Anti-Vaxxers Turn to Masks for Protection From Vaccinated People
Anti-vaxxers are taking things to a new extreme, with many suggesting they adopt mask and social distancing methods to protect themselves against…wait for it…other vaccinated people.
If vaccinated people cause you more fear than the virus itself, you might be trapped in the conspiracy Q-hole.
I saw one of them wondering if she should protect herself from the vaccine-shedding by wearing a mask and I was like, Yes absolutely do that, oh my god yes.
— Jef Poskanzer (@jefposk) May 4, 2021
While still in the development phase, all sorts of wild and unfounded theories emerged about things like 5G and Bill Gates microchips, DNA mutations and lizard people, but the most prolific in this moment is the spike protein “shedding” issue. To be clear, the theory is not related to shedding of the actual COVID-19 virus.
The growing chorus in anti-vax circles is that contact with vaccinated people, by touch or through respiratory exposure, can cause irregular menstrual cycles, infertility and miscarriages. Those pushing the theory, like the Daily Expose News outlet out of the UK, claim there’s “hidden” proof of the dangers buried in a Pfizer document issued during controlled studies. Their headline reads, “Pfizer document confirms concerns of ‘Viral Shedding’ after thousands of women report irregular bleeding and miscarrage.” A viral TikTok video points to “Page 132” and Daily Expose calls out specific sections, with screenshots and all, of the document in question.
Social media posts and comments have gone so far as to question whether vaccinated people are poisoning the water supply. Photos posted online show signs in some business windows telling vaccinated people to stay out. You’ve likely already heard about the Florida school that won’t allow vaccinated teachers to return to work. Some of the most ardent theory peddlers, such as Dr. Sherri Tenpenny – coined part of the “Disinformation Dozen” by the McGill Office for Science and Society — have suggested staying away from vaccinated people “forever.”
The problem with these claims is, well, everything, but let’s start with the fact that these videos and fake news claims do not explain the generic, template-based language used in most clinical trial documentation. “Page 132” of the November 2020 Pfizer document instructs people who were specifically involved in clinical trials to avoid becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant “for a minimum of 28 days after the last dose of the study intervention.”
Conspiracy theorists conveniently glaze over the fact that nearly all clinical trial participants, for new medications of all stripes, will be asked to avoid pregnancy — nothing in the Pfizer language is uncommon.
On a webpage dedicated to vaccine information related to pregnancy, the University of Chicago School of Medicine states:
“[P]regnancy is a medical condition that typically excludes people from participating in clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of a drug.”
Let’s just put this thing to bed right now. The shedding theory has been debunked by many, many, many ethical news outlets, scientific magazines and real medical experts. Pfizer spokesperson Jerica Pitts bluntly told The Associated Press:
How mRNA vaccines work. (Graphic illustration courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a synthetic mRNA vaccine and does not contain any virus particles. Because there is no virus produced in the body, no shedding occurs within the human body. … The vaccine cannot be inhaled via shedding and can only enter the human body through an administered dose.”
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two-dose formulas are mRNA vaccines.
Messenger RNA (or mRNA) vaccines are not “live,” meaning they are not variants of the virus they’re formulated to inoculate against. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mRNA vaccines instead “teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”
That “immune response” can cause side effects we’ve come to be aware of, including low-grade fever, irritation at the injection site and head and body aches. Those side effects are common among most vaccines, which is the body’s very normal inflammatory response. Fun fact: Inflammation can impact estrogen response that may result in heavier or abnormal periods, according to Loma Linda University School of Medicine hematologist Dr. Akshat Jain, which might explain some of the “testimony” from women after they’ve received vaccination shots.
While it might be tempting to just roll your eyes and laugh these conspiracies off as nonsense, the false claims have real consequences. The U.S. has made amazing progress on the vaccine front since January, however, the most recent data reports that less than 60 percent of the eligible population have received at least one dose. The demand is now rapidly declining, due to a number of factors, but the shedding claim is largely to blame. More contagious and deadly COVID-19 variants are a serious risk without herd immunity, which is becoming less likely by the day.
The most disturbing consequence of this disinformation is the impact on families and friends who part ways on fact versus fiction, which brings us back to the initial point. While we may quietly grin and applaud the anti-maskers now masking up and social distancing for whatever reason, we have to wonder how serious they are about staying away from their vaccinated loved ones. This debunked theory has wormed its way into the minds of otherwise “normal” people, because what they claim is scary, albeit untrue. The peddlers intentionally prey on the vulnerable and distrusting among us who may not be the most media savvy.
The truth is that due to the vaccines, we’re finally making our way out of a long and lonely period of isolation, finally able to hug our parents and share meals together. It’s incredibly sad that a handful of conspiracy theorists are using blatant lies about life-saving vaccines to instead keep us at risk and apart.
I guess there’s no cure for stupidity. Perhaps this is problem that’s far more damaging in the long run, than COVID-19.