One of my favorite movies of all time is the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Stangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. It is one of the greatest comedies of all time and arguably the greatest black comedy of all time. In brief, its plot concerns an unhinged purity-obsessed Air Force general named Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Kubrick obviously wasn’t aiming for subtlety), who manages to subvert chain of command and protocol and order the B-52 bomber wing under his command to launch a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. The film then follows the increasingly desperate (and darkly comical) efforts of the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and an RAF exchange officer under Gen. Ripper’s command to stop nuclear Armageddon, while showing the parallel efforts of the crew of one B-52 bomber to get through to its target, with Peter Sellers playing three roles (the President, the RAF officer, and Dr. Strangelove, the mysterious ex-Nazi scientist/advisor who personified the dark id behind the Cold War). I realize that it might be difficult for those too young to remember the Cold War, nuclear fallout shelters, and air raid drills to fully comprehend the terror that Kubrick was playing with in this film, but the film nonetheless holds up as an artifact of a period from decades during which mutually assured destruction was a fact of life and that destruction could have come about due to accident or something like what was portrayed in this film.
The reason I mention Dr. Strangelove in the context of a post about COVID-19 deniers and antivaxxers is because of the belief system of the main antagonist of the film, Gen. Jack D. Ripper, whom I’ve mentioned before on this blog at least a couple of times. In brief, the reason Ripper launched his first strike was so as not to permit, as he put it, “Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids” (around 1:10):
His discussion with his RAF office Mandrake then amusingly goes into his obsession with his “purity of essence” and Ripper’s determination to deny women his “essence” during “the act of love”, as he puts it. Unsurprisingly (for the time), Gen. Ripper believed that the fluoridation of water was the mechanism by which Communists were accomplishing this nefarious aim to “impurify” Americans’ “precious bodily fluids”, as he explains while US troops are attacking his base as part of the government’s effort to try to stop the first strike:
Why would I discuss this belief system in the context of COVID-19 and antivaxxers? Simple. It’s because Gen. Ripper’s fear of “contamination” (or, as he puts it, “impurification”) of his “precious bodily fluids,” his obsession with “purity of essence” (the very term playing a large role in the plot), and his conspiracy theory that “they” are out to contaminate that purity in order to conquer you remind me very much of how antivaxxers and COVID-19 deniers are discussing the pandemic and, of course, COVID-19 vaccines. I haven’t written about the topic of “toxins” and “detox” in the context of vaccines in a while, but given the advent of COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA or adenoviral vectors, it felt like time to revisit this topic, specifically how belief in “purity of essence” and “contamination” of that essence, à la Gen. Ripper, drives antivaccine beliefs and rhetoric. That’s because, as I’ve discussed before, “contamination” and “detoxification” lie at the heart of unscientific alternative medicine beliefs that undergird much of antivaccine rhetoric. I’ll start with antivaccine rhetoric I used to encounter before the pandemic, and finish with the now oft-repeated lie that COVID-19 vaccines somehow “alter your DNA” (i.e., contaminate your purity of essence.)
The “occult archetype called vaccination”
The first time I really started thinking about this connection was nearly four years ago. At the time, I was becoming convinced that it is a fear of bodily “contamination” that harks back to ideas found in many religions that underlies a lot of antivaccine belief. Think about it. Where does the fear of “toxins” in vaccines come from? Vaccines are portrayed as “foreign”, as something “unnatural” that is “injected right into the bloodstream”. (Never mind that vaccines are not injected directly into the bloodstream.) To the antivaxxer, there is no difference between an intramuscular and an intravenous injection because to them both are equally “contaminating”. Both equally sap and impurify your precious bodily fluids. It’s also not a coincidence that many of the treatments for “vaccine-induced autism” or any other condition falsely attributed to vaccines are represented as “detoxification.” They are basically purges, to purge the “evil humors” that antivaxers believe vaccines to be packed full of. It’s not for nothing that I’ve not infrequently described alternative medicine “detoxification” as being akin to ritual purification of the sort found in many different religions. Think of chelation therapy and all the “detoxification” treatments used by autism quacks as basically an effort to restore the purity of the child’s precious bodily fluids. Moreover, given that these ideas of “contamination” of one’s “purity” are based in religion, it’s not surprising that antivaxxers would use highly religious imagery and language to describe vaccination.
It’s also not surprising that they would also engage in projection. One example that I still remember years later is an article by Jon Rappaport entitled “The Occult Archetype Called Vaccination“. In it, Rappaport took a germ of a semireasonable cultural/anthropological discussion of vaccination as a “rite of passage through danger, into the tribe and village, conferring a moral righteousness, presided over by a shaman” and goes straight off the deep end with it:
Some ancient rituals presented dangers. The child, on his way to becoming a man, would be sent out to live alone in the forest for a brief period and survive. Vaccination symbolizes this in a passive way: the injection of disease-viruses which might be harmful are transmuted into protective spirits in the body. The injection of toxic chemicals is a passageway into immunity. If a child is damaged in the process, the parents and the tribe consider it a tragic but acceptable risk, because on the whole the tribe and the village are protected against the evil spirits (viruses).
Notice the magical thinking Rappaport ascribes here. It’s pure mysticism and superstition that no one advocating vaccination actually believes. Does any vaccine advocate claim that vaccines are the injection of “disease matter” that is somehow magically transmuted into “protective spirits”? Or that vaccines are “toxic chemicals” injected as a “passageway to immunity”? It could work as a metaphor, of course, but that metaphor would, in a reasonable usage, be layered over the scientific and public health benefits of vaccination; moreover, the risks of vaccination are nowhere near as high as Rappaport implies. Also, Rappaport takes it far beyond that into the territory of fear and loathing, along with the rather obvious attempt to imply that vaccination is only about religious/mystical beliefs and ancient archetypes, rather than having just an element of tapping into those archetypes of a rite of passage involving a shaman.
Vaccines versus “purity of essence”
Rappaport’s rhetoric about vaccines in 2017 might come across as extreme, but it was mild compared to that of Mike Adams. I was reminded of this when I saw a recent post over at his Natural News website entitled ‘mRNA vaccines may cause your body to churn out PRIONS that “eat your brain” like Mad Cow Disease‘. Since I’ve already discussed in depth how utterly without a scientific basis the antivax claim that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines will lead to prion diseases like Mad Cow Disease was, I won’t dwell on that part, other than to observe that Adams is rather behind the antivax times. (Really, that Classen article was published nearly two months ago.) Instead, I’ll point out how Adams uses rhetoric that COVID-19 vaccines will turn you into a “vaccine zombie”. This is, of course, not a new claim. The video Adams uses is a decade old at least:
Of course, the entire myth of the “zombie” is all about decomposition, putrefaction, and contamination with contagion, such that a zombie bite turns the person bitten into a zombie too. This sort of imagery is very intentional.
Four years ago, during a rant about Facebook’s efforts to slow the spread of antivaccine disinformation, Adams was likening vaccination to both contamination and violation of a most horrific kind:
Mark Zuckerberg isn’t accused of raping little children with his biology, but he controls the social media network that openly espouses the medical violation of childrens’ bodies with toxic injections — a form of “medical rape” that obscenely violates the American Medical Association’s medical ethics when mandated by coercive government (as has already happened in California with SB 277).
Further adding to the horrifying truth of what Zuckerberg and Facebook are really up to, many vaccines given to children in America today are made from the ground-up, homogenized, disease-inoculated organs of aborted black babies. These “human embryonic lung cell cultures” are openly listed as chicken pox vaccine ingredients by the CDC and vaccine manufacturers, all of whom also openly admit that vaccines are made from diseased animal organs such as African Green Monkey kidney cells. (MMR vaccines are also made from the tissue of aborted human babies.)
Regular readers will recognize the usual antivaccine claims, just with the hyperbole and ridiculousness dialed up to 11 and beyond. I’ve mentioned many times how antivaxxers like to make the false claim that vaccines are made from the “tissue of aborted babies,” ignoring the fact that cells isolated from a fetus in the 1960s and maintained in culture in dishes over 50 years are not the same thing as “tissue from aborted human babies”. (One also wonders where he got the idea that the original fetuses were Black, much less that their organs had been “inoculated with disease”.)
This is, of course, Mike Adams. We therefore expect that his writings will be full of distortions, misinformation, disinformation, lies, and conspiracy theories. That’s who he is. My point is not to refute individually each bizarre claim made by Adams in an article from 2017, given that I’ve refuted such claims individually more times than I can remember over the years, but rather to look at the language that he uses. Vaccines are portrayed as “dirty” and “contaminated”, “toxic injections” so bad that they are akin to “medical rape” (unfortunately another favorite metaphor antivaxxers like to use to describe vaccination and vaccine mandates).
Again, this is all religious, not scientific, imagery, and Adams goes even beyond stoking the fear of contamination. For example:
Today, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook demand the ritualistic sacrifice of children to the “vaccine gods” as a way to appease their globalist controllers. Just like in the era of the Maya, children are especially prized for their innocence which is violated by puncturing the skin and injecting the child with foreign DNA extracted from other children sacrificed at abortion centers.
Quite literally, the dead children are liquefied and “fed” to other children, many of whom are maimed or killed by the toxic intervention (yes, this is how vaccines are manufactured). This is all carried out in the name of “science,” just as the Maya high priests carried out their sacrifices in the name of “cosmic powers.”
In summary, Mark Zuckerberg is a child-sacrificing, globalist ascension seeker whose rise to power must be accompanied by prescribing the mass “medical raping,” genetic violation and ritualistic deaths of children. In order to achieve that, Facebook must block websites that openly discuss factual vaccine ingredients, their horrifying aborted human baby origins and why they are added to vaccines in the first place (especially when many ingredients have nothing whatsoever to do with viral strains).
Again, notice the language, more than the actual substance (such as it is) of Adams’ claims. “Genetic violation.” “Medical raping.” The “horrifying aborted baby origins” of vaccines. It’s all about stirring revulsion and fear of contamination. It’s easy to laugh at the sheer ridiculous hyperbole of it all, but that would be a mistake, except perhaps to laugh only briefly. We have to take this sort of imagery seriously, because it taps into deep fears in human beings and it co-opts ancient language used by religions. The reason Gen. Ripper’s rants about Communists “sapping and impurifying our precious bodily fluids” with fluoridation were funny was because they were over the top, but also because they tapped into religious and superstitious beliefs about contamination and contagion that cultures have instilled in us for millennia.
That’s why I’d suggest that, if you want to understand the power of the antivaccine trope that portrays vaccines as “disease matter” or “injecting disease” (a metaphor that Bill Maher himself once used), the “toxins gambit” that describes vaccines as riddled with scary-sounding chemicals like formaldehyde, or the “fetal parts” gambit that tries to draw a link between the fetal cell lines used to grow virus stocks to make some vaccines to the grinding up of dead babies to use to make vaccines, think of in terms of Gen. Ripper. These are tropes designed to stoke fear of “contamination” of one’s precious bodily fluids at the very minimum. Some antivaccine tropes even suggest that vaccines will change your very essence, as you will see. Holy vaccine zombie, Batman!
Quoth RFK Jr.: COVID-19 vaccines will corrupt your very DNA!
I’ve already discussed on at least two occasions here how, contrary to what antivaxxers claim, mRNA vaccines do not alter your DNA, nor are they “gene therapy“, the implication behind this antivax claim, again, being that somehow these vaccines permanently alter your DNA. Of course, mRNA vaccines (and also DNA vaccines based on adenoviral vectors, like the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine) were explicitly designed from the beginning not to integrate into host DNA or otherwise alter that DNA. The mRNA in the vaccines never makes it into the nucleus and is never converted to DNA, both of which it would have to do in order to permanently integrate into one’s DNA. There is no plausible biological mechanism how mRNA from these vaccines could do that, as anyone who’s taken basic courses in molecular biology would know, which is why those of us who’ve done molecular biology since the 1990s laugh at these claims, which proliferate across social media:
— G(od) No relation 6% (@Flaganatas) April 11, 2021
Also a vaccine that doesn’t prevent anything! It’s only purpose is to alter your DNA! COVID-19 is real as a disease! How it’s being treated, tested, diagnosed, and publicized is the HOAX, not the virus! That’s real! A real MAN-MADE virus!A man-made pandemic for control!
— Netuserms (@netuserms) April 9, 2021
The system is evil. They blatantly showing the rest of the world who their god is, Satan. This vaccine will alter human DNA into something we don't know. It's so sad to see and witness depopulation. We'll tell our kids how the evil @BillGates thought he was god, pathetic human
— My album Love and Affection is out (@howardgomba) April 11, 2021
The vaccine will reprogram you DNA. The body's code will no longer be God's code. It will be bill gates code
(This is my personal favorite of today's quotes)
— Steinbach Tweets (@steinbach_memes) November 14, 2020
The Covid Vaccine Will Alter Our DNA with Nano-Technology pic.twitter.com/yi5MEIIQg9
— apj_jks_asiaprince (@cool_jks) April 10, 2021
Of course, Bill Gates has to figure in there somewhere.
Antivaxxers, though, are nothing if not inventive. Clearly the more “biologically savvy” among them understood that it was a pretty damning observation that there is no biological mechanism by which mRNA could possibly “permanently alter” your DNA, much less do so in a manner that would affect more than a very small number of cells. So a mechanism had to be invented. Unfortunately, as I briefly alluded to last week, there is a recent (and awful) study that was posted to a preprint server that antivaxxers have latched onto in order to say, “See! I told you! It is possible for mRNA vaccines to alter your DNA permanently!” It doesn’t, but explaining why takes some effort. I briefly did so last week. I will elaborate a bit more this week.
Let’s first look at how antivax activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. describes the study in an article entitled “Could mRNA Vaccines Permanently Alter DNA? Recent Science Suggests They Might“. It’s subtitled “Research on SARS-CoV-2 RNA by scientists at Harvard and MIT has implications for how mRNA vaccines could permanently alter genomic DNA, according to Doug Corrigan, Ph.D., a biochemist-molecular biologist who says more research is needed.” Actually, no, they can’t, and, no, there isn’t, at least not this specific line of research. Let’s see what RFK Jr. says, first, and I’ll quote liberally:
Under ordinary circumstances, the body makes (“transcribes”) mRNA from the DNA in a cell’s nucleus. The mRNA then travels out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm, where it provides instructions about which proteins to make.
By comparison, mRNA vaccines send their chemically synthesized mRNA payload (bundled with spike protein-manufacturing instructions) directly into the cytoplasm.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most mRNA vaccine scientists, the buck then stops there — mRNA vaccines “do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way,” the CDC says. The CDC asserts first, that the mRNA cannot enter the cell’s nucleus (where DNA resides), and second, that the cell — Mission-Impossible-style — “gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.”
A December preprint about SARS-CoV-2, by scientists at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), produced findings about wild coronavirus that raise questions about how viral RNA operates.
The scientists conducted the analysis because they were “puzzled by the fact that there is a respectable number of people who are testing positive for COVID-19 by PCR long after the infection was gone.”
Their key findings were as follows: SARS-CoV-2 RNAs “can be reverse transcribed in human cells,” “these DNA sequences can be integrated into the cell genome and subsequently be transcribed” (a phenomenon called “retro-integration”) — and there are viable cellular pathways to explain how this happens.
Again, no. The study did not show this. Notice the language, though. Notice how this finding is portrayed as “shattering” dogma. Doug Corrigan (who featured in last week’s discussion) even explicitly says:
According to Ph.D. biochemist and molecular biologist Dr. Doug Corrigan, these important findings (which run contrary to “current biological dogma”) belong to the category of “Things We Were Absolutely and Unequivocally Certain Couldn’t Happen Which Actually Happened.”
See! See! You conventional molecular biologists mocked us! But I’ll show you! (This is what I like to refer to as the fallacy of future vindication.) Basically, this “thing” that “actually happened” is that the RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be reverse transcribed into DNA, which then somehow integrate into the genome of human cells. What does this mean? Normally, DNA is “transcribed” into RNA by special enzymes that “read” the DNA sequence and create what’s called its reverse complement. You don’t need to understand exactly what that means, other than that it means that the information in the DNA has been transcribed into RNA, where it can then be translated in a protein complex called a ribosome into protein. Under normal circumstances, the reverse does not happen in mammalian cells. However, certain RNA viruses called retroviruses (like HIV) can “reverse transcribe” RNA into DNA. The enzyme necessary to do this, reverse transcriptase, is normally not found in mammalian cells; so the virus has to provide it. And, yes, as RFK Jr. and Corrigan note, retroviruses are common, with many sequences in the genome having derived from retroviruses that reverse transcribed part of their sequence into DNA, which then integrated into the genome. These sequences are called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are inherited genetic elements closely resembling the DNA sequences formed following exogenous retrovirus infection. Sequences derived from ERVs make up at 8% to 10% of the human and mouse genomes and range from ancient sequences that predate mammalian divergence to elements that are currently still active.
Knowing this, of course, I can’t help but retort that, if something truly belongs to the category of “Things We Were Absolutely and Unequivocally Certain Couldn’t Happen Which Actually Happened,” then to prove the latter part you’d better have some seriously bulletproof evidence that this thing actually did happen. Basically, this is the Carl Sagan standard: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to back them up. He might have used it in the context of the paranormal, but it just as well applies to claims that go against everything we know about molecular biology. Make no mistake, the central claim of this preprint, namely that the RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is somehow reverse transcribed into DNA and then finds its way into the nucleus to integrate with genomic DNA, is a truly extraordinary claim given that coronaviruses are not retroviruses like HIV and that endogenous human reverse transcription is very rare and limited, as described in depth here. Basically, only certain genetic elements in the genome can use reverse transcription to copy themselves elsewhere. It’s not as though a random coronavirus can hijack this mechanism for itself and plop its sequences somewhere in the human genome. To demonstrate that would require extraordinary evidence, particularly given that coronaviruses kill the cells they infect as they replicate.
Let’s just say that this preprint (still a preprint four months after having been published) doesn’t even come close to extraordinary evidence. Heck, it’s not even good ordinary evidence. Again, if you want the details, I refer you to this fine explanation by Ed Nirenberg. For one thing, the assumption that “persistently positive PCR” for COVID-19 must mean reverse transcription of the virus and integration is a leap. There are other mechanisms, such as the maintenance of a viral reservoir within an immunologically privileged site or immunological suppression. These are all mechanisms that have been observed in other viruses. As for the results themselves, Nirenberg makes a compelling case that the findings could well be due to an artifact of the methods used to look for viral sequences. I’ll also point out again now Nirenberg’s correct observations, as I did then, that, even if the authors had observed actual reverse transcription and integration into the genome, it would mean exactly nothing for RNA vaccines because:
- The sequence would behave like a processed pseudogene, lacking any ability to recruit host transcription machinery and would sit in the genome, quiescent.
- If the sequence somehow inserted downstream of a promoter sequence that could recruit transcription machinery, the cell would express spike protein, be recognized by the immune system, and then be killed.
- If the sequence inserted itself into the middle of gene (specifically in the middle of an exon), you would get a mutant protein that had sequences from SARS-CoV-2 that would be processed by antigen-presenting machinery and trigger a T cell response that killed the cell.
None of this stops antivaxxers from latching onto this study as “proof” that mRNA vaccines really can “permanently alter” your DNA and then to go on to engage in all sorts of predictions based on speculation:
More thoughtful readers agreed with Corrigan that the paper raises important questions. For example, one reader stated that confirmatory evidence is lacking “to show that the spike protein only is expressed for a short amount of time (say 1-3 days) after vaccination,” adding, “We think that this is the case, but there is no evidence for that.”
In fact, just how long the vaccines’ synthetic mRNA — and thus the instructions for cells to keep manufacturing spike protein — persist inside the cells is an open question.
Ordinarily, RNA is a “notoriously fragile” and unstable molecule. According to scientists, “this fragility is true of the mRNA of any living thing, whether it belongs to a plant, bacteria, virus or human.”
But the synthetic mRNA in the COVID vaccines is a different story. In fact, the step that ultimately allowed scientists and vaccine manufacturers to resolve their decades-long mRNA vaccine impasse was when they figured out how to chemically modify mRNA to increase its stability and longevity — in other words, produce RNA “that hangs around in the cell much longer than viral RNA, or even RNA that our cell normally produces for normal protein production.”
This is a major exaggeration. While it is true that the mRNA used in the COVID-19 vaccines has been modified to have a longer half-life in the cells, it’s not as though it’s been made indestructible, as RFK Jr. and Corrigan seem to be implying. At best, the mRNA from these vaccines will not result in production of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein by the cells containing the vaccine RNA for more than 10-14 days. That’s longer than unmodified RNA, but not so long as to result in all the dire consequences speculated by antivaxxers. Again, it’s as though antivaxxers think that there aren’t extensive cell culture studies to estimate the half-life of the mRNAs made by these vaccines and correlative studies during the early stage clinical trials or that we don’t have years of data on how long modified RNAs hang around the cell.
Why, though? Why would scientists “ignore” this study and the warnings of antivaxxers? According to RFK Jr., it’s the money, of course, as he accuses scientists of the ‘the prospect of retro-integration of foreign DNA as a “conspiracy theory,'” No, scientists aren’t dismissing it as a conspiracy theory. They’re dismissing it as an incredibly unlikely phenomenon based on the totality of our knowledge of molecular biology, and this study is not the “extraordinary evidence” that would be required to make a convincing case for the extraordinary claim that our knowledge of molecular biology is so incorrect.
However, it’s needed to feed the contamination narrative. In fact, you’ll notice that RFK Jr. goes beyond just contamination, as RFK Jr. refers to “possibly multigenerational” risks. Yes, the genetic alteration claimed by antivaxxers is such that they further claim that they could be passed on to children, a claim that I’ve been seeing popping up more and more, even though the mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines does not enter germline cells that produce sperm in men and eggs in women, thus making it impossible for mRNA vaccines to be able to produce genetic alterations that are passed down to children even if they did produce genetic alterations in the first place.
Vaccines and “purity of essence”
Now you can see why I started by extolling the virtues of Dr. Strangelove as a movie. The character of Gen. Ripper, as ridiculous and frightening as he is, represents a very strong belief system among human beings, namely a belief in “purity of essence” and a fear, mostly inspired by longstanding religious or mystical views, that we must keep ourselves “pure”. Normally, that purity is spiritual, but that spiritual belief underlies a lot of the belief system underlying alternative medicine, which is why there is such an emphasis on “detoxification” and fear of “toxins” in the alternative treatments advocated. Indeed, I’ve likened “detoxification” to ritual purification on a number of occasions, because that’s what it is, at its core, and antivaccine beliefs often derive from or overlap with alternative medicine beliefs.
Indeed, such is the fear of “contamination” or “corruption” among antivaxxers that mRNA vaccines have been described as “transhumanism.” Transhumanism is a social, scientific, and philosophical movement devoted to the idea that humans can be enhanced by technology, be it biological, computer-based, or physical. The idea is that such technologies would augment or increase human perception, physical abilities, intelligence, and cognition, and also radically improve human health and extend human life spans. The ultimate outcome is thought to be the “singularity”, a time when computers become so advanced that artificial intelligence transcends human intelligence, potentially erasing the boundary between humanity and computers, even leading to the merging of humans and computers. For purposes of these vaccines, the “permanent alteration” of human DNA falsely ascribed to COVID-19 vaccines by antivaxxers is often portrayed as a form of transhumanism. However, the claim that vaccines are transhumanism predates mRNA vaccines. Indeed, the first time I encountered this claim was nine years ago, when I encountered Sayer Ji claiming that vaccines were transhumanism designed to subvert evolution. The basic idea is that vaccines make you no longer entirely human.
This fear of “contamination” due to DNA or RNA in vaccines is not new either. Does anyone remember “homologous recombinaltion tiniker“? That’s a mispelling of “homologous recombination” that became a longstanding joke among science advocates about an old antivaccine claim in which it was argued that DNA from the “fetal cells” used to manufacture some vaccines would get into the brain, undergo homologous recombination with our DNA, and produce “foreign” proteins that would result in autoimmunity and cause autism? (Apparently incredibly minute amounts of fetal DNA were so powerful that they can contaminate the entire nervous system.) Remember all the fear mongering about “DNA contamination” of the HPV vaccine detected by incredibly sensitive (and possibly false positive) PCR assays that caused “microcompetition” with endogenous DNA, leading to disease? All of these are variants of the fear of “contamination” by vaccines. It even goes so far that one antivaxxer claimed that there is a “genetic memory” of foreign substances the body encounters and that there is a limit to how much such material our body can handle before genetic alteration occurs! Yes, it sounds a bit like homeopathy.
Sometimes, antivaxxers even try to flip the script and project their views onto science advocates, as this antivaxxer did:
I’ve been chatting with an LQ commenter who messaged me the other day to say that vaccination is a ritual of cleansing. Those who partake are clean, and those who do not are unclean. Heck, you’re unclean for even questioning it, even if you did partake.
They see themselves as clean and pure and see us as vile and germ ridden.
Invoking “terrain theory,” the idea that once competed with germ theory but was supplanted by it and stated that germs didn’t cause disease but were rather a manifestation of a diseased “terrain”, another antivaxxer said:
As an analogy, flies don`t create garbage. But garbage attracts flies that breed maggots to create even more flies. Removing garbage is more effective than spraying toxic chemicals, which endanger human and animal life, around the house. Similarly, adding toxins to humans is not as effective as cleaning out the inner terrain.
“Purity of essence”, indeed.
Unfortunately, this emphasis on “purity” vs. “contamination” or “impurification” is strong in many cultures and religions. It is even stronger in alternative medicine, with treatments based on “detoxification” and preventatives based on avoiding unnamed “toxins” being such a huge component of such quackery. It’s no wonder it is also a strong strand in antivaccine beliefs and has been for a long time.
There is nothing new under the sun in antivaccine beliefs, as much as it might seem that way in the age of COVID-19.