Coronavirus offers a tragic history lesson for anti-vaxxers

The phrase Corona virus on a banner with blurred Chinese flag on the background.

People are dying, massive quarantines are in effect and the financial markets are reeling.

Why? Coronavirus.

After infecting tens of thousands in China, the novel coronavirus has reached dozens of other countries — at least 48 in total. Public health officials say it’s almost inevitable the illness will spread more extensively within the U.S. So what do we know about COVID-19, and how can we prepare for a broader outbreak? …”

It’s not easy to prepare when we aren’t familiar with the behavior of the virus. As infectious disease specialist Peter Hotez, MD explains:

Unfortunately, because this is a new virus agent, there’s more we don’t know than we do know. We think it’s highly likely that this virus is transmitted by what we call droplet contact. By that, somebody sneezes or coughs and releases micro -droplets into the air that either land on surfaces that people will touch with their hands and bring to their face, or the droplets will directly contact to the face, and they will rub that into their mucous membranes of their eyes and nose.

There is reason for concern:

However, the World Health Organization, Dr. Bruce Aylward, came out a couple of days ago, and he says he thinks that 2 percent number is real. And that’s a pretty significant mortality rate, because a typical seasonal flu, for instance, which still kills a lot of people in the United States, as the president pointed out last night, will kill around 0.1 to 0.2.

So we’re talking about something that is maybe 10 to 20 times more lethal than typical seasonal influenza. So, that’s really concerning, the fact that it’s so highly transmissible, and it has that high case fatality rate.

So I think we’re going to be — have to be — watch this very closely, especially in the United States in the coming weeks.

While the media is filled with medical experts attempting to get a handle on the virus and prevent transmission, notice who ISN’T being interviewed: no one in a responsible position is consulting anti-vaxxers and their charlatan “experts.”


The anti-vax movement rests on several fundamental premises, premises that its aficiandos can hold because they face no threat from the diseases vaccines are designed to prevent. These premises include:

Vaccine preventable illnesses were prevalent because of poor sanitation.
They weren’t that bad.
Natural immunity to disease is preferable to vaccine induced immunity.
Vaccines cause more health problems than they prevent.
Vaccines exist just to enrich pharmaceutical companies.

The potential coronavirus crisis gives us a window into what the crises of smallpox, diphtheria, polio, rubella and other diseases were all about: devastating diseases, easily transmissible, with no effective treatment and no way to prevent them.

While coronavirus may turn out to be less deadly in the US than it has been in China, no one is suggesting that it isn’t that bad.

There’s no evidence that it can be prevented by sanitation. Sure hand washing can help but the disease is transmitted by droplets sneezed out by those who are ill.

Natural immunity couldn’t save the hundreds who have already died and there’s some evidence that massive natural immune response leads to death in affected individuals.

Doctors and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine because they know that an effective vaccine will save lives on a massive scales.

People are desperate for a vaccine.

Are you afraid of coronavirus as it heads to the US? That’s how people felt about smallpox, diphtheria, polio and even the flu a century ago. They could strike anyone, at any time, and permanently maim or kill.

That’s why scientists developed vaccines.

If a safe vaccine could be developed, would you refuse it and take your chances with coronavirus? Probably not, right?

Do you think that coronavirus is a minor problem being hyped solely for the benefits of the pharmaceutical companies that will ultimately produce a vaccine? No? Then perhaps you can understand why a century ago people didn’t feel that way about smallpox, diphtheria, polio or even flu vaccines.

We are watching a viral scourge unfold in real time. I have no doubt that we will eventually develop a vaccine for coronavirus. We’ve done it many times before; there’s no reason we can’t do it again. And I have no doubt that if vaccination for coronavirus becomes routine in order to protect the health of future generations, there will eventually be anti-vaxxers wailing that the vaccine is unnecessary, that the disease is caused by poor sanitation, that “natural” immunity is better than vaccine induced immunity and that it was a scam developed to benefit pharmaceutical companies.

In the meantime anti-vaxxers might want to consider that their fundamental premises — which obviously don’t apply to coronavirus — don’t apply to other vaccine preventable diseases, either.