Death threats won’t stop this doctor from advocating for vaccines


In the U.S., we now have an outbreak of measles where the cases number more than it has in decades. Most of the people being infected are unvaccinated, and we’ve all seen the media reports of the growing tide of anti-vaxxers. While the CDC, WHO, and pretty much every medical and scientific authority across the globe stand by the efficacy and safety of vaccines, those opposed rather rely on the “science” of popular celebrities like Robert Kennedy (who is in fact profiting from his book he wrote against vaccines) and Dr. Wakefield (the now discredited doctor who lost his medical license after he was shown to have tampered with study findings to show that the MMR vaccine causes autism).

Many doctors are speaking out about the plentitude of misinformation that has flooded social media over recent years. Despite the fact that doctors come armed to the discussion with real science and the support of the scientific and medical community (did I mention this is across the entire earth and not just a US conspiracy), anti-vaxxers attack back with the same old bullet points they claim are “research.” In fact, in any discussion, the same handful of points are likely to brandished as truth and then it leads to vicious attacks on doctors being called all kinds of nasty names. Recent evidence seems to show that many of the anti-vaxxer accounts are actually bots created to garner more attention. Some doctors have had negative reviews written about them because of their advocacy of vaccines. These are often written by people claiming to be patients of that doctor.

Other times, doctors have even received death threats. Since I’ve been advocating on vaccines for several years, I’ve been on the receiving end of these taunts to end my life to protect kids from being vaccinated. Typically, they come from someone who lacks the courage to use a real name and hides behind an anonymous profile. The threats can be quite creative. While being injected by 10,000 vaccines all at once sounds quite painful, I doubt it would actually kill me. One of the fathers of vaccine advocacy, Dr. Paul Offit, once had a security detail assigned to him by the CIA for protection.

While death threats can be distressing, it rarely succeeds in getting people to stop speaking up. And a bullet in my brain, or other doctors vaccinating against infectious diseases, will do nothing to change the science. Decades of data show that vaccines are effective in preventing the diseases they were created to prevent: killing me or anyone else will do nothing to change that immunology. If you have better science to show this is inaccurate, you wouldn’t need to kill (or at least threaten to) to prove your facts are correct. Bullets can’t stop measles, but misinformation can spread it as we are now seeing.

Will I keep advocating for vaccines, even when people call me names and threaten me? Yes, I will because vaccines prevent diseases that people die from. I’m a doctor, and it is my job to follow evidence-based medicine and save lives. Will I enter into discussions with every single anti-vaxxer who challenges or tries to intimidate me? No, I will not because I’ve said it all before.  I’ve written articles about the myths and been interviewed in the media. I speak out about the safety and efficacy of vaccines on social media. The science is there, and it speaks for itself. I will not let anyone sway me from my mission of saving the lives of children and adults.

Linda Girgis is a family physician who blogs at Dr. Linda.

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