-prints!) studies of vaccine effectiveness and of the long-term health effects.

    Show me that the approval process is strict, transparent, unbiased and free of political interference.

    I will not be convinced so long the main motivator is fear, propaganda, lies and social pressure – it does not matter *which* propaganda strategy the marketing department chooses.

    The same applies to ivermectine. I would like to be a believer in early treatment, but as above: show me the data.

  33. Alice X

    It has been touched upon a number of times before here, but put most simply, what can the phrase herd immunity mean with non-sterilizing vaccines?

    1. fajensen

      I take it to mean: Anyone who croaks from this are somehow Impure (or did something wrong) and this is well because a cleaner, stronger people with more nordic vitality, will surely emerge from the natural purification!

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