You know what’s worse than a faceful of spiders?


Harriet Hall, a well-known doctor who had been prominent on the skeptic circuit, died last week of heart disease. This was unfortunate, but one thing she didn’t die of was COVID…not that that would stop the ghouls from announcing that she died of a COVID vaccination. They wedged her into their “died suddenly” meme.

It makes no sense to me. This is no “died suddenly” event: a 77 year old woman with a history of heart problems and several years of declining health dying of congestive heart failure is not “sudden”, nor is it in any way correlated with vaccination. But then, facts don’t matter in the anti-vax crowd: if a critic of their fallacious doom-squealing did die suddenly by being hit with a bus, even then I’d expect them to claim it was vaccine-related.

David Gorski talks about the dishonesty of quacks at length, you might want to give that a read.

This “died suddenly” phenomenon is not unique to vaccines and antivaxxers. It is, rather, a subset of a more general phenomenon in which those who deny science-based medicine blame deaths on the intervention or preventative, rather than the disease itself. Long before the pandemic, I was writing about how quacks and cranks would seize on the deaths of celebrities of cancer to blame chemotherapy, rather than their cancers, for having killed them. Examples are numerous (some catalogued here) and include David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Tony Snow, Farrah Fawcett, Elizabeth Edwards, Patrick Swayze (with a particularly despicable use of a photo showing how emaciated he was). Alternatively, they “lament” how a celebrity with cancer might have lived if only he had chosen (or stuck with) alternative medicine, such as Steve Jobs. The ghoulishness is a feature, not a bug, of the denial of medical science.

It is a denial that Harriet dedicated her post-Air Force life to combatting and that we here at SBM will continue to do. Antivaxxers can try to claim that vaccines killed Harriet all they want, but we know the truth, that unfortunately there are things medicine can’t always fix or prevent and that none of us gets out of here alive. All we can do is to use what time we have to do as much good as we can while we are still breathing, which is what Harriet tried to do. Ironically, by trying to add Harriet to their “died suddenly” conspiracy theory, antivaxxers gave her one last chance to help push back against quackery. I hope, but can never know, that she approves.


  1. says

    There’s another dark aspect to all of this:

    What if the malady that caused the “sudden” death was well-known to its sufferer… but the sufferer had some sense of “boundaries” and “personal privacy” surrounding his/her/their medical circumstances, and therefore didn’t put all of his/her/their medical circumstances out in public? That is, Alan Rickman’s visit to his doctor at which his decline was first noted (big surprise, he wasn’t a spring chicken) was not appropriate for Joe Antivaxxer’s social media feed.

    Well, that last sentence is true regardless.

    One wonders if the antivaxxers would voluntarily put their entire medical records out in public the moment each visit, test result, etc. become known. (One also wonders how much this would show that they just don’t timely get monitored by people whose familiarity with health status exceeds that obtained by ill-directed searches on WebMD — and, thus, don’t get the care possible via preventive medicine.)

  2. dbinmn says

    My spouse was hospitalized a couple months ago for serious saddle blood clots. After successful treatment and as it sank in how dangerously close I came to becoming a widow, there was no shortage of insensitive idiots and FB doctors out here declaring it was due to the vaccine. Forget a previous bout long before covid or that some siblings have suffered similar, though much less serious issues. They will use any death or illness to push their agenda.

  3. mordred says

    Of course it’s not only individual deaths the antivaxxers use for their bullshit.

    When the first doses of the covid vaccines were used here in Germany, the antivaxxers gleefully published the number of deaths happening in the following weeks among the vaccinated, ignoring that the first to receive the vaccines where the inhabitants of nursing homes and other people at high risk of dying from covid – who usually had an above average risk of dying anyway.

    I suppose they pulled that shit in other countries too.

  4. Silentbob says

    I’m very sorry to hear of the death of Dr Harriet Hall of That comes as quite a shock.

  5. raven says

    Ironically, who is really dying needless deaths by the hundreds of thousands are…the antivaxxers.

    It is estimated that in the US, 330,000 antivaxxers have died from the Covid-19 virus. When the pandemic was intense, the number of people in the ICUs on vents ran around 95% antivaxxers.

    The Covid-19 virus vaccines have saved the lives of 3.2 million people in the USA, one of which might well have been myself.

    With the current XBBB.1.5 wave, once again the ICUs are crowded with patients dying from the virus, and many of them are once again,…antivaxxers.

  6. says

    I have good memories of Dr. Hall.
    A number of years ago I was involved with a local (Seattle area) skeptics group called the Society for Sensible Explanations. Bill Nye was one of the original members and I saw him at a few meetings in the early 90’s.
    For a few years Dr. Hall was the leader and organizer of SSE. She gave a few talks herself and would recruit interesting people to talk to the group. She was funny and personable and I always enjoyed the conversations we had.

  7. raven says

    I’ve dealt a lot with the antivaxxers over the last year.

    They are almost all far rightwingnut Trump voters.
    They are almost all fundie xians.

    They almost never figure out that they were wrong.
    The antivaxxers will spend time in the ICU and, if they survive, will post antivax memes from their long term care rehabilitation facility while hooked up to an oxygen tank.

    They will watch family members die from the Covid-19 virus and will still be antivaxxers. Some of these families have lost 2 or more people to the virus.

    When antivaxxers die from the virus, which is common, they often blame the doctors and the hospitals. According to them, the medical system is getting rich from killing patients in the ICUs.
    That goes over well with the medical staff, who are overworked, have seen years of horror by now, and in some cases, have caught the virus themselves and either died or ended up being long termers.

    Most of who could be expected to be antivaxxers, the New Age leftist leaners, aren’t. They looked at the virus, looked at the death toll, looked at the antivaxxers, and got the vaccines. All the Pagans I know got vaccinated as soon as they could.

  8. raven says

    There really aren’t that many antivaxxers.
    The numbers vary from poll to poll but here is a recent one.

    They get 7% strong antivaxxers in the USA.
    81% of the US population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot.

    Estimating the size of “anti-vax” and vaccine hesitant populations in the US, UK, and Canada

    Estimating the size of “anti-vax” and vaccine hesitant populations in the US, UK, and Canada: comparative latent class modeling of vaccine attitudes
    Timothy B. Gravelle, a , b Joseph B. Phillips, c Jason Reifler, d and Thomas J. Scotto e

    For each country, the modal class comprises those who “strongly support” vaccines. Importantly, despite concerns about vaccines being common, a majority are in one of the two pro-vaccine classes (UK: 76%, Canada: 69%, and US 60%). In all three countries, the percentage classified as ardently “anti-vax” is very small.
    Only 7% of American and Canadian respondents and 3% of British respondents can be identified as anti-vax.

  9. wzrd1 says

    Gotta love the died suddenly of a longstanding chronic illness.
    As opposed to died slowly from an agonizing acute bout of hypoxia due to immune overesponse to COVID.

    What is amazing is how much power such a minority is given.

  10. Randall Slonaker says

    If 7 percent of Americans are anti-vaxxers, that amounts to over 23 million people. If 3 percent of Canadians follow suit, that means almost 11.5 million Canadians are antivaxxers.

  11. Randall Slonaker says

    If 7 percent of Americans are anti-vaxxers, that amounts to over 23 million people. If 3 percent of Canadians follow suit, that means almost 11.5 million Canadians are antivaxxers.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    I will die suddenly at 70, having reached a body weight of 270 pounds and Zod knows how many other contributing factors.
    But -most important- I have had three covid vaccine injections. The nanobots spreading through my body are probably reporting my every move to the Bilderberg Group.

  13. Knabb says

    @12,13 Randall Slonaker
    -Your Canadian numbers are way off, looking more 30% than 3% percent. Quick googling gives a total Canadian population of 38.25 million, 3% of which is 1.15 million. I suspect you multiplied by 0.3 instead of 0.03.

  14. gijoel says

    Anti-vaxers have tried blaming Damar Hamlin’s heart attack on vaccines.

    But this is part of their business model. They have to cast doubt/deny the efficacious of science based medicine or they’d go broke.

  15. whheydt says

    Re: birgerjohanson @ #17…
    There must be life after death…I’m 73. Oh, and I’ve had 5 COVID shots so far (that last on, in October, being the “bivalent” shot). When my wife “died suddenly” at 80, it was 6 months after she’d been diagnosed with ALS. That’s something with no cure, virtually no treatments, and no known cause. Unlike COVID.

  16. says

    I’m sorry to hear. These ghouls don’t understand anything, but proclaim to know everything. Blaming everything on vaccines is convenient, because almost everybody got some.