In his book ‘The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: a Scientist’s Warning’, Peter Hotez notes that health misinformation is organised, well-financed, and politically motivated.
‘The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: a Scientist’s Warning’ by Peter Hotez, Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, USA, is essential reading for out times. The internationally acclaimed researcher refuses to call the anti-vaccination rhetoric “misinformation” or “infodemic”; he calls it the anti-science movement as it is organised, well-financed, and politically motivated.
According to the Lancet, Hotez created an illustrative narrative combining his normative experience as a scientist coupled with a wealth of literature and informative visualisations. Hotez shares his living experience as a researcher and his coping strategies against anti-vaccine rhetoric stemming from his fierce opponents and anti-vaccine lobbyist.
In a recent interview with Scientific American, he says, it is the ecosystem that’s doing a lot of damage to the country and to American science and scientists. “And now it’s reached a new level. It’s become a lethal force. It’s the fact that [at least] 200,000 Americans needlessly perished [between June 2021 and March 2022] because they refused the COVID vaccine during the [Delta and Omicron COVID waves], and they were victims of this organised campaign.”
Hotez has a long history of confronting anti-vaccine groups. In his prior work, ‘Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism’, Hotez, who has a daughter with autism, debunked the claim that vaccines cause autism. He says about a decade ago, he noticed a shift in their tactics. These groups, perhaps due to the diminishing support for the vaccine-autism link, began integrating themselves into American politics, aligning with the Republican Tea Party even before the pandemic. Hotez says their focus centered on the notions of health freedom and medical freedom, which ultimately unravelled during the COVID-19 crisis.
During the pandemic, an overwhelming volume of health information flooded through news and social media channels, culminating in what the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations labelled as an infodemic. It led to confusion among masses across the world, giving rise to conspiracy theories, with some people rejecting COVID-19 vaccines, others refusing to comply with essential public health measures such as masking and physical distancing. A significant number of people even dismissed COVID-19 as a myth.