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The moral failings of the anti-vaxx movement put everyone at risk

Dec 01, 2021


Sree Sreenivasan

Digital Innovation Prof, Stony Brook; CoFounder, Digimentors


One of the most damaging consequences of the pandemic is the supercharged anti-vaxx movement. Anti-vaxxers used to occupy a small corner of society most rational people dismissed, due to willful ignorance and stubborn refusal to accept the results of careful scientific process. However, COVID-19 and the subsequent vaccines that have allowed us to safely resume living our lives have generated dangerous momentum for conspiracy theorists and science deniers who continue to spread harmful disinformation.

What makes it even worse is that celebrities like NFL superstar Aaron Rodgers and podcaster Joe Rogan are helping to mainstream anti-vaxx nonsense. Rodgers went so far as to lie about his vaccination status, something that should have gotten him a suspension from the league but instead landed him just a laughably small fine. It’s selfish behavior that puts people’s lives at risk.

Hi, I’m Sree Sreenivasan. And I talk about politics, technology and more. Today, I’m going to share some thoughts on the moral failings of the anti-vaxx movement

Superstar NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently joined so many celebrities who came before him. The anti-vaxx movement has only gained momentum over the last decade-plus, and the last two years — the last two tragedy-filled years — have been veritable boom times.

The overlap with other questionable people is everywhere, most notably with the self-proclaimed pro-life movement. Ironically, “my body, my choice” has become the chant of the very people who work so hard to take choice away from people.

Forget vaccines, things as simple as wearing a mask in a grocery store became win-or-lose political positions. 

We know the turns of phrase, we know the talking points, we know the euphemisms. 

“Bodily autonomy”

“I’m immunized”

“It’s not a cure, you still get Covid” – which is sort of a foundational truth about most vaccines that these folks just outright refuse to acknowledge. 

“It’s fascism incarnate for the government to mandate masks, let alone vaccines” – which of course it isn’t. Anyone who went to school in the last 40 years knows this and has the little yellow vaccine record book to prove it.  

And then there’s the crown jewel: “I do my own research.” It’s become a sort of subtle rallying cry — an immediate indicator for what comes next…which is usually some grab bag of government overreach, negative effects of the vaccine (which are almost non-existent), and more outlandish things like microchips. None of this is true, and no one really needs to do their own research on the Covid vaccines — they only need to read the research already done by…professional researchers. 

No one’s studying the safety of their sushi.

No one sends their own flu shot cultures to independent labs for testing. The research has been done by doctors who went to medical school and do this for a living. 

No one does their own research on seat belts. 

[clip of seat belt PSA from 1980s]

In fact, when seatbelts became mandatory, it was the equivalent of today’s anti-vaxxers who protested the Reagan administration and condemned poor Mrs. Bob Dole, ie, Elizabeth Dole, Transportation Secretary. 

But, celebrities like Aaron Rodgers, who have millions of fans and followers and, in his case anyways, hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, continue to choose to hurt themselves and others. They tout unproven homeopathic solutions, livestock dewormer, and everything in between.

Imagine if Rodgers goes on ESPN tomorrow and gets his vaccination live on TV. Millions may follow suit, instead of falling victim. 

So many of the deaths were preventable — and celebrities had and have a role to play. It’s fine to dismiss him as just some football player, but he’s very popular, very well paid, and he has a massive public following. This is what really hurts.

Rodgers, his personal physician Joe Rogan, and countless other high-profile anti-vaxxers have access to absolutely elite healthcare. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of all Gofundme campaigns are healthcare-related, there is an awful healthcare crisis in America, and people with access to the best of the best would rather call a podcast host. 

[clip of Joe Rogan’s podcast]

Influence matters, and how one uses it has become a life or death issue. 

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