Shares

I’ve spent the last three weeks writing about nothing but the COVID-19 pandemic, first about what we know in a post that, a mere three weeks later, seems hopelessly dated given how rapidly events have been moving, and then two posts about the evidence—or, more accurately, the lack of evidence—supporting the use of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin to treat COVID-19 patients, even as Dr. Mehmet Oz, President Trump, and a whole bevy of Fox News pundits promoted these drugs as a “game changer.” Although I alluded to conspiracy theories about COVID-19 in previous posts, I had wanted to discuss some of the most prominent ones out there. Of course, the frenzy over hydroxychloroquine created a variant of the perennial and ever-popular conspiracy theory that “There’s a cure for a deadly disease out there that “they” don’t want you to know about” because “they” can’t make money off of it or have a eugenics program, or whatever. Just substitute the word “COVID-19” for, say, “cancer,” and you’ve heard this one before. More interesting to me is the reaction of the antivaccine movement and other quacks to COVID-19. I thought I’d take this opportunity to take the pulse of the crankosphere, so to speak.

Quoth antivaxxers: The flu vaccine makes you more susceptible to coronavirus

It was utterly predictable that antivaxxers would find a way to incorporate COVID-19 into their conspiracy theories about vaccines. Obviously, antivaccine websites and social media accounts everywhere are promoting the idea that the government will use the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to institute forced vaccination once a coronavirus vaccine is finally developed:

On Friday, just after Governor Greg Abbott declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus, Sarah posted a worried plea on a local anti-vaccine Facebook group. She worried that the declaration gives the government the right to “force vaccinations” on unwilling Texans.

“If they fast-track some vaccine for coronavirus, how are all of us going to defend ourselves?” she asked. “I’ll let them vaccinate my daughter over my dead body.”

Other members of the group, Tarrant County Crunchy Mamas, chimed in.

“Hide in the floors like they hid the Jews from the Nazis,” one suggested. “Hide them in our gun safe (yes, it’s a big safe and yes, we love our guns),” said another.

Yes, antivaxxers sure do love their Nazi analogies!

A typical antivaccine conspiracy theory, as illustrated by right wing cartoonist Ben Garrison.

None of this is particularly surprising, as antivaxxers recycle this very same conspiracy theory every time there is an outbreak or pandemic. They did it during the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic, and they did it again during the Ebola outbreaks of 2014. I wasn’t paying attention as much at the time, but I’m almost certain they trotted out this conspiracy theory during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic too. Even the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates created SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 has been circulating at least since January, because, you know, Bill Gates created H1N1 and Ebola, too. (That’s sarcasm, of course.)

Of more interest to me is a very specific claim that’s been going around antivaccine social media circles:

Matt Couch describes himself as a “Christian, Father of 2, Investigator, Founder The DC Patriot & America First Media Group, Razorback, Truth Slinger,” and has over 300K followers on Twitter. There are a lot of Tweets like this one:

And this one:

The claim that the flu vaccine increases the risk of COVID-19 infection dates back at least to late January, when the first variant of this conspiracy theory surfaced. In brief, the conspiracy theory noted that China had ordered more influenza vaccines than in previous years, misinterpreted scientific papers on a phenomenon known as viral interference (I’ll explain momentarily what that is), and claimed that the flu vaccine makes one more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, which is why the outbreak managed to grow so large in Wuhan.

This version of the conspiracy theory is based primarily on a single paper published earlier this year. The article claiming that the flu vaccine makes you 36% more likely to develop COVID-19 that’s been the most widely shared, as far as I can tell, was an article posted to DisabledVeterans.org on March 11 by someone named Benjamin Krause entitled “Flu Vaccine Increases Coronavirus Risk 36% Says Military Study“:

A recent military study shows military personnel evaluated who received the flu vaccine were at 36 percent increased risk for coronavirus with varied benefit in preventing some strains of the flu.

“Examining noninfluenza viruses specifically, the odds of both coronavirus and human metapneumovirus in vaccinated individuals were significantly higher when compared to unvaccinated individuals (OR = 1.36 and 1.51, respectively) (Table 5).”

And more on this:

The column to focus on is “OR” in Table 5.

Coronavirus is 1.36 meaning 36% higher risk.

The influenza virus overall is 0.57 meaning the risk of contracting the flu was reduced overall. Three variants of flu did not receive a statistically significant reduction in risk.

Three of 8 evaluations noted a statistically insignificant benefit for the flu shot. Meanwhile, shot takers were at increased risk for coronavirus of 36%. I would bet $1 that this year, many Americans would likely rethink taking the vaccine with that bit of information.

Of course, the first thing to note is that the coronavirus in this study of viral interference was obviously not SARS-CoV-2. This study was carried out years before the emergence of COVID-19. No, the coronavirus examined in this study were your usual run-of-the-mill wimpy coronaviruses that can cause the common cold and that many of us have detectable in our nasopharyngeal passages just because these viruses are everywhere. True, Krause does at one point mention that this study is “pre-COVID-19,” but it would still be easy for the reader to believe that the study has implications for SARS-CoV-2 when it does not. SARS coronaviruses have notable structural differences compared to the common and nonvirulent strains of coronavirus; that’s why they’re so much more lethal.

Before I deconstruct why the claim made by Krause is unjustified and unmitigated nonsense, who is Benjamin Krause? I had never heard of him before in antivaccine circles, but he bills himself as “a lawyer, investigative reporter and award-winning veterans advocate. He is author of the guide Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans and chief editor of DisabledVeterans.org and notes writing credits in “national publications as an authority on Department of Veterans Affairs policy such as Bloomberg News, Foreign Policy Magazine, Washington Times, Fox News, CBS, NBC, Star Tribune and more.” One thing I can say for sure about him, whatever expertise he might have in these areas, he’s clueless about science and medicine.

So what is being claimed here? The study being misused and abused by antivaxxers is this one by Greg G. Wolfe at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch Air Force Satellite, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and entitled “Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017–2018 influenza season“. The idea of viral interference is described in the introduction:

While influenza vaccination offers protection against influenza, natural influenza infection may reduce the risk of non-influenza respiratory viruses by providing temporary, non-specific immunity against these viruses [7], [8]. On the other hand, recently published studies have described the phenomenon of vaccine-associated virus interference; that is, vaccinated individuals may be at increased risk for other respiratory viruses because they do not receive the non-specific immunity associated with natural infection [7], [8], [9], [10]. There has been limited evidence that the influenza vaccine may actually be associated with the virus interference process [8], [11]. Other studies have found no association between influenza vaccination and increased respiratory virus risk [10], [12].

The purpose of this study is to add to the general knowledge of influenza vaccine-related virus interference by comparing rates of non-influenza respiratory viruses to negative laboratory tests, and comparing vaccination status of influenza positive cases to controls among Department of Defense (DoD) personnel. The DoD provides a unique population for vaccination studies as mandatory vaccination against influenza is required by the DoD for all Active Duty and Reserve Component personnel [13]. This study aims to examine the relationship between specific respiratory viruses and influenza vaccination.

Wolfe took advantage of the Department of Defense Global Respiratory Pathogen Surveillance Program (DoDGRS), DoD-wide program established by the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (GEIS). It started as an influenza-only program but during the 2013-2014 flu season the program added respiratory Film Array for flu negative samples and began identifying other respiratory pathogen. These specimens are now tested with a multiplex PCR panel for these pathogens: adenovirus, Chlamydia pneumonia, coronavirus, human bocavirus, human metapnumovirus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus/enterovirus, and co-infections.

All personnel submitting a respiratory specimen to DoDGRS for the 2017-2018 flu season, and those who tested positive for only Chlamydia pneumoniae and/or Mycoplasma pneumoniae were excluded because these illnesses are bacteriological in nature. People with influenza and non-influenza co-infections were excluded because they couldn’t be uniquely classified as influenza or non-influenza, as were people whose vaccination status couldn’t be confirmed. Finally, subjects who were ill before receiving vaccination were excluded as their vaccination status would be considered be unrelated to their illness.

Let’s go to the findings:

We compared vaccination status of 2880 people with non-influenza respiratory viruses to 3240 people with pan-negative results. Comparing vaccinated to non-vaccinated patients, the adjusted odds ratio for non-flu viruses was 0.97 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.86, 1.09; p = 0.60). Additionally, the vaccination status of 3349 cases of influenza were compared to three different control groups: all controls (N = 6120), non-influenza positive controls (N = 2880), and pan-negative controls (N = 3240). The adjusted ORs for the comparisons among the three control groups did not vary much (range: 0.46–0.51).

And:

Receipt of influenza vaccination was not associated with virus interference among our population. Examining virus interference by specific respiratory viruses showed mixed results. Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus and human metapneumovirus; however, significant protection with vaccination was associated not only with most influenza viruses, but also parainfluenza, RSV, and non-influenza virus coinfections.

Let me repeat that: Receipt of influenza vaccination was not associated with virus interference among our population. In other words, this is a negative study. The authors did not observe viral interference.

Then, in the conclusion:

The overall results of the study showed little to no evidence supporting the association of virus interference and influenza vaccination. Individual respiratory virus results were mixed, and some rebutted virus interference.

So how did antivaxxers come to the mistaken cherry picked conclusion that this study showed that, due to viral interference, the seasonal flu vaccine increases your risk of getting coronavirus by 36%, thus creating an antivax meme? It comes down to this table:

Table 5. Respiratory viruses and odds ratios by vaccination status.

Virus Vaccinated (%) Not Vaccinated (%) OR (95% CI) P-Value
Influenza 2050 (31.3) 1299 (44.4) 0.57 (0.52, 0.63) <0.01
Influenza A 1256 (19.2) 741 (25.3) 0.70 (0.63, 0.78) <0.01
Influenza A H1N1 225 (3.4) 227 (7.8) 0.42 (0.35, 0.51) <0.01
Influenza A H3N2 1023 (15.6) 512 (17.5) 0.88 (0.78, 0.98) 0.02
Influenza B 662 (10.1) 474 (16.2) 0.58 (0.51, 0.66) <0.01
Influenza B Victoria 7 (0.1) 8 (0.3) 0.39 (0.14, 1.08) 0.07
Influenza B Yamagata 85 (1.3) 77 (2.6) 0.49 (0.36, 0.67) <0.01
Influenza Coinfection 9 (0.1) 9 (0.3) 0.45 (0.18, 1.13) 0.09
Non-Influenza Virus 2050 (31.3) 830 (28.3) 1.15 (1.05, 1.27) <0.01
Adenovirus 144 (2.2) 78 (2.7) 0.82 (0.62, 1.09) 0.17
Coronavirus 507 (7.8) 170 (5.8) 1.36 (1.14, 1.63) <0.01
Human Bocavirus 69 (1.1) 34 (1.2) 0.91 (0.60, 1.37) 0.64
Human Metapneumovirus 335 (5.1) 101 (3.5) 1.51 (1.20, 1.90) <0.01
No Pathogen Detected 2441 (37.3) 799 (27.3) 1.59 (1.44, 1.75) <0.01
Parainfluenza 139 (2.1) 92 (3.1) 0.67 (0.51, 0.87) <0.01
RSV 369 (5.6) 202 (6.9) 0.81 (0.68, 0.96) 0.02
Rhinovirus/Enterovirus 875 (13.4) 400 (13.7) 0.98 (0.86, 1.11) 0.71
Non-Influenza Virus Coinfection 225 (3.4) 138 (4.7) 0.72 (0.58, 0.89) <0.01

And this cherry-picked passage:

The odds of testing positive for individual respiratory viruses by vaccination status were also examined (Table 5). The influenza vaccine was sufficient at protecting all influenza virus results tested for at a significant level except two (Influenza B Victoria and Influenza coinfections) (Table 5). Both Influenza B Victoria and Influenza coinfections had reduced odds in the vaccinated cohort, but not at significant levels (Table 5). Examining non-influenza viruses specifically, the odds of both coronavirus and human metapneumovirus in vaccinated individuals were significantly higher when compared to unvaccinated individuals (OR = 1.36 and 1.51, respectively) (Table 5). Conversely, all other non-influenza respiratory viruses had decreased odds in the vaccinated population, including significantly decreased odds ratios in vaccinated people with parainfluenza, RSV, and non-influenza virus coinfections (Table 5). Additionally, the odds ratio in the no pathogen detected cohort was significantly higher in vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals (OR = 1.51) (Table 5).

This what we’re almost certainly seeing: Noise. With the odds ratio of influenza virus significantly decreased (the odds ratios range from 0.39 to 0.88, depending on the specific influenza strain), the rest of the various viruses detected fluctuated around an odds ratio of 1.0 (no difference). Indeed, most of the non-influenza viruses tested for (6/8) demonstrated odds ratios lower than 1.0 (range: 0.67-1.51). Only coronavirus and human metapneumovirus showed odds ratios of more than 1.0 (1.36 and 1.51, respectively). Moreover, the odds ratio of having no pathogen at all detected in the group receiving the flu vaccine was 1.59 (95% CI 1.44-1.75), meaning that those who had the flu vaccine were 59% more likely not to have any respiratory virus detectable at all. Taken together, these findings are highly suggestive of nothing more than statistical noise. Basically, antivaxxers are citing what is, in essence, a negative study.

As I’ve mentioned before, I also can’t help but be amused by the inconsistency of antivaxxers. The flu vaccine is one of our less effective vaccines, a vaccine whose efficacy varies widely from season to season because an educated guess has to be made several months in advance every year as to which influenza strains will be the most common that season. Antivaxxers love to claim that the flu vaccine doesn’t work, that it’s completely ineffective. But if the flu vaccine doesn’t work, there isn’t even a chance that it could cause interference with other viruses. Antivaxxers really need to make up their minds.

A typical version of the antivaccine conspiracy theory promoted by pro-Trump cartoonist Ben Garrison.

Bill Gates and 5G

Late last week, I became aware of arguably the most bizarre antivaccine conspiracy theory around, courtesy of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.:

There’s an awful lot to unpack here. For those who don’t have Facebook accounts, here’s the full text:

Is this the future for Amerika?

This video shows why Big Telecom loves #coronavirus. The quarantine has facilitated the unobstructed #5G rollout and has effectively ended the opportunity for mass public protests which were our best hope for derailing the 5G robber barons from microwaving our country and destroying nature. The Telecom Titans now have an open road, willing politicians and a compliant population sufficiently frightened, beleaguered, broke and submissive to relinquish their constitutional freedoms and welcome the surveillance state.

5G has little to do with improving service to individuals. It has everything to do with #BigTech data mining, surveillance and social control. If we don’t stop them, they will engineer a massive transfer of wealth and sovereignty away from our citizens into the hands of Big Telecom, Big Tech (Microsoft, Facebook, Google) #BigPharma, the military/intelligence apparatus and the ruling plutocrats.

Chief among these is Bill Gates with his sinister anti-American tracking system (ID2020), his suspiciously coincidental October 2019 Coronavirus War Game simulations (Gates passed out adorable coronavirus themed stuffed animals to all the high level participants), his pandemic documentary on #Netflix, his autocratic control of Anthony Fauci and the WHO (for which he is the top funder), his coronavirus #vaccine patents and his barely disguised — let’s be honest — giddy-delight at the quarantine that is impoverishing his countrymen and crushing their will to resist his tyrannical “reforms.”

Gates wants us to cede all power to his “benevolent” dictatorship —including power over our bodies, our health and our children. Gates is the nerdy kid with the magnifying glass. The rest of us are ants getting torched in his global science experiment.

So, according to RFK Jr., the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is being used to end opposition to the rollout of 5G, which is supposedly also a power grab to allow states to vastly increase their power over the populace. Of course, the latter concern isn’t entirely unjustified in that it is not unreasonable to be concerned that increased power to track the motion and contacts of citizens is a power that can be abused, but notice how this reasonable concern is buried in a tsunami of standard New World Order conspiracy mongering.

I had never heard of ID2020 before, and a brief search brought me to the ID2020 website. Basically, ID2020 is an initiative founded by an alliance made up of Microsoft, the Rockefeller Foundation, Accenture, IDEO.ORG, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (uh-oh). Other partners include various nonprofits and corporations. What RFK Jr. describes as Orwellian actually doesn’t sound that Orwellian at all if you read the ID2020 manifesto, starting out with the assertion that the “ability to prove one’s identity is a fundamental and universal human right” and that individuals “need a trusted, verifiable way to prove who they are, both in the physical world and online.” The manifesto recognizes that such a digital identity could be abused and asserts that “individuals must have control over their own digital identities, including how personal data is collected, used, and shared” and that “privacy, portability, and persistence are necessary for digital identity to meaningfully empower and protect individuals.” Overall, it’s an interesting concept, but it sure doesn’t sound nearly as totalitarian as RFK Jr. paints it.

As for the “wargame,” What RFK Jr. is referring to is the Event 201 simulation, carried out by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It really is frightening, looking at the criminally incompetent response of the federal government thus far to the pandemic, to think that, a mere couple of months before the first case arrived in the US in January, such an exercise was carried out:

Late in the summer of 2019, a virus makes the leap from pigs in South America to the farmers who come into close and regular contact with them. It begins as a slow burn in Brazil; by October, it is gaining momentum and becomes known to the world.

The virus is called CAPS, a coronavirus, like SARS and MERS, that has never been seen before. It causes pneumonia and acute respiratory distress — in the most severe cases, liquid fills the lungs until breathing becomes labored or impossible.

A further mutation allows the virus to jump from person to person. From densely packed urban areas, the virus spreads, hanging in the very air we breathe. From its epicenter in Brazil, it spreads across the world.

A Pandemic Response Board is formed, made up of business leaders, public health experts, and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control. The Board is intended to coordinate the public and private plans for stopping — and surviving — the pandemic.

In their 18-month struggle against CAPS, 65 million people will die.

CAPS isn’t a real virus (yet), and this is not the world we live in — but it is, perhaps, the world next door. A few farsighted experts and executives are determined to be ready, in case the neighbors drop by to say hello.

Unfortunately, the lessons of such exercises appear to have been lost on our President, who was denying that COVID-19 was much of a threat until early March.

5G: The “trigger” for coronavirus?

Unsurprisingly, to antivaxxers it’s not just about using the pandemic as a pretext to crush opposition to the rollout of 5G. To some of them, it’s about 5G itself. 5G, of course, is nothing more than the latest mobile phone/communication protocol, dubbed fifth generation, which is currently being rolled out around the country. Its advantages are many, in particular peak Internet transmission rates theoretically as fast as 20 Gbps and very low latency. The protocol also allows for a dramatic increase in bandwidth. The key drawback to 5G is that the reach of its fastest signal is limited, meaning that many more towers will be required to cover areas currently covered by 4G. It is likely to take several years for the entire existing 4G cellular network to be upgraded to 5G.

There have been many conspiracy theories about 5G ever since plans to upgrade cellular networks to use it first started to circulate. Think of these conspiracy theories as the usual ones about cell phone radiation or Wi-Fi radiation causing cancer and numerous other health issues – but on steroids. Radio waves of the frequency used in Wi-Fi and cellular transmissions don’t cause any of the health problems cranks attribute to them, of course, and we’ve written about them many times right here on this blog.

This particular version of the conspiracy theory is quite imaginative, coming from James Grundvig of Vaxxter:

On the first weekend of spring, images emerged from Italy, showing similar scenes of horror. Scenes that were eerily reminiscent of Wuhan: people walking down the street, collapsing dead without any external force. Dozens of such videos and photos showed the fallen people spread eagle, flat on their backs, face down on sidewalks. Lifeless. No blood splatter. Outside of one similar case in New York City, no other place in the world has produced such anomalies.

Why?

What causes people, who appear to be fit, to keel over without a seizure or to tremble suddenly? What is the underlying cause? And what makes Wuhan and Northern Italy different than other parts of the world? So different that COVID-19 kills people with no apparent explanation?

It sounds like a scene from one of my all time favorite “end of civilization” movies, The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, a movie that featured scenes of people dropping dead on the streets from the plague that wiped out most of civilization.

Grundvig is not the only one making this claim:

“5G absorbs oxygen”? What the heck is this woman even claiming? Does she realize how utterly scientifically ignorant she sounds? Radio wave radiation doesn’t “absorb” oxygen. Maybe she means that oxygen absorbs 5G? So what if it does? Radio wave radiation is nowhere near strong enough to break chemical bonds.

Of course, I couldn’t find evidence that this claim of people dropping dead in the streets of Wuhan and northern Italy is even true. I found this story about a man found dead on the streets of Wuhan, but no indication that this was a widespread phenomenon. In Wuhan, at least, its origin was probably a video that claimed to show bodies on the streets of Wuhan, victims of COVID-19, waiting to be picked up that turned out to be showing homeless people sleeping on the streets in Shenzhen, a city in China over 600 miles away from Wuhan. There were also stories of a man who took videos of corpses in a hospital in Wuhan and posted them to social media. There was also a story in a British tabloid about a man found collapsed on the street in Rome who was picked up by rescue workers in hazmat suits, plus stories of the army being called in to transport corpses because the local morgues were so overwhelmed.

Given the title of this section, I bet you can guess the reason that will be given:

In 2018, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology selected Wuhan as a pilot city for the “Made in China 2025” plan. The overarching goal aimed at the industrial city of 11 million to become the world’s Internet of Things mecca. The goal? A 5G smart city that would connect homes, offices, hospitals, factories, and autonomous vehicles via a digital fabric.

Renowned for its factories and severe pollution, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) envisioned elevating Wuhan as the global smart city of the future. All of the commands, controls, data sharing, and data flowing through artificial intelligence systems would showcase China as the preeminent digital leader of the world.

At the center of the plan, the Chinese telecom syndicate of ZTE, Huawei, Hubei Mobile, and China Unicom began to transform Wuhan into a giant 5G “hot spot” for wireless technology. The 5G launch in the Hubei capital city culminated with the October 2019 Military World Games. Wuhan activated 20% of its 10,000 5G base stations, and the rest by the end of the year. With the hottest 5G pilot city on the planet, the CCP planned to leverage the publicity to attract more foreign investment and lure international businesses to prop up China’s flagging economy.

And, of course:

Milan in Northern Italy is the 5G capital of Europe. Iran, where suspected millions have been infected, has installed 5G deployments. And sure enough, the three Princess line cruise ships—Diamond, Grand, and now Ruby—had GEO and MEO satellites beaming 5G down to the ships as they travel via a Medallion Net receiver system last autumn.

But what about South Korea, which has been a leader in 5G deployment, with 85 of its cities connected by this February. Surely that’s a problem with this “theory,” one would think. Come on, you know better! Of course antivaxxers can explain away how few cases compared to many other countries South Korea has had thus far:

Although South Korea is a wirelessly connected nation, it doesn’t have the number of cases like other places in the world that does. Yet, its third and fourth coronavirus clusters were in 5G-hot gymnasium and hospital.

That’s a mighty long reach there. Grundvig should play for the NBA.

Of course, the big question is: How? How does 5G cause people with COVID-19 to drop dead? According to Grundvig, it’s all due to the 60 GHz, which is absorbed by oxygen:

Hakusui noted that 60GHz was the true radiofrequency that would allow for reliable transmission of data, due to its “98 percent oxygen absorption” rate. This allows the invisible signals to travel from point A and B, and back again on the same path. Super-efficient and a technological milestone.

And:

The problem is for every breath we breathe, our blood transports oxygen throughout the core, extremities, to the vital organs, heart, and brain.

If 5G at 60 GHz frequency zips through the air, absorbing most of the oxygen, disrupting the electrons that bind 02 molecules that, combined with a hydrogen atom, form water vapor, what is that frequency doing to blood cells, which consist primarily of water and carry the oxygen?

Do the disruption of the body’s biorhythm, breathing, and oxygen distribution begin to explain what happens to the people who dropped dead?

No. No they don’t. That Grundvig would make this connection shows his utter ignorance of physics. Radio waves, by their very nature, don’t possess the energy necessary to disrupt chemical bonds like the bond holding two oxygen atoms together. They can’t “disrupt the electrons that bind O2 molecules.”

There have generally been two varieties of 5G/coronavirus conspiracy theories. One type claims 5G can suppress the immune system, thus making people more susceptible to catching the virus. The other posits that the virus can somehow be transmitted through the use of 5G technology. There’s no evidence for the first type, and the second type is physically impossible. A variant of the second type of conspiracy theory stating that SARS-CoV-2 viruses somehow “talk to each other” in deciding which host to infect (they don’t) and that 5G somehow facilitates that, based on a very dubious 2011 paper that suggested that bacteria may produce electromagnetic signals to communicate with other bacteria. I guess that we can now add a third type, a kind that says that 5G somehow makes COVID-19 more deadly, in this case by somehow messing with oxygen molecules and the oxygen atoms in the water in your body. It’s utter nonsense. Unfortunately, people believe this one. Woody Harrelson has been posting 5G conspiracy theories on Instagram, for instance:

View this post on Instagram

Meanwhile the Chinese are bringing 5g antennas down

A post shared by Woody Harrelson (@woodyharrelson) on

Meanwhile, in England, 5G towers are being set on fire.

Conspiracy theories kill

It was perhaps inevitable that antivaxxers and various other conspiracy theorists would merge their favorite conspiracy theories with conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic in order to blame their favorite “evil” for the pandemic. So, of course, antivaxxers are going to find a way to blame vaccines somehow for either causing, facilitating, or worsening the pandemic. Failing that, they claim that the pandemic is a pretext to institute what they dread most of all: forced vaccination. Of course, the conspiracy theorists who believe cell phone and Wi-Fi radiation is deadly are going to find a way to blame the latest variant of their conspiracy theory, namely that 5G represents a unique health threat, to “explain” the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally, I can’t wait to see the first conspiracy theory that combines all three, COVID-19, 5G, and vaccines. I’m sure someone’s already thought of it; I just haven’t found it yet.

Although antivaccine conspiracy theories are always potentially dangerous, as they scare people away from vaccinating and facilitate the spread of potentially deadly diseases, under normal circumstances 5G conspiracy theories cause less problems. In a pandemic, though, these conspiracy theories spread like wildfire and can influence how people respond to public health directives designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Even worse, antivaccine conspiracy theories could well result in resistance to being vaccinated once a vaccine is finally developed for COVID-19. In a very real way, misinformation and disinformation endangers our health.

And that doesn’t even consider the many bogus health claims and examples of quackery being touted to treat the disease.

Shares

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.