Contrarian Take: Covid Vaccine & the End of Anti-Vaxxers



The modern Anti-Vaxxer movement of recent years traces its origins to a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 by (then Dr.) Andrew Wakefield linking 12 children who developed autism soon after vaccine administration. We later learn that Wakefield was funded by litigants against vaccine manufacturers, a detail he failed to disclose.

The paper was formally retracted by 10 of Wakefield‘s 12 coauthors; Worse still, in 2009 we learned in The Sunday Times that Wakefield had manipulated patient data and misreported results, falsely creating an appearance of a link with autism. In 2010 The Lancet’s editors fully retracted the paper. Wakefield was barred from practicing medicine in the UK.


In 2020, surveys by the Pew Research Center suggest only than 60% of Americans say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine. I have different take: I expect that number to be much higher, greater than 90%; further, I expect the Covid vaccines will mark the beginning of the end of Anti-Vaxxer movement in the USA.

War game a few scenarios out, considering social, legal liability and health care issues, and you see why this contrarian take is a very realistic possibility.

Begin with the development of these various vaccines, and how different the process was. A huge financial incentive always surrounds any pharmaceutical or biotech company developing cures, treatments, and vaccines for diseases. This incentive is why so much secrecy surrounds the research, strategies, specific methodologies under development, even which diseases are under investigation. With billions of dollars at stake, companies have every incentive to keep what they do secret, saying little in public to keep their competitors in the dark.

The massive amount of capital, speed, and global demand for a Covid-19 vaccine changed that dynamic dramatically. Partnerships were quickly struck between companies, so the usual secrecy was compromised. Government dollars mandated full disclosure, data releases, and regular updates. These are very different timelines and procedures than normal drug development. It may not be perfect, but it seems vastly more transparent than what usually occurs.

Next, consider the institutions and social pressures that will be weighing in: Its clear from the early discussions of re-opening schools that the Teachers Unions were not happy with various state, town and city plans. Without liability protections for schools and administrators, they will manage to the most conservative risk posture. Imagine this litigation choice: Being sued by a family of someone whose Covid19 death is traced to the school, or being sued by someone who demands on sending their kid to school unvaccinated. It is a no-brainer as which case you would rather defend against.

So Public schools will likely insist that if you want to enroll your child, they must be vaccinated. Once that occurs, Private schools and non-union districts are likely to follow suit.

Doctor’s offices may have a similar protocol: If you want your kid to be my patient than for the protection of my staff and other patients, you must be vaccinated, and with far fewer exemptions, too.

Next, consider large businesses: Airlines are exploring health passports, while some have already said proof of Covid vaccine will be required to book flights. Ticketmaster is requiring similar proof to attend live events.

Same with offices: barring any state laws offering exemptions, why would landlords want the liability? I can forsee new leases including a mandatory Covid vaccination clause. My partners and I manage a firm with about ~35 employees; do we want to take a risk that one of our employees gives another Covid? Making vaccinations mandatory is going to be policy at a lot of firms regardless of size.

All of which makes the demand for liability waivers not only undesirable but deeply counter-productive. Potential liability creates the incentives that might lead to a near universal vaccination rate against Covid-19.

But second level thinking is this: Once the world sees  these vaccines are safe and effective and helping to return life return to some semblance of normal, it will be increasingly difficult for the Anti-Vaxxers to keep making their false and unjustifiable claims.

Call it a pandemic bonus: The flat-earthers who keep pushing a discredited theory will get pushed further and further out to the fringe.


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