Vaccines, RFK Jr. and The Science of Misinformation

Are anti-vaccine propagandists really being censored?

That’s the claim RFK Jr. and his raucous admirers make as they point out the lawyer-turned anti-vaccine crusader was kicked off of Instagram and has yet to appear on MSNBC or snag a seat on a late night show. But last I checked his new anti-Fauci book has thus far sold over 500,000 copies. Censorship sells, I guess.

While RFK Jr. may be blacklisted from MSNBC and other outlets (news flash, so are we), he recently dropped in on the Jimmy Dore comedy hour to cook up a stew of gibberish, with a dash of falsehoods that went unchallenged by Dore, who appears to be more than happy to cash in on all of this anti-vax paranoia.

“If you get that vaccine you are 500% more likely to die of a heart attack” six months post-vaccination, RFK flatly told Dore, who smirked and nodded in agreement. RFK Jr. was dishing out his usual dose of panic, but this brand of vaccine hysteria, which is entombed in the depths of RFK Jr.’s silly The Real Anthony Fauci, markets very, very well to the Jimmy Dore demographic.

Needless to say, like so many of RFK Jr.’s blatant lies, the bogus claim that mRNA vaccines will give you lethal heart trouble, is easily debunked. (Yes mRNA vaccines can cause heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, primarily in younger men, but these incidences are very rare and typically mild. In reality, far more covid infections cause myocarditis, along with a host of other ailments, some lethal, like stroke, arrhythmia and kidney injury. A pre-print study also found that myocarditis is by far more common after covid infection than vaccination in teen boys, 450 cases per million infections vs 67 cases per million vaccinations.)

If people were actually dying of cardiac arrest because they were inoculated with an mRNA vaccine, with over 191 million people having received two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer formulas in the US, we would have witnessed a large jump in heart attack deaths over the past twelve months. There has been no such increase. In fact, the country saw a small peak in deaths due to heart disease prior to the vaccines becoming widely available. In short, either RFK Jr. doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, or he is flat out lying. I tend to think it’s a mix of both.

In another totally bonkers exchange over at the revamped Gawker, journalist Tarpley Hitt (who, unlike Dore, pushes back on the insanity) asks RFK Jr. about a subheader in his book titled, “Final Solution: Vaccines or Bust.”

Hitt: That’s a pretty pointed choice of words. Did you mean to invoke the Holocaust?

RFK Jr.: It says what it says.

Hitt: Can you elaborate?

RFK Jr.: It says what it says.

Hitt: Right, but that’s a very potent phrase, “final solution,” in that it was used to mean eradicating the Jews.

RFK Jr.: I don’t think the vaccines have anything to do with eradicating the Jews.


Of course, there’s a grand conspiracy that underlines RFK Jr.’s new money-making schtick, which has been a windfall for his non-profit Children’s Health Defense, doubling its annual revenue in just over a year to $6.6 million. RFK Jr. makes the case, in his book and in subsequent interviews, that Fauci is getting rich off of vaccines and is in “control of biomedical research globally, which makes him the most powerful medical figure in history.” RFK Jr. himself makes more than $250,000 a year heading his own organization, which attacks more than it defends.

In short, RFK Jr. argues that Fauci (and Bill Gates, sort of) is the spooky man in the white lab coat cooking up the killer potions, all the while pulling the strings of Big Pharma. Fauci has many faults, no doubt, the least of which is his reluctance to apologize for repeatedly getting so much wrong, but there’s absolutely no evidence Moderna or Pfizer’s covid vaccines are making Fauci or his family a heap of riches.

If one were to dabble in a more tangible conspiracy here, it would be that RFK Jr. is the one profiting off of the pandemic by making it his sole purpose to discredit the vaccines as well as those who promote their efficacy. As a result, RFK Jr. is fattening his non-profit’s coffers and selling a bunch of books in the process.

And really, does RFK Jr. even believe this loony stuff? Or is it all a big ruse? Late last year, invitees to his family’s holiday gathering were required to show proof of vaccination, which he blamed on his wife, actress Cheryl Hines, for requiring. This raises the question, is RFK Jr. vaccinated himself? He won’t say. Why is that? As far as we can tell, his wife did let him attend their festive soirée.

Much of this complete nonsense has infected a gullible segment of the Left, some of whom actually believe RFK Jr. that mRNA technology is killing scores of people. The most common complaint about the vaccines, however, is that if one supports their use then they are, as a result, an unwitting (or not so unwitting) dupe for Big Pharma. It’s a hollow accusation. One can support the science of covid vaccines, and still acknowledge that Big Pharma is largely in it for the money. These two truths can simultaneously co-exist. In fact, Big Pharma and the US government are responsible for many preventable deaths, not by pushing these vaccines, but by withholding them and refusing to allow other countries the rights to their formulas at no cost, particularly in Africa. Vaccine apartheid is very real, and it’s killing tens of thousands around the globe and creating a real-world laboratory where more variants are likely to develop as a result of Big Pharma’s slobbering greed.

For the few readers out there that still buy into RFK Jr.’s bullshit (please, don’t email me), I’ll just share a few facts in hopes it helps to illuminate just how good these vaccines are, and just how effective they have been and continue to be. It’s worth mentioning that mRNA vaccines are now being eyed for HIV and cancer, potentially revolutionizing future treatments. Scientific consensus matters, and the consensus is that these vaccines work very damn well.

First, let’s look at the death rate of unvaccinated vs. vaccinated pre-Omicron in 2021 in Texas, a state that has essentially let covid rip since it first landed two years ago.

Usually, when skeptics are confronted with hard, fact-based evidence that these vaccines are saving lives, they will butt in, claiming the shots do not reduce transmission of the virus. Well, they do reduce transmission, not only because of a reduction in the viral load of vaccinated individuals but because if you don’t get sick in the first place, you aren’t going to pass it along to others. It’s not that complicated.

And, you are less likely to get sick if you have been vaxxed. Again, here’s the fine state of Texas, proving that vaccinations reduce the risk of testing positive for covid.

Still not convinced? Then let’s look at hospitalization rates from Alaska, another state that has refused to take covid seriously. As of November 2021, hospitalization rates were almost 11 times higher for the unvaccinated. It’s the same case all over the country.

But what about Omicron, you ask? Isn’t that little strain infecting vaccinated people at the same rate as unvaccinated?

Data from New York, one of the first US states to get hit with the contagious new variant, is pretty clear. If you are unvaccinated, you are far more likely to test positive. Note that Omicron hit New York in mid-December.

This data, I think it’s important to note, isn’t gleaned from some Big Pharma study or an industry-backed press release. This is publically gathered information from public health departments.

There’s more. New research also suggests that shots saved 241,000 lives and helped avert almost 1.2 million hospitalizations in the US. An estimated 163,000 more could have been saved had they taken the vaccines. That’s a lot of needless death (and no, don’t point me to the unverified VAERS database).

It’s also important to note here that the unvaccinated, as we should all know by now, are taxing our healthcare system far more than the vaccinated, and racking up a mountain of medical bills in the process. It’s estimated that hospital stays of unvaccinated patients cost $13.8 billion between June to November 2021. Yes, we need single-payer more than ever, but in the meantime, it’s safe to assume that insurance premiums are going to rise substantially as a result of the unvaccinated’s toll on our medical system.

Certainly, RFK Jr. isn’t the only peddler of vaccine nonsense, he’s just the most prominent. One of his go-to experts is the now Twitter-banned Robert Malone MD (who is vaccinated against covid with an mRNA shot), a cranky researcher who says he invented mRNA vaccines (he did not) — a claim tantamount to Al Gore stating he created the internet. The disgruntled doc now states mRNA vaccines have devastating effects on human cells. Malone has been discredited many times over for misleading statements about the shots, but still pops up on nutty podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience to sell his quack science (note to self, don’t take public health advice from an MMA guy). Rogan, always eager to sell a quick fix, has become the go-to online vaccine myth-maker.

The sad thing about all of this craziness is that, despite the overwhelming, real-world evidence that these vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing severe covid, many still boldly mislead their followers for ego’s sake. The more sinister, like RFK Jr., are banking in on the madness. Much of this, I believe, is the result of a scientific-illiterate public, made manifest by years of the right-wing chipping away at public education across the country. Reading levels in the US are a paltry 15th place in the world and the country ranks “21 out of 23 countries in math and 17 out of 19 countries in problem solving.”

Is it any wonder why the US has one of the lowest vaccination rates on the planet? It’s not that people aren’t smart, it’s that they haven’t been given the tools to make informed decisions. Conspiracies, in turn, are captivating. Top this off with a healthy disdain for the government (one I typically share), and you have a recipe for lots of unnecessary misery and death.

RFK Jr. is profiting off this madness, and smarmy grifters like Jimmy Dore are straggling behind, picking up the loose change. There are many more, of course. You know who they are. And no, they aren’t being censored, they are being called out for promoting lies that have harsh impacts — impacts I take personally having lost an uncle to this awful disease.

I’ve always thought the Left to be compassionate, community-driven and collectively-minded. We are supposed to care about the most vulnerable among us. That’s no longer the case. The anti-science (anti-vax), individualistic (selfish) trend among a few is deeply disturbing but emblematic of a movement that has been infiltrated by the myths of libertarian freedom. It’s up to us to change this infectious, deadly dynamic.

JOSHUA FRANK is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He is the author of the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, published by Haymarket Books. He can be reached at You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.