TCH’s Peter Hotez Throws Some Shade on Anti-Vaxxers

Dr. Oeter Hotez delivers his smackdowns in book cover form.
Dr. Oeter Hotez delivers his smackdowns in book cover form. Screenshot
One of the greatest things to come out of the quarantine is judging people on Zoom calls by their bookshelves. In fact, there’s a whole Twitter account dedicated to it. Some people use their shelves to throw shade, and Houston’s own Dr. Peter Hotez went on The Rachel Maddow Show last week to do exactly that.

Hotez is the Co-Director for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital Center as well the Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor. He’s also a frequent guest on Maddow’s show these days to talk about the efforts to fight the COVID outbreak with a new vaccine. Hotez appeared to discuss the recent decision of a government advisory board to move forward with the Pfizer vaccine, which the FDA has also subsequently approved. Hotez was quick to acknowledge safety concerns regarding the speed of the vaccine’s development, but countered it was necessary when 400,000 American deaths were projected by Inauguration Day 2021.

“We now have to vaccinate our way out of this,” he said. “We didn’t have to necessarily get there, but that’s where we are now. The FDA has probably had the single greatest track record on the planet in terms of releasing safe and effective vaccines for the public. A tried and true approach that usually uses at least a year of follow up safety data and efficacy data. If we were to do that, the loss of American lives would be staggering.”

What Hotez is saying is that while it’s possible there will be some bad reactions to the coming vaccines, they will likely be a fraction of people who will die in the country if we do not reach a 60-70 percent rate of vaccination. Already, plenty of people are spreading new conspiracy theories about the dangers and purposes of the vaccines, the most prevalent being that they represent a mind control plot by billionaire Bill Gates. Old chestnuts about crisis actors and tyrannical government takeovers are already in the air. Part of the coming fight against the pandemic will be taking on these screwballs.

“It means countering some pretty stiff resistance from the anti-vaccine movement in this country,” he says.

That’s very diplomatic, but it’s clear that Hotez is more than a little fed up with anti-vaxxer nonsense. Look at the picture at the top of this story and focus on the bottom right. Prominently displayed and facing the camera is Hotez’s own book Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.

The Rachel in question is Hotez’s own daughter, who is on the autism spectrum. In the book, he uses his own family experience as a backdrop to explain the history of the fraudulent link between autism and vaccination that started when discredited and disbarred doctor Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent study in the 1990s and sparked a worldwide movement. Hotez pulls no punches in the book when it comes to his disdain for what Wakefield did, calling his work “a blatantly dishonest and exploitative piece of nonsense.”

Putting the book with its blunt title full on display during an interview is some clear shade from Hotez and a warning of what we’re going to be dealing with in the coming year. The government advisory board’s decision to approve the vaccine for children as young as 16 is sure to bring out legions of anti-science parents crying about toxins being forced into their babies. We are going to have to keep screaming the facts at them since the alternative is literally hundreds of thousands more deaths. Hotez is doing it in his own way where he gets an opportunity.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner