COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

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Day 284: Stay Safe Minnesota

Dangerous Covid-19 conspiracy theories are rampantly circulating in the media reportedly becoming mainstream.

A recent news media reported that a suburban Milwaukee (Wisconsin) pharmacist deliberately ruined hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing it from refrigeration for two nights. Citing police in Grafton, Wisconsin, the New York Times reporters Shaila Dewan and Kay Nolan write that the pharmacist was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA”.

“The world is crashing down around us. He continued to say that the government is planning cyberattacks and plans to shut down the power grid.”

Pharmacist Mr. Brandenburg told his wife (source: The New York Times)

There is a long list of such conspiracies theories which relate to clandestine government plans, elaborate murder plots, espionage, ethnicity & religion, medicine, vaccine and others.

Vaccine conspiracy are widespread in US and other nations. “It is claimed that the pharmaceutical industry has mounted a cover-up of a causal link between vaccines and autism, after the publication in Britain in 1998 of a fraudulent paper by discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield,” Wikipedia reports.

The World of Conspiracy Theories

The University of Utah professor of philosophy, James Tabery writes in the university’s Perspective about “The strange world of COVID-19 conspiracy theories“. He writes that conspiracy theories about COVID-19 abound and proliferate on social media and a few them noted in the articles are:

  • The 5G variety: These purport in one way or another to attribute the pandemic to the roll out of 5G cell towers—either that the towers magnify the transmission of the virus, or that the towers are the actual cause of the illness.
  • Bill Gates variety: These put the founder of Microsoft behind the whole affair—either that he’s cashing in on the infectious disease to make money off a vaccine, or that he’s actually engineering the whole thing and planning to insert digital microchips in all of us under the guise of a vaccine.
  • U.S. government variety: These versions mark the federal government as the nefarious force—either that the CIA created the virus and released it on the unsuspecting Chinese people, or that public-servant scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci are using the virus to make the American populace dependent on a government vaccine.

Likewise, associate editor, Tanya Lewis in the Scientific American and Ruth Reader in FastCompany list additional conspiracy theories and explain (below, in their own words) why many people believe ‘persistent Covid-19 myths‘ and make it harder to fight back against such corrosive conspiracy theories.

  • Covid-19 was made in lab: Because the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan, China, conservative media outlets and others have claimed, without evidence, that it started in a lab there, and some conspiracy theorists believe it was engineered as a bioweapon.
  • COVID-19 is the same as the flu: Since the beginning of the pandemic, both public officials and media outlets drew comparisons between COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. President Trump has downplayed about the disease’s severity, saying it is no more dangerous than seasonal influenza. The intent seemed to be to quell public hysteria over the rapidly spreading illness. However, this perspective provided fodder for conspiracy theorists to propagate the idea that COVID-19 is a hoax.
  • Masks don’t work: Despite a strong consensus among public health authorities that masks limit transmission of coronavirus, many people (the president included) have refused to wear one. The idea that masks don’t work to shield people from COVID-19 or prevent its spread was born out of a public health mishap.
  • Vaccines change your genetic code: Because COVID-19 vaccine uses different technology than past vaccines, that it permanently changes a person’s DNA—which is simply not true. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA, which teaches the body how to develop antibodies to fight COVID-19. This technology does not fundamentally change a person’s DNA.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment: A small study in France suggested the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine might be effective at treating the disease, President Trump and others seized on it. The study is now widely criticized, but some people have continued to tout the medication despite growing evidence that it does not benefit COVID-19 patients.
  • Increases in cases are the result of increased testing: The spikes were merely the result of more people being tested, a theory promoted by President Trump.
  • Herd immunity will protect us: In the beginning of the Pandemic, some speculated that the U.K. and Sweden were planning to let the coronavirus circulate through their populations until they reached herd immunity—the point at which enough people are immune to the virus that it can no longer spread.
  • A COVID-19 vaccine will be unsafe: Worrying reports have emerged that many people may refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is available. Conspiracy theories about potential vaccines have circulated among anti-vaxxer groups and in viral videos. In Plandemic, Mikovits falsely claims that any COVID-19 vaccine will “kill millions” and that other vaccines have done so.

“Conspiracy theories usually hide in the shadows, but this year they became mainstream. Because so little was known about COVID-19 when it emerged, people became more susceptible to narratives of which they might otherwise be skeptical. In the absence of authoritative, clear information, falsities floated to the top,” Ruth Reader writes in the FastCompany.

Conspiracy theories weren’t drawn to any particular conspiracy theory. Rather, they were just skeptical of the official, government story. So, any alternatives to the official version of events—even alternatives that were mutually incompatible—were judged believable.

A University of Kent Study (source: The U of Utah Perspective)

In the New York Times OpEd column, Kwame Anthony Appiah, who teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. writes even doctors are voicing conspiracy theories.Conspiracy Theories.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Jan 6, 9 a.m.) 17,288,950 doses have been distributed and 5,306,797 doses administered.

Coronavirus Pandemic Watch

According to the MDH latest tally (as of Jan 6, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 427,587 (out of 5,762,307 tested) with 5,528 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of Jan 5, 1:21 p.m.) there are 20,949,471 confirmed covid19 infection with 355,650 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 86,165,772 with 1,863,065 deaths.