“Such individuals are extremely rare, and I suspect the handful of them that exist are already known because prominence is their primary objective,” said one virologist in Spokane, Washington.
Indeed, in follow-up conversations, several responders had a variety of theories about why some individuals might abuse their platform and reputation that way, including bitterness from lack of recognition, religious beliefs clouding their judgment, the prospect of fame, compensation connected to promoting alternative products, political allegiances, and even personal vendettas.
But the experts emphasized that such individuals are exceptions to the rule, and that their actions put self-aggrandizement above the well-being of their fellow Americans.
“There is a risk associated with both getting vaccinated and not getting vaccinated,” a pediatrician practicing in Atlanta, Georgia, acknowledged, “but where the risk of a severe negative reaction to the shots is one in a million, the risk of death from the virus is 1 in 100. I’m suspicious of anyone who doesn’t seem to understand the difference.”
Dr. Luisa Borrell, a social epidemiology professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy in New York, told me that any individuals misrepresenting such data “should know better,” and that they “do a disservice to the public.”
Dr. Thomas Lee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, explained that if public health officials “do not acknowledge the clear benefits to the community that the COVID-19 vaccine brings, they are not being honest with the people whom they are meant to serve.”
“They are undermining the health and national security of the United States,” said Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona. “The spread of misinformation is, in my opinion, as severe of a problem as the infection itself. In my view, their behavior is unethical.”