October 12, 2021
Fear of vaccination has been around since the first vaccine over 200 years ago. But now the anti-vaccine has grown from a fringe phenomenon to a mainstream movement. How, and why? To help answer this question on the show this week is science journalist Tara Haelle.
126 — How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Went Mainstream with Tara Haelle
Speaker 1 [00:00:00] Hello everyone, welcome to Factually. I’m Adam Conover, thank you for joining me once again, as I talk to an incredible expert about all the amazing things they know, that I don’t know and that you probably don’t know. My mind is going to be blown, your mind is going to be blown. We’re going to have a great time together. That’s been my intro the last couple episodes. Should I change it up? I don’t know, I’m figuring it out. I’m trying to evolve with the times, trying to keep the format of the show fresh and interesting. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about vaccines. Months ago, we talked to the drug discovery chemist, Derek Lowe. You can go find that episode in the archives. We talked about the incredible MRNA vaccines that we are using to fight COVID 19, the incredible leap forward in medical and scientific understanding that they represent and just basically how fucking cool they are, and how they are this incredibly powerful weapon against this disease that is killing so many people. But unfortunately, the incredible good that these vaccines have done is often overshadowed (especially lately) by the resistance many have had to them. So on this episode, we’re going to talk about that resistance. We’re going to talk about where it came from and how vaccine resistance has changed over time. The truth is, it’s not new. Fear of vaccination goes back a long, long time. Back to when people started using vaccines in the first place, in the 18th century. Back then, instead of vaccination was called ‘inoculation.’ Basically what they would do is, they would take some cow pus (or the pus from a person who had the disease) and they would rub it right in your arm. It was kind of gross. It did work, but it wasn’t quite as safe as the vaccines we have today. It could potentially kill you and as a result, a lot of people didn’t want to get inoculated. Anti-vaccine cartoons from the early 19th century show people getting vaccinated and then sprouting horns or puking a cow out of their mouth. You should go look these up, they’re really funny and not that dissimilar from the anti-vaccine rhetoric we hear today. The point is, as long as vaccination has been around, there have been people who are really, really opposed to it. But here’s the good news that has not stopped vaccines from changing the world. The vaccines we have today are enormously safe, incredibly safe, and they save 2 to 3 million people’s lives every single year. Vaccines have been so successful that it is literally hard for scientists to even put into numbers what our world would look like without them. Here’s a quote: ‘The counterfactual world; in which vaccines would never have been developed, would be so different from ours that an estimate of the impact of vaccines is impossible. They literally cannot calculate how many lives have been saved because our world has been changed, overall for the better, as a result in countless ways. In other words, in no uncertain terms, vaccines are one of the most profound medical advancements of our time. But still today, even as we know even more about vaccines than we used to, even as they’re safer than ever and even as we have a higher general level of medical education in this country, even now, many reject the truth that vaccines are safe and effective. The anti-vaccination viewpoint has actually gone mainstream. See, until recently it was still pretty fringe. Followers of the disgraced anti-vaccine doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who lost his medical license for sham research on vaccines and autism. Well, they mostly existed on angry Facebook pages. They weren’t really much more popular than flat-Earthers or other weird, fringe beliefs. But since the pandemic, we’ve seen the continued popularization and political realignment of anti-vaccination sentiment. Anti-vaxxers, in other words, are now an extremely powerful political force that needs to be reckoned with. But how did that change occur? How did anti-vaxxers go from being a fringe movement to something that news is catering to? Well, this latest turn for the anti-vaccine movement dates back to 2014, with a measles outbreak at Disneyland, which grew from largely unvaccinated visitors. Now, the vast majority of the public was pissed about this. I mean, a previously eradicated disease had a new outbreak just because of parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their kids for spurious, pseudoscientific reasons. So a coalition of parents in California pushed a bill to remove all non-medical exemptions from vaccine requirements in schools. Basically, they wanted to strengthen vaccine coverage in California. But in response to this bill, the anti-vaxxers found one weird trick to make their message a lot stronger instead of talking about autism or medical woo-woo stuff. They started using, instead, the right wing rhetoric of freedom. They said that this new law was impinging on their rights, and this worked. Right wing politicians like Rand Paul came out in favor of parents having the ‘freedom to vaccinate or not vaccinate their kids,’ and eventually other Republican politicians and donors hopped on board the anti-vaccine express. But the deepening polarization of the anti-vaccine movement was, of course, supercharged by the COVID 19 pandemic, and now we’re starting to see people’s opinion of vaccines change depending on which party they affiliate with. That is not great; for one of the most important medical breakthroughs of our time to become politically polarized. I’m going to say that is a bad thing, and the ramifications of that are something that we’re only just beginning now to work out. So here today to talk to us about this issue, help us work through it and help us figure out what we should do about it. Is Tara Haelle. She’s a science journalist and an educator who studies the anti-vaccine movement. Please welcome Tara Haelle. Tara, thank you so much for being here.
Speaker 2 [00:06:03] Thank you very much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Speaker 1 [00:06:06] So you wrote a piece for the New York Times that I thought was really terrific, called ‘This is the Moment the Anti-Vaccine Movement Has Been Waiting For,’ about how the anti-vaccine movement has changed. It’s changed a lot over my lifetime, you used to think of it in relation to measles vaccines. It used to be very fringe. In recent years, it really has started to feel like it’s morphing into something very different and new. I’d love for you to fill us in on what that looks like from your view and take us through the history of this. There’s been so much talk about the science of vaccines and we’ve had a lot of that on this show. But let’s talk about the social history of the vaccine and anti-vaccine movement.
Speaker 2 [00:06:45] It’s interesting, because it both is and isn’t something different. Which is going to sound contradictory. But I recently was putting together a PowerPoint on the history of the anti-vaccine movement, going all the way back to basically before the smallpox vaccine which always startles people. I like to tell people that anti-vaccine sentiment preceded vaccines. How is that that that was? Well, vaccine: the word ‘vaca’ is cow in Latin, and that’s where vaccine came from, because the cowpox serum is what they used for the smallpox vaccine. But before we had that, we had smallpox inoculation which is where we use – It’s called ‘variolation,’ and they would use the actual puss from a real smallpox sore, which had more risk to do. But you had people who were anti variolation, including Benjamin Franklin. Actually, he was one of the most famous anti variolation people and used his newspaper against it. Until he lost his son, and then was sorry and backtracked on it and realized that he was wrong. But the idea of anti variolation actually preceded vaccination itself. Then once vaccination came along, it morphed into anti-vaccination. What I think is really fascinating is that, in terms of the arguments that are made and the responses to those arguments, I went through a bunch of newspaper clippings from the 1890’s all the way to the present day. What startled me is, how similar the same arguments are. They make the same exact arguments: purity of what’s in it, saying that it makes you sick to get the vaccine and it’s healthier not to put this in your body. That natural disease is more appropriate. All the arguments, obviously they didn’t have a microchip argument in the 1890’s, but a lot of the same things that you hear them saying. There’s certain misconceptions about vaccines that I like to call ‘zombie ideas,’ which is you kill it and it comes back and you kill it and it comes back. One of those is fertility; worries about fertility. People have worried about vaccines harming fertility since there was a vaccine, and there’s never been a vaccine that harms fertility, ever. In fact, some of them help fertility by not making miscarriages as likely.
Speaker 1 [00:08:52] Well, let me say it’s it seems to me that there must be a strain here of having the state (or any body that has power over you) say ‘You must put this in your body’ is just at root an uncomfortable thing. It’s unintuitive. It violates many of the values that we have, maybe not just as Americans, but as humans. So there’s a core of it that is really understandable, and I would expect to always exist.
Speaker 2 [00:09:17] Yeah. First of all, it’s Paul Offit, who is the co-developer of the rotavirus vaccine, and he’s the Head of Infectious Disease over at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Something he says that I often quote, is that vaccination is a fundamentally violent act. You are taking this needle, which causes pain and it’s got stuff in it that you don’t understand and you stick it in your body. Your natural inclination to be afraid of that actually makes sense. It actually is rational until you understand what’s going on, right? In some ways, it even applies to the hair of the dog idea: a little bit of the pathogen in order to defend better against it. What is changing, though, what is different? So the arguments against the state being able to tell you what to do is definitely one of the oldest strains. In fact, there wasn’t a lot of anti-vaccine or anti-variolation sentiment until the state said, ‘You have to do this.’ Because no one would think to do it and part of the problem was that people weren’t getting other health care, and we still see that today. When we talk about mistrust of the health care system. OK, so you’ve got these people over here who are starving and don’t have food, or they’re not getting good maternal care or they’re not getting other good health care. But you want to force this other health care intervention on them?
Speaker 1 [00:10:41] ‘Hey, you never came around when my daughter was dying of the other thing. Of malnutrition or whatever. Now you’re showing up with a syringe, why should I trust you?’ Exactly.
Speaker 2 [00:10:53] The thing that has changed, is the politicization of it. Now it’s always been political, in the sense that the main goal of anti-vaccine activists was to not have the state forced them to get it. So that political goal has not changed. What has changed, is the alignment of the politics. It used to be that politics made strange bedfellows and you had the folks on the left and the right who were anti-vaccine and they were fringe on both sides.
Speaker 1 [00:11:26] That’s how it was just like, six or seven years ago. You write about the measles outbreak in 2014, which was the result of when the big argument was that the MMR vaccine causes autism. People had been saying that for years, it’s clearly a fringe belief. Then enough people are exposed and are unvaccinated, that there’s an outbreak at Disney World? Disneyland or Disney World?
Speaker 2 [00:11:50] Disneyland. Funny enough, 2014 had many more measles cases than 2015. But the Disneyland outbreak started in December of 2014, so the turning point was 2015 because that’s when all the cases started to spread. Even though we never had as many cases from the Disneyland outbreak as we did from the 2014 outbreaks, there’s something mystical and mythical and childhood preservationist or whatever about Disneyland, right? Disneyland is ‘the happiest place on Earth.’ Nothing bad is supposed to happen at Disneyland. So for a childhood disease that we have a highly effective vaccine for, to break out at Disneyland (the heart of what represents everything that childhood is supposed to be about), I think, hit the psyche of some people in a way that really woke them up to, ‘Oh crap, this vaccine thing is a problem.’ So it was a common emotional response, and what that did was get the ball rolling to where you had parents who were saying, ‘Well, crap, I don’t want my kids to be infected with measles. Even if they’re vaccinated and they’re the one in 100 kids that the measles vaccine doesn’t work in.’ Or ‘I don’t want measles going through my child who’s too young to be vaccinated or who can’t get a live vaccine,’ because the MMR vaccine is a live vaccine. My kid who has cancer or my kid who has some kind of condition that they can’t get this vaccine, I don’t want them to be at risk for measles. So parents started banding together and trying to get laws passed. There was already laws saying you had to get vaccinated to go to school, but a lot of states had personal belief exemptions; so philosophical or religious exemptions. Some of them were more permissive than others, and the one in California was especially permissive. All you had to do was say, ‘Nope, I don’t believe in it, period.’ You didn’t have to get anything. You didn’t have to go to a class. You didn’t have to write a formal statement. You didn’t have to go to the health department. You didn’t have to get a notarization. You just had to say, ‘I don’t believe in it,’ basically, and the parents wanted to get rid of that. That fight had been going on in different places for a while, but this one really gathered steam. Then you had the anti-vaccine activists pushing against it and when they tried to bring up arguments against vaccines from a science perspective, it didn’t hold water because the science is very clear on vaccines. There was no good argument from the scientific perspective. So when they realized that didn’t work, they pivoted to, ‘Well, what can we do to get these politicians attention?’ And they said, ‘Well, it’s my child. I get to decide what happens to my child’s body.’ That actually got people’s attention, especially on the conservative side because this is 2015. Around 2010 was when the Tea Party really gained steam. So this is on the tail end of the Tea Party. But this idea of personal freedom, ‘You don’t get to tell me what to do,’ reaction against Obama’s election had really taken hold on the right at this time. So the conditions were perfect for the anti-vaccine activist’s argument of personal freedom, ‘I get to decide what happens to my body. I decide what happens to my child.’ That meshed really well with the freedom argument that you were already hearing now from the right, especially. Basically when the anti-vaccine activists said, ‘OK, we want to get politicians in our back pocket. Where do we start?’ Going to the right was a natural place to go, and that’s what they did.
Speaker 1 [00:15:16] So because of this happening, we went from a situation where the anti-vaccine advocates were very fringe in both parties and everyone hated them after this Disney outbreak. Everyone was like, ‘Oh my God,’ everyone’s making fun of anti-vaxxers. ‘They don’t understand the science, et cetera, et cetera.’ The term anti-vaxxer, I think, was basically coined around that time. At least that’s where it started popping up, no?
Speaker 2 [00:15:36] Oh no, no, no, no, no.
Speaker 1 [00:15:37] Oh It’s older?
Speaker 2 [00:15:38] Oh, ‘anti-vaxxer’ is, very old. It has been around, I don’t even know when it started. It predates my entry into studying this. It probably predates 2000.
Speaker 1 [00:15:49] Well, that was the first time I heard it, I think, was in 2015.
Speaker 2 [00:15:53] And that’s part of the point, is that a lot of people – I remember, a friend of mine who lives in Houston, I went and visited her in 2013 or 2014, and I was talking to her about what I did. At that time, I was already writing about the anti-vaccine movement. She was in finance, did nothing related to that. We were talking, just casually. She was a college friend and I was talking about how I talked to anti-vaccine parents and she said, ‘To what?’ And I said, ‘Anti-vaccine parents.’ She says, ‘What do you mean, anti-vaccine?’ I said, ‘Well, they don’t want to vaccinate their kids.’ She says. ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t you vaccinate your kids?’ She had never even heard of this phenomenon; the idea that you wouldn’t vaccinate had was totally off her radar. But it was very much still around, it existed and the term ‘anti-vaxxer’ existed. I don’t use the term ‘anti-vaxxer’ very often because I think it’s a term that people have their own definition for, and it’s got a lot of negative connotation (it understandably has negative connotations).
Speaker 1 [00:16:50] It’s used as a derogatory term.
Speaker 2 [00:16:52] Yeah, it’s used pejoratively, but it also is nonspecific. A lot of people refer to anti-vaxxers and they mean anybody who doesn’t vaccinate. To me a ‘proper’ anti-vaxxer is an anti-vaccine activist who not only doesn’t vaccinate their kids, but who is actively going to legislatures and legislators and trying to lobby against vaccines (or vaccine mandates or anything to that effect) and who goes out on the street and does public demonstrations. That’s an anti-vaxxer to me. That’s separate from a vaccine refuser, which is a person who does not vaccinate and will not vaccinate, but they don’t talk to anybody it. No one even knows it unless they talk to them. Their doctor knows about it, but that’s it. To me, that’s not an anti-vaxxer. That’s just a vaccine refuser. Then you have the vaccine hesitant or the vaccine resistant. Vaccine hesitant are the ones that have some questions. They’re uneasy. Maybe they partially vaccinate. Maybe they’re selective vaccinators and the vaccine resistant, which are a little bit somewhere between hesitant and refuser, right? It’s very much a continuum. To me, anti-vaxxers are at the far end of the continuum, which is why I don’t use the term because some people use it to include the entire continuum. That becomes problematic because it’s alienating. If you’re someone who’s vaccine hesitant, you have genuine questions and you feel like your questions are valid, you’re not going to respond very well if someone says, ‘Oh well, you’re just a stupid anti-vaxxer.’ Well, boom, you just lost them. They’re not going to listen to you now.
Speaker 1 [00:18:21] Yeah, because you called them the name. I want to come back to all those different spectrums of people. But let’s just jump back to the history real quick. So we had this thing where anti-vaccine advocates were – I used to do content about how it was stupid to not believe in vaccines. It was one of the many pseudoscientific beliefs that, to the extent that I am part of the skeptic community or the rational, I do that sort of media. You see people make a YouTube video about how dumb it is to not believe in vaccines and that we should trust science and yada yada. It was a very fringe position, like believing in a flat earth.But then after 2015, you’re saying they started organizing and joined the political culture war in a way?
Speaker 2 [00:19:13] Well, they already had been organized. I think there’s a couple of things that were going on. One, they were already organized. But also keep in mind (if people can put their minds back into 2015) at that point, Twitter had been around for what, maybe eight years and about the same for Facebook. I can’t remember the exact dates that either started, but those technologies were in full swing. People were fully using them on a regular basis, I don’t remember when Facebook Groups was introduced, but Facebook Groups was relatively new; somewhere around 2014 or so. So at the same time that you had this outbreak that was causing parents to mobilize against those who wanted stricter vaccine laws, you had this upswing of use of social media to organize. They were already organized in their small groups, but they were much more siloed. Now you had this national movement, where they were able to communicate much more effectively and get their message out more effectively, just like everybody was. Every fringe group got it. This also affected white supremacy, for example. White supremacy became much more mainstream when it became much easier to get that message out there on social media. There’s some really great analyzes that Rene DiResta, who’s a Stanford scientist who’s done some phenomenal – She would be a great guest on this, actually. She’s done some phenomenal analyzes looking at who was talking to who on Twitter in 2015, basically. You see this overlap between the conservative sphere and the anti-vaxxer sphere. There was already a strong anti-vaxxer presence on social media, but again, it was more fringe and this sort of melded them together. There’s a really cool visualization (in the article she did for Wired) where you can actually see the overlap, visually.
Speaker 1 [00:21:08] Yeah. So obviously, we know how affective social media (especially algorithm driven social media) has been at spreading misinformation. Vaccines are a prime example. For my last live hour of stand up that I took on the road, I was doing a show called ‘Mind Parasites’ and I talked about how the YouTube algorithm – I did a little test, where I did a search for ‘flu vaccine’ on YouTube, and the first thing that popped up was a UCLA five minute video. ‘Hey, here’s why the flu vaccine works. Here’s why it’s effective.’ Then every single recommended video (or at least the top couple) were anti-vax. I’ll say, these were activists, by your definitions, true anti-vax misinformation. And then once you clicked on that, every single recommended video was like that and these videos were hours long.
Speaker 2 [00:22:01] Yeah, YouTube is insane that way.
Speaker 1 [00:22:01] This was around the time that pro vaccine people (or scientists, true health professionals) were finding they couldn’t even post on YouTube because that was the effect. They post five minutes of the truth and then their audience is bombarded with hours of lies. Of people just sitting in front of microphones, talking for hours on end about how vaccines will kill you. Now, I did that show in 2019. I actually wanted to film it to be a special, and then I couldn’t film it because of what happened? The COVID pandemic, now I’m literally wrestling with ‘Should I film that show now? Should I go take it out on the road now that things are opening up a little bit again? Should I should rent a theater and film the show?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve got a problem now because my chunk about vaccines is kind of out of date because the entire anti-vaccine movement has completely transformed in the couple of years since I did that segment.’ So tell me how that’s happened.
Speaker 2 [00:22:59] Well, originally anti-vaccine sentiment focused on childhood vaccines. The only thing that we ask all adults to do on a regular basis, as far as vaccines, is to get your flu shot and flu shot was it was required for certain hospitals. But other than hospitals, no one ever made you get a flu shot, right? It was military and hospitals, and that was it. So there wasn’t a big push for everyone to get it in the sense that they felt this obligation because they were going to lose something if they didn’t get it. Our flu shot uptake was moderate. About half of people get flu shots, that we weren’t getting flu shots. So most anti-vaccine sentiment focused on schools and school entry and kids getting their recommended vaccines because we have about (I don’t remember now) about 12 or 13 vaccines that we recommend for kids to get over the course of their childhood. That’s where all the focus was. So what we see now, the reason we see such a big upswing now is because this is the first time since the smallpox vaccine that we have said ‘We want every single individual to get vaccinated.’ Not children yet, but it will be very soon. By the end of this year, maybe early next year. From six months to ninety nine, one hundred and five, whatever we want every single individual who’s over six months old to be vaccinated. That has not happened since the smallpox vaccine. The smallpox vaccine period is where you see so many when you go back and look, historically, that’s where you see the same arguments that I’m talking about us seeing today. Because once we stopped giving that smallpox vaccine, once we eradicated smallpox and we didn’t have to worry about it anymore, we were no longer requiring adults to get vaccinated. So a lot of this is simply scale. A lot of the change is scale.
Speaker 1 [00:24:46] But you’re saying with a smallpox vaccine, we saw similar arguments being raised against it. Except with the smallpox vaccine, that campaign worked so effectively that we wiped out smallpox and now the only sample is sitting in a lab somewhere. It’s one of the great success stories of human medicine, period, throughout history. Smallpox incredibly deadly, incredibly transmissible disease that’s literally been killing people since the Middle Ages, and now we have rendered it functionally extinct. Only because we got enough people to take the vaccine and now you’re saying, ‘Hey, on the flu vaccine on a good year, it’s 50 percent.’ That’s about as well as we’re doing with COVID 19, with the COVID vaccines. We’re up to maybe 60 percent, depending on the state. So what is the difference between the COVID vaccine and smallpox, where we’ve had a mass mobilization of ‘We’ve got this incredible vaccine. It’s available everywhere.’ We’ve got the messaging out there. Is it the existence of this movement? Has that played a big part in it?
Speaker 2 [00:25:54] It’s really hard to compare because first of all, just one thing. You mentioned highly transmissible, with smallpox. It’s worth pointing out that the transmissibility of smallpox and the transmissibility of COVID, right now with Delta, is almost identical.
Speaker 1 [00:26:08] Wow.
Speaker 2 [00:26:11] People might not realize that. It’s called the ‘rnot’ number,’ the reproduction number. The reproduction number for smallpox (I just looked it up when you were talking) is about 3.5 to 6, which means that on average, every person who gets infected with smallpox would infect an average of 3.5 to 6. Now that means that these 5 people over here might infect no one, whereas these 5 people over here might infect 30 people or something. It evens out. But that’s approximately the same range that we’re seeing – Actually more, really. For Delta, we’re seeing a higher number. So you could actually say that with Delta in particular, the number is higher for Delta than it is for smallpox. But there’s a couple of substantial differences: one, is that with smallpox, you can see smallpox from a distance. It’s a very ugly disease. It’s a horrific and disfiguring disease. So you can see from a distance that someone is sick from it.
Speaker 1 [00:27:07] People have sores on themselves, right?
Speaker 2 [00:27:10] Right. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s it’s horrific. I would say, ‘Tell people to Google Image search it,’ but be prepared. It’s pretty horrific. They’re very upsetting images. So it’s a lot easier to say, ‘Oh, I don’t want that person with smallpox here,’ you can’t hide that you have smallpox.
Speaker 1 [00:27:26] People aren’t saying, ‘Oh, I’ll get it, but I’ll be fine because I’m young and healthy.’ It’s like, ‘No, you’ll get horrible sores all over your face. You don’t want that to happen to your beautiful face.’
Speaker 2 [00:27:35] Actually believe it or not – You would think. But when I looked back and I was pulling out those newspaper articles, no, there were people saying, ‘I don’t want to get the smallpox vaccine because I think it will cause smallpox. And I would rather get the natural smallpox because I’ll be fine because it’s not that bad.’ That’s one of the things that’s so remarkable, and a little bit disturbing. When I looked back at those; literally every, every single thing that you hear people saying about COVID today has been said about smallpox. Except, like I said, the microchip thing because that word didn’t exist. Every single thing. There are no new arguments under the Sun. The difference is honestly scale. That’s the biggest difference, scale and the fact that we’re now looking to give it to everybody. Another difference, though, is with smallpox we knew that smallpox was eradicable. There are certain requirements that you need to be able to eradicate a disease, to wipe it from the face of the planet. Those include the fact that you have to be able to identify all the cases of it. We can’t identify all of the cases of COVID because of so many asymptomatic cases or cases where they have such a mild one that they never get tested thinking that they might have a cold. Another requirement is that it can’t have an animal reservoir. In other words, smallpox only infected humans. It didn’t infect anybody else but humans. Measles also does not infect anybody else but humans, so we could eradicate measles. But with coronaviruses, we know already of course, that this most likely originated from a bat. We know that other animals can have it. We’ve infected dogs, we’ve infected cats, we’ve infected ferrets, hamsters.
Speaker 1 [00:29:13] I thought I saw something about a deer, in Michigan somewhere.
Speaker 2 [00:29:15] I don’t know, but I believe it. I mean, there’s lots of animals that can have coronaviruses, and so we won’t be able to eradicate COVID because it can always hide out in an animal and come back. It’s the same reason we won’t ever be able to eradicate flu. It’s just not possible, because it can hang out. We’ll never eradicate Ebola, because it has an animal source. So there’s a lot of differences, and it’s really hard to compare them in that regard. But when it comes to arguments against the vaccine, there’s not a lot of difference.
Speaker 1 [00:29:46] It seems, though, that COVID 19 specifically has supercharged this existing anti-vaccine movement in some way that has really interfered with the vaccine effort. So how did that happen?
Speaker 2 [00:30:01] That happened through a combination of being able to take over the Republican Party, so that it became a part of mainstream messaging. We didn’t have mainstream messaging coming from the right. Again, it was fringe, right? Once they were able to sort of (they meaning the anti-vaccine activists) co-opt this message that already had such salience on the right, then they were able to worm their way in with different conservative lawmakers. And it became a part of the Republican platform, basically. And it’s part of this. You look at Rick DeSantis, right now, in Florida. Rick DeSantis, on the one hand, is saying that the vaccine is highly effective and you should get this vaccine. Rick DeSantis is also saying, ‘No, you’re not going to require my hospital employees to get vaccinated.’ I don’t know how to make sense out of that, that is a very confusing public health message. So you’re saying that, yes, this is highly effective and this will stop the spread of this disease. But you’re also saying ‘We’re not going to require people to get it because it’s their freedom to decide not to get it.’ You hear this ‘My body, my choice’ stuff, but it’s not your body. It’s your body that gets the vaccine. But it’s not just your body at risk, it’s every body that you encounter. I mean, if you’re going to go live in a cave somewhere, go be my guest and skip the vaccine. But if you’re going to participate in society and interact with other bodies, then you are posing a risk to them. So the combination of that: being able to sort of take over a political party, once it took over a political party – We like to think that we’re rational human beings who all make decisions based on reason. That is not the case. We all make decisions based on a combination of factors, and rational thinking is a part of that. But we have a lot of emotional thinking and we have influences from all different kinds of cognitive biases. I could list a dozen cognitive biases that play a role in our decision making. Part of the problem is that when something becomes a party message and a party affiliation message, it becomes part of our identity. So instead of it becoming a belief system in this idea of, ‘I believe in science,’ or ‘I don’t believe in science.’ To say that you have to get vaccinated, comes across as an attack on your identity, who you are as an individual. The moment someone feels attacked as an individual, that’s a problem. This happened to my own family. My sister didn’t want to get the vaccine at first. She was eventually going to get it. She said she was definitely going to get it eventually, but she didn’t want to get it early on and it caused some friction in the family because we wanted to get together as a family and my husband’s immune compromised. So we couldn’t until she was vaccinated and she tried to accuse me of trying to force me. She said that I was forcing her to do something with her body. She started calling out this HIPAA bullshit, saying, ‘Oh, you’re violating my medical privacy.’ I’m like, ‘For fuck’s sake, Beth, no, I’m not.’
Speaker 1 [00:32:53] It’s so funny that everyone has discovered this word ‘HIPAA’ and then is using it to mean this thing that it does not mean.
Speaker 2 [00:32:59] Absolutely. I was like, ‘Beth, you know what I report on for a living, OK?’ I hope she never hears this.
Speaker 1 [00:33:04] HIPAA, for the record, I just want to make sure so our listeners know what it means. What exactly – because I’ve heard this word used before in professional contexts – what does HIPAA privacy actually mean?
Speaker 2 [00:33:16] HIPAA privacy refers to the (let me get the exact name) the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it was signed into office in 1996 under Bill Clinton. It says that a person who is a health care provider or who has access to health care provider records (such as a receptionist) are not allowed to share private health care information about a patient. It does not mean that I, some random person on the street – I can ask you anything. I can say, ‘Have you had cancer before?’ OK, I’m not violating something. For someone to say that it’s violating HIPAA to ask if they’re vaccinated. OK, then it’s also violating HIPAA to say, ‘Have you ever had the flu?’ ‘Have you ever had cancer?’ ‘Oh my gosh, did your grandfather die of cancer?’
Speaker 1 [00:34:03] Are you driving drunk right now? Is there alcohol in your bloodstream? Like, that kind of thing.
Speaker 2 [00:34:07] Yeah, none of that is violation. So the whole idea that telling someone to get vaccinated or asking if they are vaccinated is a violation of HIPAA is just laughable. It makes no sense. But then my sister was saying that it was her body and I was telling her what to do with her body. And I’m like, ‘OK, frankly, Beth, I don’t actually give a shit if you are vaccinated, I give a shit if my husband is protected from you. If you come to this gathering and you’re sick and you don’t know it.’ If it just came down to worrying about whether somebody else was going to die or not, I mean, I don’t want someone to die. But if they’re going to choose, this is not the greatest example, but if you’re going to choose to do cocaine in the privacy of your own home and I can tell you not to do cocaine, but you’re still going to do cocaine and you eventually overdose on cocaine. OK, that’s a tragedy. That’s a shame. You shouldn’t have done it, but you didn’t make somebody else snort up cocaine at the same time. You still hurt other people, you probably left behind people who love you and care about you, so I’m not suggesting that there’s no harm done. But it’s not like you’re forcing other people to snort cocaine by you snorting cocaine? OK.
Speaker 1 [00:35:13] But if you bring a viral load to the wedding…
Speaker 2 [00:35:15] You are bringing a viral load to the wedding, you are releasing all those particles. I think that’s something that people have a hard time with. I think they have a hard time with the idea of ‘I feel OK. Therefore, I don’t pose harm to you.’ And that’s bullshit. You can be pre-symptomatic. You don’t have a single symptom yet, and you are expelling viral particles that could kill somebody. A good way to think about this is this: we live in Texas, where the governor cares a lot more about six week old embryos than he does about six year old children. We have two kids who are 7 and 11, and I withdrew them from school because they were too young to be vaccinated. There was no requirement for teachers to be vaccinated. The governor wouldn’t allow masks to be required in schools. So even if they wore a mask, no one around them is necessarily wearing a mask. I took them out of school for two reasons. One, I didn’t want them getting infected. But most importantly, I didn’t want them bringing it home to my husband (their father) and infecting him. Because can you imagine that child going through life knowing they killed daddy? I didn’t want to risk putting my kids in the situation of knowing that they killed their father by accident. I couldn’t live with myself, forcing them to live with that. I say that with the knowledge that we are privileged enough to be able to withdraw our kids from school. There are millions of parents right now who are terrified and taking the same risk that I was able to take myself out of. They’re living with that every day, and they are terrified that that’s going to be the situation that they’re in.
Speaker 1 [00:36:53] It’s a terrible dilemma to be in. But the morphing of this issue into being another bit of Partizan warfare, that it sort of fell into. I often think of these issues like the Partizan divide in America as being like a gutter: like when you’re bowling and this is not a metaphor I always use, but I’m using it today. The gutters when you’re bowling, right? If it falls into them, it’s stuck there and it can’t get back out, it’s like a trough that we are that these issues swirl around. If you’re trying to educate somebody on something else – like flat earth is not part of that, right? I can have a conversation with a Republican or a Democrat about flat earth, generally. But once it falls into that gutter, you’re stuck. That has had, I think, really terrible impacts on this discussion, and I want to talk about what those are, but we’ve got to take a quick break! So we’ll be right back with Tara Haelle. How about that segue? OK, we’re back with Tara Haelle. So look, now we’re in a situation where the anti-vaccine movement has gone from (again) a few fringe activists who are all followers of this one weird, disgraced British doctor and with the fake Autism link. Skeptics can break it down and make YouTube videos about them. But it’s a fringe movement, to where now it’s a part of Partizan politics and our Partizan divide, at least here in America. That seemed really harmful to me because when you’ve got Tucker Carlson on TV talking about how people shouldn’t have to take vaccines and stuff like that, it’s not just that message being spread to a whole new group of people. I think that’s bad enough. I think it also creates a really bad counter reaction from the other party, because now I’ve started to see more and more people saying, ‘Oh, the whole reason we have an outbreak now is because of these Republicans and everybody who is not vaccinated.’ I see tweets from friends of mine saying ‘Everyone who’s not vaccinated should go fucking die. I hate you all. You’re all Trumpists.’ That sort of thing. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not by much.
Speaker 2 [00:39:18] Not by much. I’ve seen it myself, yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:39:19] And that’s not actually true, is it? Like, it’s not the case?
Speaker 2 [00:39:23] It’s not true and it’s not helpful. I mean, it’s funny. I appeared on MSNBC last Sunday morning where I talked about this, and I talked about the fact that while there are people out there who are these vaccine refusers or anti-vaxxers that are never going to get vaccinated, there’s still a huge swath of people that have genuine questions that either want to get vaccinated and genuinely have not had the opportunity or they lack true access. I define ‘true access’ as including the ability to go to a health care professional that they trust and say, ‘I am worried about X Y Z’ and then their health care professional is able to answer those questions. That is part of access, and not everybody has that. What was really sad is when the MSNBC folks tweeted out that video, every single response except one (and to be fair, I knew that one person) was like, ‘Oh no, you’re making excuses for them. They all want to kill us.’ It was all from the left. It’s from the viewers of MSNBC. It was really frustrating because, what it does is it collapses everybody into this one bucket. There’s a lot of people out there who hate Trump, who are not vaccinated, and why aren’t they vaccinated? I could give you a dozen reasons. Maybe they are afraid of the side effects, not because they’re just a wimp and afraid of the side effects, but maybe they work three jobs and all three of those jobs are hourly jobs. And Joe Biden be damned, their employer is not going to give them time off because it’s an hourly job. Or maybe they’re a single mom and they’ve got four kids, including two under the age of 2 and they can’t afford to be sick. When you’re a mom, you’re fucked if you’re sick and you’re a mom. And if you’re a single mom and you don’t have anyone to help you, even more so. Or maybe they live in an area that is (seriously) where you have to drive far. People are like, ‘Well, there’s pharmacies everywhere.’ No, there’s not. There’s a thing called pharmacy deserts. Go look it up. Go get on your happy little google and type in ‘pharmacy deserts.’ OK, because there are people who live an hour from a pharmacy and I’m sorry, but you got to give me a really damn good reason to drive an hour somewhere to put myself in pain. OK? So, there are reasons and then you have all these people who they might really want to get vaccinated. Look at the black community, right? The black community, I know that they know how serious this disease is. When I go into a store here in Texas, it’s only the white people who aren’t wearing masks. If I go into a store, anybody in that store who’s Hispanic or black, they’re wearing masks. They take it seriously. So then if you say, ‘Well, why is vaccination lower in the black population?’ Well, let’s look at the history of medical racism. How many ways have we fucked over black people in the medical system over the past 250 to 300 years? Let me count the ways. So it’s understandable. They also have less access to people that they trust in the health care system. You can’t entirely disentangle hesitancy from access because part of hesitancy is not having your questions answered, and part of access is having someone who can answer your questions. So in some cases, they might have access but still have hesitancy. That’s a different story. In some cases, they might have zero hesitancy, but they don’t have access and in a lot of cases they don’t have either.
Speaker 1 [00:42:33] Yeah, it’s just not having someone that you trust. We have not made the effort to have a trusted person available. I have a really good personal example of this, if I can share. My partner, Lisa, has chronic pain. And so we have had a masseuse come to our house, once every couple of months to help her with that. She has tendon nerve pain stuff. It’s really helpful. Wonderful woman who we have a relationship with who’s been coming around a couple of years. But of course, during the pandemic, she couldn’t come. The first time we had her come visit after things got a little bit better in L.A., we were like, ‘Oh, she vaccinated. We’re not really sure.’ She came here and Lisa asked her ‘Are you vaccinated?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’m not really sure. Not yet. I’m a little bit frightened of it, you know?’ And after she left, we talked about why that would be. And it’s like, she’s an immigrant. She’s not a English as a first language speaker. Who knows how much access she has to medical care? Maybe she’s not watching MSNBC, right? How much is that message getting out there in the media? Is this someone who has access to care and someone who the government has specifically been trying to reach? When was the last time that she had access to a doctor? But then what happened was, we had her come back a month later, and she said she had been vaccinated because Lisa had spoken with her and said, ‘Oh, I got the vaccine. And I was a little bit sick for a day, but it was fine.’ And she said, ‘Oh, after you told me that made me feel better and I went and got it.’ Because someone who she trusted had said, ‘It’s really important and I want it for you because I want you to be safe and it’s not that bad.’ We simply don’t have a medical system that has gone and provided that to people.
Speaker 2 [00:44:22] To give you another example: my dad (he didn’t vote for Trump, but that’s because he didn’t vote for anybody and I told him he would never see his grandchildren if he voted for Trump and he knew I wasn’t just pissing around) does watch Fox News, and he has a lot of friends that are in the Fox News/Trump supporting demographic. He’s a Vietnam veteran and so forth and so on. He said before the vaccine was out, ‘Well, I’ll just wait for you, Tara. When you get the vaccine, I’ll get it.’ That was what he told me, and he did. Ironically, because my parents are over 65 but I have a high risk condition and so does my husband, my husband and I got vaccinated on the exact same day that my parents did. It was interesting, because the reason they were willing to get vaccinated – My mom is a nurse, she was going to get vaccinated no matter what. But my father is of the demographic that may have been all tough guy, ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated. I don’t need this stuff.’ But because he had me as a daughter and I had spoken to him about this, he was going to get vaccinated. Incidentally, some of his friends that are in that same demographic who did vote for Trump, they’re connected to me on Facebook. They texted me and said, ‘Hey, where can I get the vaccine and how can I get it?’ Now, what about his other Trump supporting friends who may not have? Because they’re not talking. And I’m not saying that I single handedly vaccinated Trump supporters in Texas, but it doesn’t have to be – I have lots of friends who have said – There was one friend of mine who said, ‘Oh my God, Tara, my best friend. She said she hasn’t gotten vaccinated. I couldn’t believe it. What do I do?’ And she’s like, ‘Will, you talk to her?’ And I said, ‘Sure, set up a zoom.’ And we did. We set up a zoom with her and me and her best friend, and I sat there and said, ‘What do you want to know?’ And because she didn’t know me, but she knew that we had mutual friends and so she trusted her friend’s friend and she was able to see me and I was able to explain things. Not only did she then go and get vaccinated, but she also vaccinated her son and her sister got vaccinated and her parents got vaccinated. It goes on, and I’m not saying you’re going to convert everybody you talk to, but a lot of people do just need someone to talk to. They need that reassurance. They need someone to listen to them and say, ‘I’m worried about this’ and you need to be able to say, ‘You know, you’re not crazy or stupid for worrying about this. Let’s talk about what you worry about.’
Speaker 1 [00:46:40] Yeah, because they’re their own personal person. They’ve had their own experience. Maybe they distrust the medical industry because they had a bad experience. Maybe they’re the type of person who literally – I had friends in New York City who had not gone to see a dentist in 10 years, even though their teeth were falling out of their heads because they didn’t have insurance of any kind. Someone who just has not been able to have any access at all. Maybe they’re frightened of needles or maybe they heard a rumor.
Speaker 2 [00:47:10] Or maybe that person in New York who didn’t go to the dentist had a really bad experience with the dentist, and they’re terrified of the dentist now.
Speaker 1 [00:47:15] Yeah, and that’s a valid thing. We have this expectation that we just blast a message out and everyone needs to automatically do the right thing because we say so. But one thing you learn once you start working with people is that you got to go to them one on one.
Speaker 2 [00:47:32] If all it took to get rid of obesity in America was to tell everybody to eat less and move more, then we wouldn’t have any obesity. That clearly doesn’t work, for lots of reasons that doesn’t work. That’s also shitty advice that tells you absolutely nothing about what you actually need to do. If all it took to quit smoking was to say, ‘Hey, don’t smoke, it’s going to cause lung cancer.’ That’s not a great example because to be fair, there’s a lot of people who very much want to quit smoking have tried many times and not been successful at it. So it’s very different. But the point is that with any kind of health behavior, you’ve got barriers to it. In general, another thing is when they say, ‘Oh, all these people who are unvaccinated are the ones who are carrying on the pandemic.’ Yes, the lower vaccination rates do make it easier for the vaccine to move through the population. But keep in mind that there are children under 12 who are going to school right now who can’t be vaccinated, and they are certainly keeping this pandemic going, and that’s not their fault. Then you have people who are fully vaccinated, but they have weakened immune systems or they get exposed to a big enough dose of Delta. Delta is a really powerful variant. They get sick anyway. So it’s not like every single vaccinated person is stopping the disease and every single unvaccinated person is willfully continuing it. That’s not the reality.
Speaker 1 [00:49:00] The more you look at, the more this is an overall societal failure. We’ve talked about it on this show during my interview with Derek Lowe, back when the vaccines were first rolling out. We talked about how they work and how these are such an incredible marvel of engineering, the MRNA.
Speaker 2 [00:49:18] They are, they’re phenomenal.
Speaker 1 [00:49:19] They’re like as big a deal as going to fucking space. We discovered DNA and now decades later, here we are. We’ve figured out a way to selectively use that knowledge to create a perfect, instantaneous, instruction booklet for our own cells to produce an antibody or produce an immune response to defeat a deadly disease within a year of it popping up. We have this incredible response to it. It’s amazing, and yet we don’t have the social tools, or the social fabric. We don’t have the social structure. We have the NIH, we’ve got this incredible body that that comes up with the vaccine. But we don’t have the public health system to actually fucking distribute it.
Speaker 2 [00:50:13] And vaccine hesitancy is a problem in other countries as well. This is not a uniquely American problem. I had to give a presentation to some South Korean journalists recently, and I was presenting what’s going on in the US. Then there was another speaker talking about what’s going on in Germany, and then there was another speaker covering what’s going on in Japan. What really struck me was the similarity: the guy in Germany mentioned that Russia Today was putting out bad information that people were believing. And I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s what they’re doing here, too.’ And the guy from Japan was showing images of anti-maskers who were publicly demonstrating, and that blew my mind. I was like, ‘Wait, what? In Japan, there’s people on the streets protesting?’
Speaker 1 [00:50:53] Yeah, that’s wild.
Speaker 2 [00:50:54] Yeah. I mean, to be fair, the issues in those places, it’s not Partizan. It’s not a political, left/right issue, but they still have these problems. It’s different fault lines, if you will. I don’t know how widespread it is, but it fascinated me. It tells you that some of this has to do with the underlying society and our social institutions and our social psyche and the way we interact. The individualism of the Americans, our sense of exceptionalism and individualism and bootstrapping and ‘I’ll do things my way’-ness plays a role, but there’s also something underlying human about this. Or else we wouldn’t see this in so many societies because I mean, Japan’s an extremely communal society. Germany is a very socialistic, caring about society kind of place.
Speaker 1 [00:51:43] Japan is a society where I visited. I might have told the story on the show before, but I visited Japan and I was walking around carrying some trash and I was like, ‘Where’s the trash cans? I don’t see any trash cans on the street. What do I do with this trash?’ I asked a friend who lived in Japan and he said, ‘Oh, well, they don’t have street trash cans because in Japan, everyone carries their trash home with them and throws it out at home in order to fight littering.’ That is how communal the society is, where like people are like, ‘I’ve got to do my part and bring my potato chip bag home with me to throw out in my own trash can.’ It’s a whole society of people who, when they get on the subway car, they move into the middle of the car. They don’t stand on the doors like we do here in New York or L.A.
Speaker 2 [00:52:25] I had the same experience in Germany, where I was like, ‘Where do I go throw away the trash?’ Well, they don’t have a trash. They have where the paper goes, where the plastic goes, where the organic food stuff goes, and where the aluminum goes. Then they have everything else, which isn’t very much at all. Same idea of this, like really regimented. ‘You do what you’re told.’
Speaker 1 [00:52:48] So how do we, let’s just end here. How do we fight it? Especially for folks who, as you say, maybe have a relative who doesn’t want to get vaccinated or just want to engage more productively with people who are vaccine hesitant online or in their own communities. If they want to help get their own community vaccinated, what can people at home do about it?
Speaker 2 [00:53:11] So first of all, pick your battles. That is to say, that you’re not going to convert everybody just like a teacher is not going to save every soul in their classroom. Find the people who are actually receptive to talking to you and pick your battles, and your battle is not with the person who said .’Over my dead body.’ Talk to someone else. Then listen, this is the hardest part to be honest, because we all think we know the right answers. Listen to what their questions and concerns are. Ask them questions. ‘Can you help me understand what you’re worried about?’ ‘What’s the scariest thing about this for you? What worries you the most?’ And just keep asking, don’t interrupt them and say, ‘Oh, but wait,’ don’t do that. Be respectful. Listen to them. Don’t mock them. Don’t blame them. Don’t shame them. Don’t even sigh. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t give them any indication that you’re doing anything but listening to everything they say. Then try to understand, what are their biggest concerns? Narrow it down. Why are those their biggest concerns? Maybe they’re trying to conceive, and they’ve heard people say that this is going to harm their fertility. That’s a really scary thing, trying to put yourself in the position of trying to conceive. That’s a very vulnerable place to be as a wannabe parent and it’s understandable that you don’t want to do anything to screw that up. You’re already probably not drinking and probably do not doing other things that are fun, just so that you can conceive. Ask them, ‘Where did you hear about those concerns?’ You want to get a sense of where they’re getting their information, because that’s going to help you know what other information they might hear about later. It also tells you what kind of information they trust, so that you can try and counter it with information from similar types of sources. While you’re doing this, you want to validate their feelings. You don’t have to validate their reasons. You don’t have to say, ‘Oh, that’s a really good reason not to get the vaccine.’ But you can say, ‘Wow, I really understand how much this is bothering you. I can see why this worries you so much.’ You can acknowledge their reasons for their mistrust and validate their feelings and then use questions. Once you’ve learned all you can about their beliefs and attitudes by asking these questions, use those questions to direct it toward addressing their concerns. ‘Well, would you feel more comfortable if you knew that the vaccine did X or didn’t do Y? Would that make a difference to you? Can I give you some information on this? Would you be willing to look at something that I was going to provide to you?’ And then ‘What sources do you trust?’ If they don’t trust the CDC, you don’t give them something from the CDC, that’s not going to matter to them. What sources do they feel comfortable getting information from? Share the media type: do you want to read a scientific article? Do you want me to hit you with the hard stuff and pull up the MMWRs from the CDC? Do you want studies or do you want an article, do you trust the New York Times? If they don’t trust The New York Times, you’re going to have to go look for something from somewhere else. Do you want memes? Do you want graphics? Do you want videos? You want me to give you a YouTube video? You’re right, youTube videos are problematic because of the way the algorithm works. You follow that algorithm down a deep enough rabbit hole, you’re going to end up in some place far worse than Wonderland.
Speaker 1 [00:56:02] There’s some good ones out there. There are some good ones.
Speaker 2 [00:56:03] Yeah there are. Then focus on their main concerns. Don’t try and throw the kitchen sink at them. You’re not trying to convince them every single possible myth out there is wrong. You want to focus on what they’re worried about and if they switch, if they change their mind, ‘OK, well, now I’m not worry about that, but I’m worried about this.’ OK, then fine. Then move to that concern. That’s not unusual. They might have many concerns. Use facts, but use them sparingly. Just throwing facts at somebody like you’re throwing darts at a board is not going to do jack shit if you’re not pairing it with emotional stories and salience and personal experiences and ‘Oh, I was worried about that, too. Let me tell you what happened when I got my vaccine.’ Or ‘My gosh, my friend so-and-so also has that weird autoimmune condition you just mentioned, and she did get her vaccine. Why don’t I ask her what happened with her?’ Using those personal stories. Keep it simple, but don’t dumb it down. Adjust according to what they’re taking in and also, you want to focus on safety and appeal to their values. It doesn’t matter what your values are, your values do not matter at all. Their values are what matter. You want to appeal to what their values are. If you can use humor and they respond well to that, use humor. Explain why you care. Why are you taking the time to talk to them? Because you give a shit, right? Offer to help them. If the issue is that they’re working three jobs and they’re worried that they can’t take off or they’ve got child care issues, say, ‘Hey, how about this? If you end up having to take off work, I will pay for your electric bill this month and why don’t I watch your kids tomorrow. Just don’t even worry about if you’re going to have the side effects or not. I’m just going to watch them no matter what, so that if you don’t have side effects, you can chill out and get a day to yourself anyway.’ Offer to help them, do what you can. Then finally, don’t reinvent the wheel. Find good articles and graphics to share. You don’t have to make all this shit up yourself. Google. Look for stuff, ask friends and family, go on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, vaccine friends. I have a friend who’s uneasy about this. Show me your best articles,’ find the good stuff and keep a folder. Those are my steps.
Speaker 1 [00:58:06] The most important thing, though, even more important than the article is just being a friend and being a loved one saying, ‘Hey, I got the vaccine and here’s how it went for me, and here’s how I feel about it.’ Just being that presence. It doesn’t always work, but this is how you convince anyone of anything.
Speaker 2 [00:58:25] Yeah. I’ve heard people say, ‘I won’t allow someone who’s unvaccinated to come into my office,’ and I don’t blame them. I don’t want someone who’s not vaccinated coming into my house, but I don’t say it like, ‘Well, if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t come to my house.’ I say it like, ‘I really want you to come over and hang out. But I have got vulnerable people in this house, and I know that you’re trying to be safe, but I can’t guarantee that you’re not going to be infected and not realize it. So I just don’t feel comfortable having you over until I know that you have that protection.’ There’s ways to say that are a little bit nicer than just, ‘Oh, you’re not vaccinated, fuck off.’
Speaker 1 [00:59:01] Well, Tara, thank you so much for coming on to talk to us about this. It’s been awesome. I really appreciate it.
Speaker 2 [00:59:05] Yeah, it’s been fun. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 1 [00:59:12] Well, thank you once again to Tara Haelle for coming on the show, I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. If you want to support the show, just a reminder you can buy books by our incredible experts at factuallypod.com/books. That’s factuallypod.com/books and your purchases do go to support this show and your local book store. That is it for us this week on Factually. I want to thank our producers, Chelsea Jacobson and Sam Roudman. Our engineer, Ryan Connor. Andrew W.K. for our theme song. The fine folks at Falcon Northwest for building the incredible custom gaming PC that I’m recording this very episode for you on. You can find me online at AdamConover.net or @AdamConover wherever you get your social media. Hey, until next week, we’ll see you next time on Factually. Thank you so much for listening.
July 26, 2022
How can we best help animals, when it’s we humans who cause their suffering? Animal Crisis authors Alice Crary and Lori Gruen join Adam to explain how the same systems that hurt and kill animals also harm humans. They discuss the human rights abuses that happen in industrial slaughterhouses and how palm oil monocrops are devastating the world’s rainforests. They also share how we can have solidarity with animals in our daily lives. You can purchase their book at http://factuallypod.com/books
July 19, 2022
In times of turmoil, it can be useful to take a longer view of history. Like, a LOT longer. Paleontologist and author of “The Rise and Reign of the Mammals” Stephen Brusatte joins Adam to explain how mammals took over the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, and why we survived and achieve sentience when dinosaurs died out. Stephen goes on to discuss why taking a deep look at our history can help prepare us for the crises of the near future. You can purchase Stephen’s book at http://factuallypod.com/books
July 13, 2022
Trans people have existed as long as, you know, people have. But the barriers to legal inclusion and equality are still higher than most people realize. “Sex is as Sex Does” author Paisley Currah joins Adam to discuss why institutions have been slow to give legal recognition to trans identities, why Republicans have shifted their attacks from bathroom policies to trans youth in sports, and why the struggle for trans equality is tied to feminism and women’s liberation. You can purchase Paisley’s book at http://factuallypod.com/books