Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate, Allen West, was hospitalized this weekend with Covid-19-related pneumonia and low blood oxygen levels. As he recovers in the hospital, West took to Twitter to voice criticism of vaccine mandates and the government’s response to the pandemic.
Unvaccinated, and seemingly proud of it, West railed against vaccines and vaccine mandates, calling them “dangerous.” He wrote: “Instead of jabbing Americans with a dangerous shot which injects them with these spike proteins … guess what? I now have natural immunity and double the antibodies, and that’s science.”
What West is propagating, however, is not science. It’s also untrue.
Instead of pushing for vaccinations, West asks, why is the government not “promoting protocols such as Regeneron monoclonal antibody infusion therapy? Why not promote … Hydroxychloroquine, and yes, Ivermectin?”
In hospital, West has been undergoing monoclonal antibody therapy, and is also taking hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. While a monoclonal antibody therapy has obtained emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are not approved as treatments for Covid-19, as evidence does not support their use.
Curiously, West inveighs against the establishment by stating that “instead of enriching the pockets of Big Pharma and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, we should be advocating the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.”
This begs the question, who makes the monoclonal antibody in question? Of course, it’s Regeneron, a large pharmaceutical firm. Moreover, a Covid-19 vaccine costs about $40 for two doses, while a monoclonal antibody treatment is $2,100, in addition to the Covid-19 hospital stay which can run to tens of thousands of dollars.
Here, Benjamin Franklin’s adage applies: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In all likelihood, had West been vaccinated, he would have avoided getting hospitalized and incurring costly medical bills. In addition, there’s an opportunity cost involved, whereby West is unnecessarily using up scarce hospital resources, which could have been deployed for other patients.
Does West care? Probably not. He went on to express his gratitude that “medical professionals [in the hospital] listened to [him] and not some boiler plate CDC, Dr Fauci, or Texas Medical Board mandates.” This suggests a deep-seated solipsism, but also an irrational aversion to anything connected to the government.
It’s also a reflection of what public health officials and policymakers are up against. The anti-science movement is insidious. And, West is not an innocent bystander. He’s actively undermining public health by asserting that the “government is running propaganda commercials of people who lost loved ones to COVID saying they wish they had taken the shot. This level of manipulative deception must end.”
The implied advice to his followers is harmful. And, it’s not merely misinformation. It’s disinformation that’s been espoused by a motley crew of influential television and radio personalities, politicians, and anti-government contrarians.
Long before the arrival of the Delta variant, there was plenty of mis- and disinformation. But, it’s been especially pernicious since May of this year and has contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
Why has the Delta wave ravaged the U.S. to a degree not seen in any peer nation (similar in terms of gross domestic product per capita)? Well, mostly it’s due to a much lower vaccination rate. While vaccines aren’t perfect they are very good at preventing severe illness. They save lives. By making this into a culture war, West and his fellow self-proclaimed freethinkers are complicit in the deaths of many Americans.
Throughout the pandemic, their pseudo-arguments epitomize the anti-science battle being waged against public health.
When after being hospitalized with Covid-19, someone as intelligent as West still says vaccines are “dangerous” and that he’s “even more dedicated to fighting against vaccine mandates,” it suggests an unwillingness to change, if only for the benefit of fellow citizens to prevent needless suffering.
Perhaps West could learn a thing or two from other firebrand libertarians who did change their tune. For example, before he died of Covid-19, conservative radio host and vaccine-skeptic Phil Valentine had the humility and decency to issue a statement advising people to get vaccinated.