I feel like half my life is spent goggle-eyed in amazement at the stupidity of humanity

This is about right: the COVID vaccines have been proven effective and safe, are now readily available, and are cheap. But there are still people adamantly opposed to the best treatment.

xkcd: The vaccine stuff seems pretty simple. But if you take a closer look at the data, it's still simple, but bigger. And slightly blurry. Might need reading glasses.

Part of the problem is that quacks get away with it. You can disseminate criminally dangerous misinformation as an MD, you can kill patients with bad advice and ineffective, even deadly treatments, and get away with it.

A Wisconsin doctor in 2021 prescribed ivermectin, typically used to treat parasitic infections, to two covid-19 patients who later died of the disease. He was fined less than $4,000 — and was free to continue practicing.

A Massachusetts doctor has continued practicing without restriction despite being under investigation for more than a year over allegations of “disseminating misinformation” and prescribing unapproved covid treatments, including ivermectin, to a patient who died in 2022, according to medical board records.

And in Idaho, a pathologist who falsely promoted the effectiveness of ivermectin over coronavirus vaccines on social media has not been disciplined despite complaints from fellow physicians that his “dangerous and troubling” statements and actions “significantly threatened the public health.”

Across the country, doctors who jeopardized patients’ lives by pushing medical misinformation during the pandemic and its aftermath have faced few repercussions, according to a Washington Post analysis of disciplinary records from medical boards in all 50 states.

State medical boards charged with protecting the American public often failed to stop doctors who went against medical consensus and prescribed unapproved treatments for covid or misled patients about vaccines and masks, the Post investigation found.

Another part of the problem is gross politicization. It is currently the policy of the Republican party to encourage the early death of their electorate, and hopefully snipe off a few Democrats with terrible medical advice.

“State boards can only do limited things,” said Humayun Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards, a nonprofit that represents the licensing agencies. “The most common refrain I hear from state licensing boards is they would like to have more resources — meaning more individuals who can investigate complaints, more attorneys, more people who can process these complaints sooner — to do their job better.”

Instead, the opposite is happening: The boards face new efforts, largely by Republican state legislators and attorneys general, to rein in their authority in ways that are “potentially dangerous and harmful to patient care,” Chaudhry said.

Florida legislators passed a law in May that effectively prevents professional boards from punishing doctors accused of spreading covid misinformation online.

Six other states have limited the power of medical boards to discipline physicians for prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine.

Yeah, Florida. It’s never good news when the words “Florida” or “Texas” are in the article.

At least now we know how humans will respond to an apocalypse: with doubt, cynicism, and lies.


  1. Dunc says

    At least now we know how humans will respond to an apocalypse: with doubt, cynicism, and lies.

    We already knew that, they’ve been doing it for decades. In fact, I’d argue that’s where a lot of this stuff originates – once you sign on for denialism in one area, it tends to metastatize, and climate denialism has been a mainstay of the right since the mid-nineties at the latest.

  2. Ridana says

    It isn’t even just doctors. I’m still stunned at how many nurses are anti-vaxxers. How does a person get through med school or nursing school and still think like it’s the 19th century? What goes through their minds during their classes that they learn what they’re supposed to while simultaneously rejecting it all. Are these the same sorts of zealots who get law degrees and science PhDs just so they can have the credentials to jam a stick in the spokes? I can’t even.

  3. wzrd1 says

    Ridana @ 2, that most certainly is not a stick in the spokes. It is decidedly, most assuredly, a steel crow bar that they’ve jammed into the spokes.
    Frankly, the entire hot mess was well covered in a film. “Don’t Look Up” covered it quite nicely. Alas, there’s no dinosaur infested planet to send the bastards off to.

    Honestly, if rabies were to somehow become airborne, I’m sure these creatures would start a new campaign, “Take a deep breath and relax”.
    Unfortunately, we do have free speech as a protected right. That said, while speech is free, repercussions are not protected again, so one can be civilly or professionally liable for damages as consequence of harm caused by non-factual speech.
    With civil courts, professional associations both being the foxes that guard the hen house.
    Well, should such come to pass, welcome to the endangered species list.
    Although, I’d be unsurprised to hear that some suddenly demand the reintroduction of smallpox. They just are that perverse.

  4. raven says

    At least now we know how humans will respond to an apocalypse: with doubt, cynicism, and lies.

    If there is ever a Zombie outbreak, we now know the movies are wrong.

    A significant fraction of the population, mostly MAGAs will deny that it is happening, even as the Zombie hordes take over the local mall.
    Another significant fraction of the population will take no precautions or measures to prevent themselves from being infected by the Zombie virus and turning into…Zombies themselves.

    The internet will be overrrun with people claiming it is all a conspiracy by the Democrats to control us, the Zombies aren’t really dangerous, they are a Chinese bioweapon, and Zombies die when they hear the word Ivermectin.

  5. wzrd1 says

    And zombies are a totally normal state of being, a common cold and people are naturally zombies.
    But, hydroxychloroquine will fix everything right up.

  6. R. L. Foster says

    Screw ’em. I got my 5th covid vax last month. I’ll keep getting them whenever they become available. I’ve had covid twice. Once before the vaccinations came out and once again afterwards. There was no comparison in severity. The first time I thought I might die. The second time I went through a box of tissues. Give me those old time vaccinations any day.

  7. raven says

    In Realityland, the Covid-19 vaccines were a stunning achievement of modern medicine that saved millions of lives.
    It is amazing that we managed to identify a novel virus, design a vaccine, and mass produce it in a year. The mRNA technology is complicated but works well. In times past, this would have taken a decade at least.

    .1. The number of US antivaxxers who caught the Covid-19 virus and died is around 330,000.
    .2. The number of US lives saved by the vaccines is around 3.2 million.
    That is a lot.

    One of those lives saved was probably mine. I’m in several high risk groups and still alive.

  8. flex says

    @2, Ridana,

    I can’t speak for the medical profession, but I can say that in the engineering world there are a certain percentage of people who entered the field because it was a job and payed pretty good money.

    These engineers do get through engineering school without a good grasp of mathematics, or even an intuitive sense of what works in reality (sooo, why did you use a 0.5W sense resistor in the main current path for your power supply? How much current is going to go through that resistor again?).

    Generally we work around them, or they go into program management and really screw things up (you want it when?).

    Is this another failure we should lay at the feet of capitalism? That the need for people to have enough money to feed themselves means that people enter professions they have no interest in understanding?

    Or is this a case of certain professions having respect, and thus power, other other people? Which is then abused. I’ve known gamers who deliberately screw up the plans, and fun, of other people at the table simply for the lutz. But they are the only ones laughing. And they are laughing because they had the power to make someone else angry.

  9. raven says

    The antivaxxer physicians and nurses are mostly a creation of the GOP and the media. They exist but have been given an importance and visibility greater than their numbers by the right wingnut party.

    Guardian 2021:

    In contrast, 88% of nurses and 96% of physicians in the US have already gotten vaccinated or plan to do so, according to surveys by the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association.

    Vaccination rates among US physicians is now around 96%.
    It’s lower among nurses but still high at 88%.

    Antivaxxer nurses and doctors exist but they are a small minority of their groups.

    What’s the nation’s progress on vaccinations? At least 270,227,181 people or 81% of the population have received at least one dose. Overall, 230,637,348 people or 70% of the population are considered fully vaccinated.

    US Coronavirus vaccine tracker | USAFacts USAFacts

    A large majority of the US population has been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.

    The hard core antivaxxers run around 8% of the population.

  10. billseymour says

    flex @11:  you’re undoubtedly right about why lots of folks choose reasonably well paid professions; but anti-vaxxers and ivermectin pushers in the medical field strike me as something like a mechanical engineer who doesn’t “believe in” the lever.

  11. robro says

    As I’ve pointed out before, not all anti-vaxxers are in the thralls of the Chump/GOP gang. They are aging hippy “naturalists”. They are as wrong headed as they can be, but for a different reason than that Chump’s gang.

    Speaking of the Chump gang. Rudy Giuliani is admitting he made false statements about Georgia election workers. It is sort of a technical squirm. The stipulation says he is doing it to “avoid unnecessary expenses in litigating what he believes to be unnecessary disputes.” Wonder if that means he’s broke.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Raven @ 7
    That would be a good topic for a black comedy. Something along the lines of “Oops, Apocalypse” from the 1980s.

    Or an even darker humor than Shaun of the Dead

  13. birgerjohansson says

    @ 16
    Piers Morgan would dismiss warnings as “operation fear”. And Nigel Farage would attempt to re-launch his career by opposing those who recommend caution. Murdoch and the gutter press would scream about a leftie elite making scary claims to reduce people’s freedom.
    As Boris Johnson is seen eating people The Sun and The Daily Mail will write “he was just defending himself from immigrants”.

    (In Merica, it would be other names…
    Mitch McConnell would block anti-zombie spending unless Medicaid is abolished)

  14. flex says

    @11, billseymour,

    Laugh if you will, but I’ve run across mechanical engineers who will use a lever which is set up for them, but if they need more mechanical advantage will move the fulcrum the wrong direction and wonder why that didn’t help.

    They may be even very skilled in their narrow field, say mold-flow analysis, but outside of their field I wouldn’t trust them with a sharp pencil. They don’t have an intuitive understanding of how forces work, that’s something out of “Star Wars”.

    I’m certain there are nurses, like these engineers, who are competent in following the hospital rules and requirements without understanding the underlying principles, the reason those rules exist, for their profession.

  15. says

    “A Wisconsin doctor in 2021 prescribed ivermectin, typically used to treat parasitic infections, to two covid-19 patients who later died of the disease. He was fined less than $4,000 — and was free to continue practicing.”

    bUt mEdICaL fReE-dUmB!!! Or something. Honestly, this asshat should have been arrested and spent a few weeks in jail. Bit that’s just me.

  16. Rich Woods says

    @billseymour #13:

    anti-vaxxers and ivermectin pushers in the medical field strike me as something like a mechanical engineer who doesn’t “believe in” the lever.

    Oh, the lever exists all right, but it just doesn’t work in the way that all you rigid-object mechanical-advantage Nazis want to compel us to believe in order to further your nefarious world domination agenda.

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    A while ago at a store, I ran into an MD I used to consider a friend before extreme conspiracism devoured his brain.

    He asked about my vaccination status, I told him I’d had four, and he encouraged me to get more – with a twisted smile that I read as meaning he was thereby trying to kill me. An actually harmless, but almost-scary and undeniably depressing encounter.

  18. acroyear says

    Time to just sue the party itself. On every medical topic, in the federal, courts, and in every state, they have decided to be your doctor and act like they know better than real medical professionals.

    So sue them. Call them on it. Medical malpractice has consequences, and if the Republicans insist on acting like shitty medical advisors, they should be treated that way.

    Sue the hell out of them, for medical malpractice.

  19. says

    These simple steps are great: proven safe/effective vaccines, distancing and masking. CDC (far from perfect) say at year end we will face triple infections, RSV, Flu and Covid. We are fully vaccinated (but not over-vaccinated). And, we are, and will continue to, mask and distance for MANY reasons. That protects others from germs we might give them, protects us from germs might give us. It prevents lots of allergies. It prevents the camera intrusive surveillance and facial recognition in MANY stores. It prevents us having to be near the rtwingnut xtian terrorists and more.

    As PZ points out doctors are not perfect either. We want info from a number of factual competent sources on any issue, medical, legal or social.

    As we published and as we see everywhere; accurate, responsible communication prevents misunderstanding, misinterpretation and nasty trolling.

    What society needs is a worming compound that the rtwingnut xtian terrorists will all go for and that will purge their hateful biases and ignorance.

  20. says

    @10 raven said: I’m in several high risk groups and still alive.
    I reply: I am truly glad you are still alive and figuratively kicking. I would not belittle your statement, but amplify it by saying: We, as humans, are all in a ‘high risk’ group. Welcome to the apocalypse, everyone.

  21. magistramarla says

    I was just reading an interesting thread on my local NextDoor app about elder care residences in our part of California.
    Several people were warning about some very severe problems that have arisen since a corporation began buying up the locally owned elder care homes. Staff has been cut, corners have been cut, maintenance has been ignored and quality of care has declined in those facilities.
    A corporation has already taken over healthcare on our peninsula. It owns the local hospital, a huge doctors’ group, labs, radiology, etc.,and even the local hospice care. It even launched a Medicare advantage program, which is only good locally, locks patients into their network, and has a habit of denying patients referrals and needed care.
    This is what capitalism has done to the care of our elders in this country.
    My husband and I have an advantage, since we can opt to continue coverage by military insurance, so we tend to drive up to San Francisco to consult with specialists. We also know that we will be covered when we travel.
    After bad experiences in Texas hospitals and rehab centers after surgeries, I’ve told my family that I will never, ever consent to an elder care living situation. That’s why we bought a one story home and we are working at getting it to ADA level for my disabilities. I’ve told them that I will only move out of this house when they carry me out in a body bag!

  22. bcw bcw says

    As far as nurses believing odd stuff, there is this:
    My brother was in the hospital and his Jamaican (from her accent) nurse dropped his pills as she was setting them out. Her immediate comment was “the devil is very strong today.”

    Other than being a great catch-phrase for all minor travails, her reaction raises the question: when she screws up, does she blame the devil or try to figure out how not to do it again? That said, she did, throw out the pills and get him new medication.

  23. brightmoon says

    I know a lot of people who blame the devil when they have small mainly annoying problems. Some are joking , some mean it. I’ve met a lot of medical doctors who don’t understand biology too. They scare me!

  24. says

    Ever since Google Reader was killed off, I’ve been using Feedly. This is what it had to say about this post:

    Feedly AI found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
    • Florida legislators passed a law in May that effectively prevents professional boards from punishing doctors accused of spreading covid misinformation online.

  25. wzrd1 says

    robro @ 14, Rudy’s trying to avoid complying with a discovery order for his case. So, he gave an interview, big shit. It’s not sworn testimony before a court and one effective court defense when interviews were cited by the court was that he was lying to the reporter, but has to tell the truth under oath.
    I predict that that attempt to defend against discovery will fly extremely well – as well as the proverbial lead balloon.

  26. says

    I’m actually someone who has acute to severe reactions to the vaccines. Specifically the Pfizer vaccine. My fever the day after reaches somewhere between 103F and 105F. Last one left me dry heaving for four hours. Guess what, I still get my shots. I’m planning on trying another vaccine in November in the hope it doesn’t make me miserable as hell for three days like every other booster I’ve had. I actually have a real reason to reject the vaccine and I still get it done. It sucks, but I still get it done.

  27. wzrd1 says

    Ray, when I got my shots in the Army, who in their infinite wisdom gives all at once, against medical recommendations, I’d get a fever within hours and end up abed with the fever. I’d be fine the next day, when many of my peers would be similarly felled.
    Fortunately, with the COVID-19 vaccine, I only get a sore as hell arm for a couple of days.

  28. birgerjohansson says

    Magistramaria @25
    Private equity firms biting up elder care facilities are associated with a 10% increase in mortality.

    Private equity exists go give grotesque payouts to the CEOs while everything else is slashed, including long-term investments.
    Once private equity has its claws in a company, the probability of bankrupcy goes up.

  29. birgerjohansson says

    We will not last long enough for the scenario of “idiocracy” to play out.

  30. wzrd1 says

    birgerjohansson @ 34, I remember one of my clients, a reality company that was the largest in the county bought a nursing home and theater. The latter, due to the owner’s wife being a patron of live theater.
    Eventually, the death toll became so high, the county had to order the facility closed. Given the GOP dominance of the county government, that’s saying a hell of a lot of dead elders that died needlessly. Largely, out of neglect, due to short and indifferent staffing.

  31. lumipuna says

    Speaking of covid vaccines, are you folks in different countries still getting new booster shots?

    Also, do you worry about recurring infections and the risk of long covid?

  32. Rob Grigjanis says

    lumipuna @38: Ontario, Canada here. My next (6th) shot will be in October. Yeah, I worry. My mum probably wouldn’t survive another bout with COVID, despite her booster shots.

    Sadly, very few people here are wearing masks (even on crowded buses!), but I continue to wear one when I go out.

  33. raven says

    Also, do you worry about recurring infections and the risk of long covid?

    The vaccine is only good for a year and often even less than that.
    It will still prevent serious disease and death but you will get Covid-19 virus again and wish you hadn’t.
    Everyone who can should get a booster once a year and mine is scheduled for early Fall.

    Everyone should worry about long Covid.
    My friend was found dead on the floor two weeks ago.
    She was 60 and 60 year olds just shouldn’t die suddenly like that.

    She was vaccinated but it didn’t take very well for a variety of reasons.
    Caught the virus last winter and ended up in the hospital, very sick.
    Never really recovered fully. We can’t say it was all long Covid but that was a big part of it.
    She is missed by a lot of people.

  34. lumipuna says

    In Finland, the third shot (second booster) was distributed during the winter 2021-22. It was a scramble, because health authorities had been in no hurry to get that round started until Omicron hit. I received my own third shot, on public expense, exactly 18 months ago now. Shortly after that vaccination round, and the first wave of Omicron infections, we decided that covid was “over” with regard to masking and other precautions.

    Towards the end of 2022, it became increasingly clear that the national health authority had settled on the position that giving more than three shots isn’t worthwhile for low risk adults such as myself. Forth and fifth shots were eventually delivered for many older and high risk folks, such as my parents. The fifth shot was the first one updated for Omicron. For low risk adults, no fourth doses were approved to be sold even on the private healthcare market, for some reason.

    There was much criticism of this policy (of no fourth shots) during last winter. At the turn of 2023, the national health authority released, in the most grudging and bureaucratic manner possible, a small amount of the vaccine to be distributed privately in occupational healthcare. The rationale for withholding further boosters was that the protection against severe acute disease remains very good for at least 12 months, so it was better to wait and watch. Meanwhile, the protection against infection was considered too short-lived and weak to be worth maintaining. There was almost complete denial of the notion that the risks of long covid should be factored in the calculation. There was the suggestion that fully vaccinated people might as well maintain their immunity against severe disease “naturally” by getting infected now and then.

    In early 2023, some critics on social media pointed out that the 12 month mark had already passed for many thrice-vaccinated people. Crickets. The discussion simply died down towards the summer, even disappearing from my Twitter recommendations.

    There had been some talk of giving higher risk people annual boosters every autumn, preferably combined with the flu shot. High risk folks are already eligible for free annual flu shots, but it is unclear whether anyone else could get those combination shots on private expense. The autumn is approaching, and in recent months I haven’t seen a word on this topic on Finnish media. Thus far there has been no decision on giving regular boosters to any group, but each booster round has been decided individually.

  35. wzrd1 says

    So, Finland is planning to greet the Russian army from their COVID sickbeds? Good plan!
    Trust me, that’ll get their attention and likely shift policy.

    Annoyingly, my doctor’s practice, which is one of the largest hospital systems in these parts clinic system, has dropped COVID vaccines. A sign at the practice says that if you want the shot, go to a pharmacy for it.
    Not due my next shot until October. But, when they suggest other vaccines, I’ll ask why, given that they dropped the COVID vaccine, which COVID is far more severe than what they’re offering immunization against.
    I did get COVID despite the vaccine, resulting in mitral valve damage, but oddly, my only other symptom was diarrhea, no cough or fever. Could’ve gone without the valve damage as well, but complaining about it gets one nowhere.

  36. lumipuna says

    Thus far there has been no decision on giving regular boosters to any group, but each booster round has been decided individually.

    Correction: Actually, it was announced in late 2022 that high risk groups can get regular new boosters every six months. I should discuss this with my parents, because they probably aren’t aware that they should be getting more shots.

  37. jrkrideau says

    @ 38 lumipuna
    From Ontario like Rob Grigjanis. Just got my sixth shot last week. My local pharmacy where I get all the shots called and reminded me I was eligible. Process including filling out a questionnaire took about 5 minutes.

    I think I’m eligible for another one in December.